Challenges to healthy eating are more than monetary

Americans don't always want to spend the time to prepare healthy foods and like the taste of foods that aren't good for you.

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A new study from the University of Washington has concluded that maintaining a healthy diet is expensive and could make it difficult for Americans to meet new U.S. nutritional guidelines.

And, like past studies on healthy eating, this study says the government should do more -- as in spend more -- to help Americans eat healthier.

Not necessarily. Cost alone does not drive the decision on what to eat.

The taste of the food and ease of preparation play a huge role in deciding what people eat. This leads folks to grab stuff on the go. They make themselves something simple at home that could be packed with fat and calories. The same goes for food they might purchase at fast-food restaurants or even gas stations.

These quick and convenient meal choices can also be tasty.

Even when healthier choices are made, our meals can be made unhealthful if too much fat is added. We add sauces with lots of cheese and butter to dishes because it tastes very good to most of us. Let's face it -- anything smothered in butter is better.

Mike Royko, a prize-winning columnist for Chicago newspapers, had a way of cutting right to the core of an issue. Royko, who died in 1997, wrote a column several decades ago about healthy foods and dieting.

"It's quite simple," Royko wrote. "You don't have to do a lot of calorie counting, measuring and weighing tiny bits of food or poring over time-consuming recipes. All you have to do is be miserable. And you have to remember only one rule: If you enjoy it, you can't have it; if you don't like it, you can eat all you want. This rule derives from the scientifically acknowledged fact that Mother Nature is a nasty, sadistic, mean broad. She made everything that tastes good fattening. And everything that is not fattening tastes terrible."

This, of course, is not entirely true but there is some -- OK, a lot -- of truth in Royko's observation.

The bottom line is the government can't spend its way to making us healthy or even healthier.

Government programs that subsidize food purchases need to be reasonable and accept there will be the hurdles to healthful eating, including the ones we impose on ourselves.

It is important to continue to educate people about healthy eating and continue to focus on the need to exercise, particularly for children. Video games, DVDs and TV systems with 500 channels and pay-per-view options make it too easy for kids -- and adults -- to become couch potatoes.

This new study isn't wrong, but it focuses only on part of America's challenge to eat less and more healthfully as well as exercise more.

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