Someone needs to stop making “Healthy vs Junk Food Shopping Comparison” infographics

These infographics where we’re shown a picture of a “good” meal and a “bad” meal with a dollar amount, showing how easy is it to eat well on a low budget seem to be everywhere right now. Again. They make me curse a lot and I wish people would stop making them.

When I say I hate these, people assume I must love Big Macs and Pringles or something and that I’m angry because I’m feeling defensive. SO not even close. I’m not defending the food. I’m defending the choices that people make when they have to  buy this food. Choice might not even be a good word to use because that implies there’s more than one option. And hell, maybe there is more than one option but the not-so-healthy choice is the one that makes the most sense based on circumstances or geography or whatever. Or maybe someone really just wants to have one goddamned thing of french fries just because.

I posted these ones awhile ago. I’ve seen it floating around tumblr again lately and it still pisses me off.

SparkPeople  has these examples of how to spend your limited  money on better food.




I’m betting most of you are looking at these and saying to yourself, “Where the hell are they shopping!?”
This is not representative of what food costs in my area. These prices must be reflective of things they found on sale.
I have seen these being reposted as evidence that  you can eat healthy on little money. It’s a classist assumption that this will be the case for every person living in poverty or on food stamps and that if they can’t manage to eat well on next to nothing, that must be their fault. 

I know I probably already belabored my point about  real food privilege, but I really don’t understand why people who are pro-health and real food feel that they need to fudge the truth of  food accessibility. I mean, why lie to sell a myth to people? Or is it that they’re just completely oblivious of the reality of it? It just makes people in a hard situation more frustrated to hear some sanctimonious preaching about something that other person probably has no real experience with.

This set comes from The New York Times article, Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? :

alithea on tumblr is going to help me out with some words here. It obviously pisses her off just as much as it does me:

this bullshit fills me with a very specific kind of rage. so, TIME TO DEBUNK!

  1. that meal from mcdonalds takes virtually no time to acquire AND is available almost anywhere.
  2. the second meal? that “salad” is lettuce … with nothing else, not even dressing unless its just olive oil or some milk i guess? gross.
  3. also thats the price of each serving, not an entire loaf of bread, a bottle of olive oil, etc. that stuff adds up which means you have to have a lot of money at one time to buy it all.
  4. that meal probably took an hour and a half to make, which is a long fucking time when you work multiple jobs or are caring for a lot of people or dont have help! seriously, if you are a single parent of three who works, is spending an hour and a half every night preparing a meal a likely option?
  5. same with beans and rice! also, you know whats a fucking bummer? eating beans and rice every night because you are poor. ask any person who has done it and they will tell you (you can start with me).
  6. there is a “nutrition” argument here that lacks a follow up: poor people are more likely to be doing physical labor and need more than 571 calories per meal.
  7. you know who is less likely to know how to bake or prepare a chicken? people without access to the internet, or libraries, or who werent taught how to by their parents because their parents worked all the time. access to healthy foods is a classist issue and classism is cyclical, you fucking morons.
  8. seriously, these sorts of infographics make me want to fucking flip tables. do you know why people don’t eat more fresh fruits and vegetables? because fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive, because they take a long time to prepare, because they dont live near a grocery store that has a decent produce section, because they dont have reliable transportation to get groceries to and from the grocery store, because they dont have the energy to plan all of the shit that is involved in making healthy, intentional, filling, balanced meals. basically: poor people get fucked, and then we get BLAMED for being lazy.
  9. eating “healthy”, aka access to fresh fruits and vegetables, is a privilege, first, foremost, always. so fuck you new york times and your ignorant goddamn infographic.
  10. there are SYSTEMATIC REASONS that we do not have equal access to fresh fruits and vegetables. they are very REAL problems. besides, you know, systematic poverty in america, the total mis-distribution of farm subsidies is a perfect place to start. read about that, then either get bent or start working on the actual problem


Yep. All of that.

33 thoughts on “Someone needs to stop making “Healthy vs Junk Food Shopping Comparison” infographics

  1. Gods, I wanna flip tables every time that I see this sort of info graphic, too. *sigh* Aside of the blatant fudging of ‘healthy’ food *and* junk food prices to make this shit seem real when it’s not, the simple fact of time constraints (as Alithea points out) is the biggest reason that everyone should be calling bullshit every time that they see this sort of thing. *sigh*

  2. There needs to be another point:

    Fresh fruits and vegetables DO NOT STORE WELL. If you can’t make it to a grocery store with a good produce section (as in, really fresh stuff) on a regular basis, that is a huge factor. If you’re stuck with going to Walmart, then on a less than weekly basis, you *have* to buy foods that will last– like frozen potatoes. I can’t tell you how many near-rotten veggies I’ve eaten when I didn’t have money to buy them every few days (and I had easy access to the store, just no cash).

    Also, that Twizzlers vs. dried cranberries comparison is BS. Dried cranberries are not good for you. They have about the same sugar as the Twizzlers– 1 oz dried cranberries (brand unknown, I goggled it)= 18g sugar, 86 calories. 4 pieces of Twizzlers= 19g sugar, 160 calories. The Twizzlers have more calories, but 80 calories is a 15 minute walk or so.

  3. Also it’s damn difficult to cook that healthy meal in an apartment with no working stove. And you can’t store all those lovely fresh foods if you can’t afford to pay your electricity bill.

    Funny that… or it might be if you don’t have to live it.

    I saw an article the other day about the cuts to SNAP benefits and the comments section was so full of privileged twaddle that I seriously wanted to gouge my own eyes out. People kept talking about how trying to eat on $4.50 is no problem because all you need to do is go to Costco and get a gigantic bag of raw beans, and that costs nearly nothing.

    Yeah, except for the Costco membership; the actual cash, since I don’t believe Costco accepts SNAP (correct me if I’m wrong, my membership ran out yonks ago and I can’t afford to sign back up); the transportation costs to get to and from the store. Oh, and just try carrying a fifteen pound bag of raw beans on a bus or on foot for a couple miles, or – most likely of all – a combination of the two. And THEN, after all the trouble scraping the cash together and getting the beans home, you have to plan every meal the day before because they need to soak. And THEN you have to spend at least a couple hours cooking. Pray for a flea market or garage sale crock pot that isn’t on the verge of meeting its maker when you get it. And THEN nobody wants to be anywhere near you because you’re running on pure methane and it’s not a pleasant smell. Besides, living on nothing but beans is damn depressing.

    1. This.

      Especially the sheer fact of how much of a time commitment it is to cook dried beans. Even as someone who adores eating beans, there is still half a ten pound bag (from Costco) in my kitchen because I just do not have time to cook them.

      Every Saturday, when I might possibly have time, I think, “I should really cook some of those beans.” And then I remember all the other shit I need to do. And so every Sunday, when I do my grocery shopping, I buy a few cans of canned beans.

  4. To be fair to SparkPeople, they are targeting people trying to get healthy, no an anti-food stamp PAC or something. How people use their pinnable graphics may be a different story, but their purpose in posting them is remind people trying to transition to healthy lifestyles that it is possible to make healthy food choices without spending an arm and a leg.

    1. Prices vary from area to area, cost of living is different everywhere. Those prices are way cheap from that walmart they are getting these at. Not in my area, everything is high. a gallon of milk here in TN is $5, and that is for the great value brand. Chicken is $4 a lb for tyson breasts. those morning star frozen patties are $6 for a box of 4! that jar of smuckers peanut butter they show, $6, i buy it because it is healthy. Produce is high too. Looking at these comparisons, im going to say this person is still living in the ’80s or they live in the ghetto, like that .99 cent grocery store in some of the cities with hoods.

  5. this just seems like an excuse to eat shitty food its cheaper to eat in than to eat out imo you just have to choose the right foods and shop smart. I can get way more for 10 bucks at my grocery store than for 10 bucks at mcdonalds and about having no stores near you that have good produce, I shop at safeway I gaurantee there is one within bussing or walking distance to you they have everything you need. Also I agree that it may take more time to cook but it tastes better provides better nutrition and you feel better about yourself eating it, you can also consume less because the food is alot more filling I could easily eat 3 big macs for dinner thats 1500 cals almost as much as I should eat in a day consumed in one meal, but when I have a real dinner of homemade food I find I get full on about 700-800 calories.

    1. Really? REALLY? I’ll take you up on that guarantee, GENIUS. I live in a VERY POOR rural area of Tennessee where there IS NO BUS SERVICE and the nearest store that carries fresh produce is TWENTY MILES AWAY. You have NO IDEA what real people have to do to get along, so please, SIT DOWN AND SHUT UP.

      1. Where I live, there isn’t a Safeway at all. There is an Aldi in the next city, that I would have to take 2 buses to get to (bus fare isn’t free, especially when I would have to take children with me). Then it’s not exactly worth the trip when you can only buy what you can physically carry…while navigating through busy intersections with a 3 year old to get to a bus stop.

      2. interesting comments, although I could pass without the cursing and etc – which make me wonder about the maturity of the people in here. I suggest you guys watch the movie TOAST, and think about it for a bit. The movie is great! I am here complaining that I can’t find some of my options to certain things like bacon, rice, yogurt, beans. I guess I have it good. I shop in 5 different stores to be able to eat with the quality I want. I buy food weekly, and alternate between stores. They give me option and price. I don’t blame most American’s who can’t eat rice and beans. The ones available to you at the store are crap. I go to European or Latin stores because dry foods like beans, rice and nuts have more turn around and tend to be fresher. Now, I red people leave far, are poor, etc. I know place was different, but my mom lived same thing. We walked 50 minutes to buy food. 15minutes to buy bread and milk. It was a family event that happened weekly. Without my father’s help it was quite a challenge and we had less – like no pinaple or watermelon. I am sorry for the culture of food in tins, but understand how difficult it is to change. You can grow stuff too. Not difficult. Plenty of options for little space.

    2. I don’t have a car. The only bus line that runs in my neighborhood is a high-fare direct commuter line to a major city of which my town is a suburb. The nearest Safeway is two miles away. So that’s a two mile walk to the store, a long walk through the store, and then a two mile walk home carrying whatever I’ve bought in my arms. So I can’t buy much, and that means I have to go back almost every day on top of everything else I need to do.

      Yeah, I’m going to have a lot of energy left to cook after all that. Especially on those days when it’s pouring rain or over a hundred degrees outside. We do get those conditions fairly regularly here.

      So I’m left with the options of the locally owned boutique grocery two blocks away, which is lovely but expensive, or the QuickieMart two blocks in the other direction which is not lovely, even more expensive, and has been held up at gunpoint twice so far this year. Once with a fatality.

      If there was a Micky D’s in my neighborhood, it would actually be cheaper to eat there than it is to cook from the neighborhood stores. But there isn’t a fast food joint in my neighborhood. There’s an expensive Thai restaurant and a little place that sells coffee and donuts. Meanwhile I lost my job in December and am still owed three months’ back pay and haven’t been able to find another job. My husband does have a job which he’s held for nine years. Due to budget cuts he now makes less than he did when he started working there.

      Even with borrowing a friends’ SUV once a month and doing our main shopping at a restaurant supply store ten miles from our home so we can get raw materials in bulk, meals get small and ‘creative’ in a really scary way at the end of the month.

      And that from someone who has a fully working kitchen, all the utilities on, plenty of temperature-controlled storage, mad cooking skills and a fondness for baking all her own bread.

      Jupiter, your reality is not my reality.

      My reality is still a hell of a lot better than the realities a lot of people face. I’m guessing you wouldn’t last a month in my reality.

      1. (facepalms)

        Sorry, Jupiter, I meant BANANRAMAEATALAMMA. My apologies. I shouldn’t try to rant before I’ve had coffee… which, BANANRAMAEATALAMMA, I happen to get free from my next door neighbors in exchange for watching their cat when they travel out of town. Otherwise I couldn’t afford my caffeine habit.

      2. I totally knew what you meant 🙂

        It’s amazing to me that even after having someone’s reality explained to them, people like Banana will still want to deny that others live with that reality just because they have never experienced differently. Ah,well.

    3. You’ll probably sensor this, but I want to say that I live in a very impoverished, post-industrial mid-west town–a food desert with minimal access to healthy food. I still find a way to eat fruits, vegetables, and minimally processed foods. I and am sickened by the thought that people believe that mcdonalds is a more fiscally sound choice. Consider this: what are the long term health implications of eating nasty, processed food every day? What about the uber expensive treatments of diet related chronic disease that almost always accompanies poor nutrition? I’m talking about diabetes, stroke, heart, obesity? Does that factor in? I wonder how many people who commented on this post suffers from these health problems? And how much money does that treatment cost?
      I have a very low income and am a single mother of two.
      I use a crockpot to cook healthy. I teach myself cooking techniques to improve my skills in the kitchen to maximize my time. I am investing in the future health and well-being of my family because–guaranteed–walmart, mcdonalds, costco, wholefoods–doesn’t care about me or my family. they only care about $.
      And there is much more to life than money.

      1. That’s fantastic that you’re able to do that! It sounds like maybe you’re not understanding that not everyone has this same experience in other parts of the country and that food prices widely vary, as well as access to transportation. Most people do what they can with what is available to them, and yes I assure you that most are keenly aware of the health issues related to diet.

  6. Ugh…..Banana… did you even read anything that the author said? Cause everything you just said completely misses the point and seems to mindlessly echo the exact thing that is problematic to begin with… Sheez!!

  7. I go shopping at a Safeway and their produce is NOT fresh. And when I lived near a Savemart, the only grocery store within walking and bussing distance back then, their produce was so unfresh that flies flew about. Not every grocery store has fresh produce period, end of story. And when you’re poor especially, buying produce can be expensive which is the entire point of this post. Anyone in here saying otherwise is very, very fortunate, but a lot of us aren’t so fortunate. And to me this doesn’t even read as walmart propaganda, simply just “fuck these infographics”

  8. The reality: You CAN live healthy on $4.50/day – IF you have transportation, IF you have a selection of stores nearby (including outlet & discount stores) so that you can buy only the bargains, IF you have the time to do price comparisons and the time to go shopping at multiple stores, IF you have enough $$ to stock up on bargains or buy in bulk, IF you have a place to safely store & prepare your food, and IF you have enough time to prepare almost all of your food from scratch. You will need to spend a lot of TIME thinking about & procuring food. You will need to know all the food prices, know what produce is “in season”, set a maximum price you will pay for things, and plan your shopping as an organized campaign – research by checking the all the weekly ads, making a list, and going through a circuit of stores using minimum mileage and only buying the bargain items at each. Knowing when the higher-priced major stores do their mark-downs, and checking them for bargains. (usually Tuesday night or Wednesday morning) Then you need to create your weekly meal plans based on the food you got – what will keep, what needs to be used right away, what needs advanced preparation… You will make soups instead of buying canned. When you DO buy canned or frozen foods, you will avoid name brands unless the bargains are exceptional. FOOD will be constantly part of your awareness… You will become compulsive about FOOD. Your weekly activities, (research, shopping, prep & storage), will be governed by FOOD. You will castigate yourself for failure when you realize you missed a one-day “Special”. You will experience moments of triumph at having gotten an especially good “bargain”. You may find yourself in tears agonizing over which brand of tuna to buy because there’s 2 cents difference in price.

    FOOD will become an obsession.

    If you are living in an area where you only have access to one or two major grocery stores, or are working two jobs and have little “free” time, or your food storage, prep area, or transportation is limited, you are screwed….

    Written by a person who’s been there, done that – and is currently having to do it again, due to limited means and my husband’s poor health requiring a no salt, low fat diet – impossible to do using processed foods. We are fortunate that we live in an area with many grocery stores within 2 miles of our home. charly thomas

  9. I have a feeling that these ads may not be aimed at persons who have well-thought reasons for eating fast food on a daily basis.
    But yeah: All people who eat at McDonald’s nearly on a daily basis have no time for preparing food, no access to any recipes, three jobs, no chance to find any supermarket in reach and really need 1500 calories per portion to do hard work.

  10. I don’t have the time to do the dried beans. Single mom, two kids. So I buy the canned beans, pour them in a strainer, and rinse them off. This at least cuts down on the salt. What kills me about these comparisons is that poor people don’t go in and buy 27 dollars worth of food. They buy whatever is on the dollar menu. Also, If you have 10 dollars to spend at the grocery store, and you are poor, and you have two or more kids to feed with no partner to help prepare meals, what you are going to buy is a package of hotdogs, bologna, a box pop tarts and a one dollar bottle of soda. Because the kids will eat it, none of it will spoil or go to waste, and the kids can make it themselves when you come home exhausted and wake up exhausted.

  11. (comment from Germany – BIG sorry to all for my very bad english)

    I do understand why you are annoyed.

    For me the most important problem here is the educational, teaching style towards poor people. I am poor. I have learned a very different lesson: To improve my food quality significantly by getting large portions of my food out of garbage tons. But this is not a lesson i want to give to other people – it would be totally without any respect.

    But maybe this way would be a good, very ironic idea for some different very educational info graphics…

    “How to improve your food quality by looking for food in garbage tons”

    To give them a lesson. Just some real world contact instead of high quality pics about high quality food. Oh, and i forgot a small story: I thought a am very careful, but last week i managed to become ill (three days long) from my sort of food…

  12. I don’t know where they’re shopping, but it seems to me that they are using seasonal and sale prices and stacking them. I coupon/sale watch/buy seasonal and these graphs make nooo sense to me. I live in Virginia and as fair as I know around here has lower cost of living than most places. And lentils alone ANY PLACE costs at minimum $1 and usually more like $1.24. I wouldn’t be surprised if they people that made this “informative” pictures tweaked the info.

  13. Found this blog while looking for an infographic I’d seen recently. It would be convenient to be able to share a link to it, because I think it adds well to this, but no matter. Two shopping baskets, both costing $13. One held two steaks (not even one well-balanced meal) and the other was full of frozen pies, pizzas and chips. Caption along the lines of “no wonder we have eating problems”. Eating the “healthy” option of steaks would have taken more cooking time, been less varied, and would’ve been a single meal for two. The “unhealthy” option would have been 2 days of varied food for those two people. Infographics tell only the story you want to tell; they don’t represent some pure undeniable truth of the universe.

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