Will Rising Food Costs Make You Fat?

Rising food prices aren't just shrinking Americans' wallets -- they might also be expanding their waistlines, prompting at least one nutrition scientist to sound the health alarm.

The price of milk, eggs, vegetables and just about every other grocery item seems to keep climbing. And for many families trying to eat healthily, that's a recipe for disaster.

Cindy Thompson, a single mom in Glen Burnie, Md., knows that struggle all too well.

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Last year, she was spending about $160 a week on groceries for herself and her two teenage boys. Now, that weekly register receipt is running more than $200.

Thompson has made several changes to keep her family eating right -- that means not living off macaroni and cheese.

Her boys love to drink fruit juice, but instead of buying Capri Sun, she buys a concentrate and keeps it in a pitcher in the fridge -- with a little extra water mixed in.

"They still get fruit juices, but not in the cute little packages," Thompson said.

The family is also buying a larger percentage of its food at the local Wal-Mart, instead of grocery stores.

"It's annoying, because it's packed," Thompson said, "but the food prices tend to be a little bit better."

She also tries to consolidate trips to the store, buy items in bulk and do things like buy extra bread and freeze it.

But the biggest change is in the backyard.

"Since fresh produce was always the first thing to fall off my grocery list," Thompson said she decided to plant a garden.

She now grows lettuce, spinach, cucumbers, carrots, radishes, tomatoes, green beans, lima beans, zucchini and squash. She also invested in an apple tree, a pear tree and some blueberry bushes.

"I'm planting only those items I know my family will eat," Thompson said, "and will be freezing and canning to help ease the burden throughout the winter."

Schools, Hospitals Skimp on Meals

School cafeterias struggle to continue offering nutritious meals without overwhelming school budgets.

The federal government's 2005 dietary guidelines for Americans, which schools use to plan their meals, encourages the consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy and whole grains.

"Unfortunately, those are a lot of the same food items that we're seeing tremendous price increases on," said Eric Peterson, a spokesman for the School Nutrition Association. "It's definitely creating a strain."

Peterson said many cafeterias are finding creative solutions to cope with the rising costs.

Some are eschewing expensive grape tomatoes in favor of slicing larger tomatoes. Baby carrots, too, are out, because long carrots that cafeteria workers cut themselves are the better buy.

But a handful of schools are making tougher choices.

In Florida, for instance, schools in Broward County recently started using white buns instead of wheat. School officials there told ABC News that the move would save the district $200,000 a year.

"Nutritionally, of course, we would prefer whole wheat," said Barbara Leslie, the director of food and nutrition services for Broward schools. "But we evaluated it and decided that we would only be sacrificing about a gram of fiber, and we really needed to do that for financial reasons for now."

Other school districts are swapping out fresh produce with frozen or canned fare. The latter, Peterson said, are "nutritionally equivalent" to fresh fruits and vegetables, but students might be less likely to eat them.

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