Nutritious snacks don’t have to bust budgets, Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) researchers conclude in a new study that analyzed the cost of foods served in YMCA after-school programs in four U.S. cities. While the prices of individual healthy snacks are typically higher than those of their processed-food counterparts, the researchers found simple strategies made healthy snacks more affordable.

The study appears in the February 2012 issue of Preventing Chronic Disease.

“Price is frequently cited as a barrier to purchasing healthy foods,” said Rebecca Mozaffarian, project manager for the YMCA/Harvard program at HSPH and lead author. “We wanted to identify practical strategies for program staff to purchase and serve healthful after-school snacks without increases in price.”

The researchers, including senior author Steven Gortmaker, professor of the practice of health sociology and director of the HSPH Health Prevention Research Center, analyzed 1,294 snack menus from 32 YMCA programs. The menus were part of a national YMCA-driven initiative to promote nutrition and physical activity among children.

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