24-Hour Crisis Hotline: (877)SAFEGBC or (877)723-3422 Mental Health & Substance Abuse Issues

6502 Nursery Drive, Suite 100
Victoria, TX 77904
(361)575-0611
Fax: (361)578-5500
Regular Hours: M-Fri 8am - 5pm
Every 3rd Thurs of the Month - Extended Hours Until 7 pm

Nutrition
Resources
Basic InformationLatest News
Eating Meat Raises Risk of Heart Disease: StudyCoffee Won't Upset Your Heartbeat. It Might Even Calm ItFermented Foods Could Boost Your MicrobiomeMany College Students Are Trying Out the New 'Fake Meats'Whole Grains Every Day: Key to Your Health and WaistlineAverage Soda Fountain Serving Exceeds Daily Recommended Added SugarsAHA News: How to Eat Right and Save Money at the Same TimePlant-Based Diet Best for Your HeartListeria Outbreak Linked to Precooked Chicken: CDCCan You Eat Your Way to Fewer Migraines?AHA News: Watermelon Is a Summertime Staple. But What's Hidden Behind the Sweetness?Most Americans Don't Follow Diets That Could Prevent CancerDelicious & Deadly: Southern U.S. Diet Tied to Higher Odds for Sudden DeathPotato Chips, Fatty Lunches Greatly Raise Your Heart RisksCoffee Could Perk Up Your LiverHow Healthy Are the New Plant-Based 'Fake Meats'?Fast-Food Companies Spending More on Ads Aimed at Youth'Plant-Based' or Low-Fat Diet: Which Is Better for Your Heart?Why Getting Your Groceries Online Might Be HealthierFewer Than 1 in 10 American Adults Get Enough Dietary FiberTwo Common Eating Habits That Can Really Pile on PoundsA Woman's Diet Might Help Her Avoid Breast CancerToo Much Caffeine Might Raise Your Odds for GlaucomaA Fruitful Approach to Preventing DiabetesAHA News: Is Mango the Luscious Superhero of Fruit?Sleep Deprived? Coffee Can Only Help So MuchAHA News: How Much Harm Can a Little Excess Salt Do? PlentyLow-Salt 'DASH' Diet Good for Total Heart HealthGluten Doesn't Trigger 'Brain Fog' for Women Without Celiac Disease: StudyHumans Started Loving Carbs a Very Long Time AgoVegetarian Diet Could Help Fight Off Disease: Study'BPA-Free' Bottles Might Need a Run Through Your Dishwasher FirstEat Smart: Mediterranean Diet Could Ward Off DementiaMany Consumers Misunderstand Those 'Best Before' Food LabelsAHA News: Salt Sensitivity May Increase Risk of High Blood PressureAHA News: Food, Culture and the Secret Ingredient to Address Lack of Diversity in Nutrition FieldWhat's for Lunch? Often, It's What Your Co-Workers Are HavingChocolate, Butter, Sodas: Avoid These Foods for a Healthier Middle AgeToo Much Red Meat Might Harm Your HeartAre You Eating Foods That Harm Your 'Microbiome'?AHA News: Sorting Folklore From Fact on the Health Benefits of GarlicEnergy Drink Habit Led to Heart Failure in a Young ManBingeing, Stress Snacking: How the Pandemic Is Changing Eating HabitsAmericans Are Eating Less Healthily Everywhere, Except at SchoolSluggish Coworker? Maybe They 'Pigged Out' Last NightDo You 'Wolf Down' Your Food? Speedy Eaters May Pack on More PoundsThe 5 Foods That Cut Your Odds for Colon CancerAHA News: Refined Flour Substitutes Abound -- But How to Choose the Best One?Diet High in Processed Meats Could Shorten Your LifeWill High-Protein Diets Help the Middle-Aged Build Muscle?
Questions and AnswersLinks
Related Topics

Wellness and Personal Development

AHA News: 7 Healthy Strategies to Navigate a Food Swamp

HealthDay News
by American Heart Association News
Updated: Mar 25th 2021

new article illustration

THURSDAY, March 25, 2021 (American Heart Association News) -- On nearly every corner, and along the roads in between, the familiar signs comfort and tempt us: burgers and fried chicken, ice cream and doughnuts, sweets and treats galore.

Welcome to the food swamp, where Americans get bogged down in a morass of cheap, convenient, alluring – and very often unhealthy – culinary choices.

"All these fast-food companies with all their marketing are competing for our stomach space and our dollars," said Penny Kris-Etherton, distinguished professor of nutrition at Penn State University in University Park. "It's hard to make healthy choices when there are so many odds against you."

The term "food swamp" was coined about a decade ago to denote areas where fast-food chains and convenience stores abound, swamping healthier options such as grocery stores and restaurants with wider choices. They often coincide with food deserts, where a lack of convenient or low-cost supermarkets makes it harder to get fresh produce and nutritious food.

That combination all too often occurs in low-income and under-resourced neighborhoods, said Kristen Cooksey Stowers, an assistant professor at the University of Connecticut who specializes in health equity and food-related public policy.

"It's not that fast food or corner stores are inherently bad," she said. "But when it becomes the majority of what a neighborhood can rely on, that's a problem. We see areas inundated with unhealthy food."

Cooksey Stowers' research has shown a correlation between food swamps and obesity, and she led a 2017 study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health showing food swamps were a better predictor of obesity than food deserts.

Kris-Etherton was chief author of an article last year in the Journal of the American Heart Association linking food swamps and food deserts to poor diet quality, obesity and cardiovascular disease, all of which can be more prevalent among low-income people, many of whom are Black and Hispanic and other people of color. The authors called for policy changes to address the disparities.

In the long term, Cooksey Stowers said, solutions include better zoning to limit clusters of fast-food outlets, incentives to build grocery stores and farmers markets in disadvantaged areas, and even requiring convenience stores to stock a certain percentage of healthy food.

"People need to realize they are empowered to be part of the change in their communities," she said.

In the meantime, if you're hungry, keep this in mind:

Carry a healthy snack. An apple, carrot sticks or some nuts in the car might keep you from overdoing it at the drive-thru. "Take something with you so you don't get really hungry," Kris-Etherton said. "When you're really hungry, you eat more."

Be wary of bargains. "We're all value-minded," Kris-Etherton said. "You see supersizes, or buy one get one free. Maybe that makes sense if you're with somebody, but not if you're by yourself."

Beware of beverages. Sugary sodas and coffee concoctions packed with flavors and cream can have more calories than an entrée. "People don't think of it as something they're eating," she said. "They think, 'It's a drink. I don't have to count it.' They do."

Pay attention to the extras. Mayonnaise on that burger or sub sandwich adds calories and fat. Ask for extra lettuce and tomato instead. So does the whipped cream stacked atop the coffee. "Doing without them is a small step, but a very good first step," Kris-Etherton said.

So what if they're open late? "There are brands trying to create the fourth meal of the day with all those late-night hours," Cooksey Stowers said. "You know that's terrible for the body. Stick with three meals a day."

Make a plan and stick to it. "Check out the menu and choose healthy options, like salads and grilled chicken instead of fried," Kris-Etherton said. "And if you can use the drive-thru, don't go in, so you're not tempted by seeing everybody eating burgers and fries with large sodas. Fries are OK on occasion but buy the small size or share an order with someone."

Just say go. "If you can, keep driving or stay on that bus to get to the supermarket instead of stopping off for the fast food," Cooksey Stowers said. "These are things that people know. We just have to eat less of the unhealthy stuff."

American Heart Association News covers heart and brain health. Not all views expressed in this story reflect the official position of the American Heart Association. Copyright is owned or held by the American Heart Association, Inc., and all rights are reserved. If you have questions or comments about this story, please email editor@heart.org.

By Michael Precker