Small Diet Changes Can Make a Difference

How could this happen? How could a health-conscious gal like me make the decision to pick up a giant bag of poison — delicious, crispy, spicy poison, with a hint of lime — and finish the entire thing?

First, it had been a long day. Second, when I’m under stress, I indulge in self-destructive tendencies (it’s the only reasonable explanation for my recent 2 Chainz addiction). Finally, that big shiny bag was only a dollar!

CALPIRG, for all its peskiness on Library Walk, is definitely onto something. The organization is working to lobby against the way current food subsidy laws work, arguing that our fiscal situation makes it more economic to buy junk food than to buy healthy foods. According to CALPIRG’s website, over $18.2 billion has gone into what it considers “junk food ingredients” since 1995. That’s enough money to buy 2.9 billion Twinkies every year, averaging to 21 Twinkies for every American taxpayer. However, only $637 million has gone to subsidies for apples since 1995, which comes out to half of one apple per taxpayer per year.

It’s a real problem. Members of the Canadian anti-poverty group, Raise the Rates, recently embarked on a challenge to feed themselves on a welfare budget for one week. During their challenge, which they called “The Welfare Challenge,” they found it hard to keep high energy levels and alert minds during the week, since the foods they were able to afford were mostly rice and oatmeal. Not to mention, participants reported the extra stress of having to strictly budget their eating. Granted, welfare laws differ in Canada and the United States, but the experiment aptly demonstrated the effects of a tight budget on the body and mind.

You don’t have to think hard to realize that the price gap between healthy and unhealthy food is relevant to most of us. The “poor college student” trope is one that endures because it’s true, especially in light of recent tuition hikes that force self-paying students to allocate more money for classes and less for themselves. We’re taking midterms and writing essays fueled by coffee and carbohydrates, and that kind of unsustainable energy affects the clarity of our thoughts and takes a toll on our bodies.

It’s not easy, but to stay healthy and mentally alert, you have to take the time to budget. Coupon clipping is a must, as is signing up for a Vons or Ralph’s card (both of which are free).

Finally, be mindful. Most of us don’t even realize that how we choose to allocate our money affects us physically. Start paying attention to what you’re buying and make small changes. You might not turn into a vegetarian marathoner overnight, but you can teach yourself to avoid the Twinkies and opt for the apple instead.