Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Food for Four, NYT-Style?

This food price comparison infographic was published in the NY Times in September of 2011.
Yes, it is cheaper to eat whole foods instead of buying McDonalds, but there are a few issues with their comparison meals:
  • I wonder: why did they serve milk instead of water with the last two meals?  One cup of milk has 6-10 grams of protein, which doesn't matter all that much for the chicken meal, but in the beans and rice meal it nearly doubles the amount of protein per serving.
  • Where are the seasonings and condiments?  I don't know about you, but there's no way I eat a roast chicken with just salt and pepper or beans and rice with no chiles or cumin!
  • Where are the vegetables in the beans and rice meal?  Yes, there are two bell peppers and an onion, but divided four ways...  Eating so few veggies on a regular basis won't do you any favors.
  • The serving sizes of carbs in the chicken and bean meals seem extravagant, especially in the pictures of the full plates.  I tell my clients to serve themselves a carb portion equal to the size of their fist.  The chicken meal can definitely lose the bread and the bean meal can halve the rice, which will open up more room for veggies.
  • Where's the brown rice?  One of the simplest health changes you can make is replace white processed grains with brown, helping you fill up on fiber and essential B vitamins.
  • It's an aesthetic choice, but why is there bacon with the beans and rice meal?  Would it be so bad to show a vegetarian meal?  Perhaps this is me picking nits, I don't know.
  • Finally, this is obviously nowhere near organic.  I wonder how prices would change if they were serving organic (or at least free-range) meat and organic veggies, beans and rice?  That would be a truly interesting contrast, and food for thought.
What do you think?  Is this an accurate comparison?


  1. I think maybe it's a way of getting people to change their minds slowly? I know many people who are more comfortable making sure there are plenty of carbs in their meal but only have one chopped onion for the veggie.
    It is too bad about organics, but if we are going to continue to focus on the cost value instead of the health value, organic food will continue to take a back seat.

  2. I think they were trying to appeal to as many people as possible while making the point that fast food isn't a cheaper alternative (obviously your point about organics stands, and that would be interesting to see). People in general don't seem to eat (or like) nearly enough vegetables, which is sad, and they can identify a lot easier with just beans and rice or the chicken dinner, I guess. I've read several articles over the last year or so that have mentioned people with low incomes eating mainly beans and rice.

    What I would still like to know is how to make yourself full feeling without having to buy truckloads of vegetables if they are the main part of your diet. When Patrick and I eat mostly veggies, we end up eating a TON of them, and that gets expensive quickly. We sort of have to add in more carbs just so we aren't hungry all the time. Maybe more tofu should be added, I don't know. I'd add more meat, but we recently had a very negative experience with salmon, so I'm kind of put off the meat just now.

  3. Allison, I agree. It's a slow process to convince people to cook (and I know because I spend a lot of time doing it!).

    Adrasteia, try veggie forms of protein such as tofu, tempeh, beans and nuts instead of meat with your veggies and that will help. And yes, if you're eating a lot of them, veggies are expensive! It's funny you bring up the cost of food because I'm writing a blog entry on that right now. Look for it soon!