Researchers from The Miriam Hospital and the Rhode Island Community Food Bank report individuals who participated in a six-week cooking program and followed simple, plant-based recipes decreased their total food spending, purchased healthier food items and improved their food security.
The study, published in the March issue of the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition, is believed to be the first to show a decrease in food insecurity or a lack of access to nutritional foods for at least some days or meals for members of a household as the result of an intervention.
Mary Flynn, Ph.D., RD, LDN, the study's lead author and a research dietitian at The Miriam Hospital, designed the study with Andrew Schiff, Ph.D., the chief executive officer of Rhode Island Community Food Bank and the study's co-author. The study is based on Flynn's research of a plant-based diet she developed that emphasizes cooking with olive oil and follows a Mediterranean diet pattern.
"I had a number of people mainly women from my breast cancer weight loss study say how inexpensive a Mediterranean-style diet was, so I approached the food bank about designing a study using food pantry items for the recipes," says Flynn.
She points out that meat, poultry and seafood are the most expensive items in a food budget, especially the recommended lower-fat versions. Typical households of lower socioeconomic status spend grocery money first on these items, allocating far less to vegetables and fruits. However, by changing the focus to the elimination of foods not needed to improve health such as meat, snacks, desserts and carbonated beverages a healthy diet can be quite economical, Flynn says.
A total of 83 clients were recruited from emergency food pantries and low-income housing sites for the 34 week study. Sixty-three completed the diet protocol and the six-month follow-up requirement. As part of the study, participants attended
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