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Written by: Rafael Guimarães & Kristen DiFilippo, PhD, RDN

Financial challenges significantly affect families’ ability to ensure adequate nutrition. According to data from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), in 2019, approximately 10.5% of American households experienced food insecurity at some point during the year. This meant that more than 35 million people in the U.S. lived in households struggling to obtain nutritious and sufficient food to meet basic needs (Coleman-Jensen, Rabbit, Gregory, & Singh, 2018). In 2023, due to the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, this number increased substantially. USDA estimates indicate that about 13.8% of American households experienced food insecurity, reflecting an increase of more than 10 million people affected (USDA, 2023). This rise in food insecurity underscores the importance of practical strategies to promote healthy nutrition, even amid growing economic challenges.

Economic Challenges and Health

Economic challenges can significantly impact people’s ability to maintain a nutritious diet. Studies show that food insecurity is associated with a range of health problems, including nutritional deficiencies, chronic diseases, and compromised mental health. According to Gundersen & Ziliak, 2015, food insecurity is correlated with a higher risk of diabetes, heart disease, and obesity.

Importance of Adequate Nutrition

A balanced diet plays a crucial role in disease prevention and overall health promotion. It is estimated that unhealthy diets are associated with more than 11 million deaths annually worldwide (Fardet & Boirie, 2014). Additionally, adequate nutrition can strengthen the immune system, helping people recover when faced with an illness.

Practical Strategies for Improving Nutrition

  • Meal Planning: Planning meals weekly can help save money and ensure a balanced diet. Taking advantage of seasonal and local foods can reduce costs and enhance the nutritional quality of meals (Drewnowski & Specter, 2004).
  • Smart Shopping: Taking advantage of promotions, buying in bulk, and choosing more affordable products can help reduce food expenses. Creating a shopping list and sticking to it can prevent impulsive and unnecessary purchases (Aggarwal, Monsivais, Cook, & Drewnowski, 2011).
  • Food Preparation: Cooking at home is generally more economical and healthier than eating out. Preparing meals in large quantities and freezing extra portions can save time and money in the long run (Gundersen & Ziliak, 2015).
  • Waste Reduction: Properly storing food and using leftovers in new meals can help reduce food waste. Transforming leftovers into soups, stews, or salads is an effective way to avoid waste (Lipinski et al., 2013)

Maintaining a healthy diet during financial difficulties can be supported through planning and careful use of available resources. Investing in nutritious diets for at-risk populations is not only essential for individual health but can also reduce long-term costs associated with treating diet-related illnesses. It is crucial that communities have access to information and resources to promote healthy eating habits, regardless of their economic situation.


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Coleman-Jensen, A., Rabbit, M. P., Gregory, C. A., & Singh, A. (2018). Household food security in the United States in 2018. USDA-ERS Economic Research Report.

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