WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- It's well-documented that healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables tend to cost more than "junk" foods such as chips and cookies, a phenomenon that's often cited as a contributing factor to the U.S. obesity epidemic.
But a new study conducted in YMCAs found that healthy snacks aren't always more expensive, and in some cases are even more economical.
From 2006 to 2008, researchers from Harvard School of Public Health evaluated the snacks offered to kids at 32 YMCAs in four cities in the U.S. Pacific Northwest, South, Midwest and East.
The YMCA sites were participants in a program called the YMCA/Harvard Afterschool Food and Fitness Project, designed to improve the diets and boost physical activity among kids aged 5 to 12 attending the Ys' after-school programs. The project set out standards for snacks served at YMCAs, including: serving water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages, offering whole grains and a fruit or vegetable with each snack and avoiding trans fats.
"One of the questions we had was what kind of financial burden are we putting on them to ask them to put these healthier foods into place, because it's known that healthy foods are more expensive," said Rebecca Mozaffarian, project manager for the YMCA/Harvard program.
The average cost per snack was 57 cents, with prices ranging from 47 cents in the Midwest and Northeast to 78 cents in the Pacific Northwest.
As expected, snacks that met the healthy eating standards cost 50 percent more than those that didn't.
However, some YMCAs found ways of mixing and matching combinations that both met the healthy eating standards and kept costs at or even below what it would cost to serve a less healthy alternative.
For example, serving water instead of fruit juice significantly reduced the price of a snack. Instead of the fruit juice, Ys coul
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