Human Nutrition for the Hungry:

A 30 Year Experiment on Least Cost Ration

by Paul VanRaden

© August 2017

To hungry people, food is the thing needed most. Millions of people are hungry because they are too poor to buy more food or better quality food. For hungry people, the goal of human nutrition is to get the nutrients they need at the lowest possible cost. When money is very short, good taste is a luxury. Any money that can be saved when buying food can be used for other needs such as housing, clothes, and medicine or other luxuries such as education. Billions of people, mostly in Asia and Africa, still must use half of their income to buy food.

To remind myself of the needs of the hungry, I put myself in their shoes. Each time I go to the grocery store, I buy only those foods that provide me with the most nutrients per dollar. The foods that I eat are called a "least cost ration" by animal scientists. Since 1987, I have eaten only the cheapest foods available with little regard for taste. For the past 30 years, the total cost of my meals, drinks, and snacks always added up to less than $3 per day except when away from home, rare visits to restaurants, or a few leftovers from family members not on the diet. My cost gradually decreased to $2.25 per day in 2005 because some basic food prices decreased and I became a better shopper after years of practice. After some inflation and deflation, the cost of my food, drink, and snacks increased to $2.86 in 2012 but then decreased to a new record low of $2.18 in 2017 for 2,070 calories per day (see Table 1).

When buying groceries, poor people should remember one main point. Foods that provide the most calories per dollar usually are the best deals. Among high energy, low cost foods, those having more protein, vitamins, or minerals should be selected as a secondary goal (see Table 2). The foods that I buy provide close to the recommended daily intake of most nutrients and average 950 calories per dollar. A few foods such as rice, dried noodles, corn flakes, peanut butter, and macaroni and cheese provide >1000. Since 1987, hot dogs with 989 and bologna with 672 calories per dollar have been the only meats that qualified for my diet. At the grocery store, multiply the calories per serving times the number of servings and then divide by the cost of the item to obtain the calories per dollar (or euro, or yen, or other local currency) in your market place. Happy shopping and dining.

The diet helps you avoid both starvation and obesity because the nutrients are so affordable and the standard meals prevent overeating. Breakfast is usually a rotation between corn flakes and raisin bran except for 2 eggs on Sunday. Lunch is a bologna sandwich every weekday. Dinner is a four day rotation between spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, noodle soup, or rice and lentils topped with a little spaghetti sauce. The dinners each include one hot dog. The only snacks are 1/3 carrot per day, peanut butter, and ice cream. The only drinks are a half cup of juice per day, one glass of tea, and tap water. The diet helps you consume less of earthís resources, leaving more for others. Thatís why I have dined on these foods since 1987.

Food is easily available in America and costs very little, about $2 per day. Hundreds of millions of additional consumers could live and eat here if more of us dine on the VanRaden ration. I recommend it.

Table 1. Foods included in the least cost ration as of August 2017 and calories provided.

Food

Price $ / package

Net size (grams)

Net size (U.S.)

Servings / package

Servings / week

Calories / serving

Calories / dollar

Rice

4.99

2268

5 pounds

50

5

160

1603

Lentils

1.69

454

1 pound

8

3

70

330

Macaroni / cheese

0.42

206

7.25 ounce

3

3

240

1429

Spaghetti

1.00

454

1 pound

8

5

200

1600

Spaghetti sauce

2.50

737

26 ounce

10

4

70

280

Margarine

1.25

454

1 pound

32

4

70

1792

Dry noodles

2.00

510

18 ounce

24

4

190

2280

Hot dogs

0.89

340

12 ounce

8

7

110

989

Bologna

1.25

454

1 pound

12

6

70

672

Wheat bread

1.99

454

1 pound

20

10

80

804

Whole milk

3.39

3901

1 gallon

16

12

150

708

Corn flakes

1.47

510

18 ounce

16

7

130

1415

Raisin bran

2.09

530

18.7 ounce

9

7

190

818

Juice, 10% real

1.89

3780

1 gallon

16

5

80

677

Ice tea mix

6.99

1420

50.2 ounce

80

7

80

916

Peanut butter

4.19

794

28 ounce

35

7

200

1671

Carrots

0.79

454

1 pound

5.8

2

30

220

Eggs, jumbo

1.99

851

30 ounce

12

2

70

422

Ice cream

2.39

792

1.5 quart

12

7

180

904

Average / day1

2.18

 

 

 

 

2070

950

 

1Weighted by number of servings / week for each food


Table 2. Nutrients per serving of food and total daily intake as percent of recommended.

Food

Nutrients (g)

Vitamins1 and minerals2 (% of recommended)

 

Carb

Fat

Protein

Fiber

A

B1

B2

B3

B6

C

Folate

Ca

Fe

Rice

35

0

3

0

 

15

 

8

 

 

15

8

Lentils

20

0

10

11

 

10

 

 

25

4

9

2

15

Macaroni

50

10

8

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

15

Spaghetti

41

1

7

2

 

35

15

20

 

30

 

10

Spag. sauce

12

1

2

3

10

 

 

 

 

10

 

4

4

Margarine

0

8

0

0

10

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dry noodles

26

7

4

1

 

10

10

10

10

 

 

 

8

Hot dogs

4

10

3

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

2

Bologna

3

7

3

0

2

 

 

 

 

 

4

2

Bread

17

2

4

2

10

8

4

4

4

 

 

8

6

Whole milk

11

8

8

0

4

 

 

 

 

4

 

25

 

Cornflakes

24

0

3

0

20

25

25

25

25

25

 

25

Raisin bran

41

7

5

4

25

25

25

25

25

25

 

25

Juice, 10%

17

0

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

100

 

 

 

Ice tea mix

18

0

0

0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peanutbutter

6

17

8

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

4

Carrots

7

0

1

2

110

7

4

5

7

10

 

2

2

Eggs, jumbo

0

4

6

0

6

2

15

 

4

10

2

4

Ice cream

22

12

3

0

6

 

 

 

 

 

 

8

6

Total / day

290

89

66

19

119

111

78

83

75

89

89

81

109

 

1Vitamin: B1 = thiamine, B2 = riboflavin, B3 = niacin, B6 = pyridoxine

2Minerals: Ca = calcium, Fe = Iron

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