Recession Weighs on Waistlines

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Recession Weighs on Waistlines

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THURSDAY, Jan 14 2010 (Chicago Tribune) — The economic downturn is busting wallets and bursting waistlines as consumers shift their eating habits to help their budgets.

With unemployment in the double digits, consumers who find themselves increasingly strapped have turned to cheaper means to feed their families. And those who have jobs are working longer hours, forgoing exercise and searching for foods that are economical and convenient.As a result, more consumers are turning to processed foods, either prepared, frozen or canned and often filled with fat-generating calories, refined grains and sugars. Experts said that’s making more Americans chubbier and prone to obesity-related illnesses such as diabetes in what has been dubbed “recession fat.”

“Eating healthy has been one of the big casualties of this economic downturn,” said Harry Balzer, chief industry analyst at the NPD Group and author of the research company’s annual Eating Patterns in America report. “Last year, consumers cut back on eating better-for-you and organic foods.”

The culprit is cost. About 70 percent of respondents to a recent Technomic Inc. survey said healthier foods are increasingly difficult to afford.

Meanwhile, consumers are turning to more affordable grab-and-go alternatives such as chips, cookies, candy and now snack wraps and miniburgers in between meals and often in lieu of a meal, recent studies show.

More consumers are eating at home. But some are cooking frozen pizza or bringing home fast food. The obesity rate was up more than 1 percentage point, to 26.4 percent in year-over-year comparisons in September, according to the Gallup- Healthways Well-Being Index.