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The Food Stamp Diet

The Food Stamp Diet

The unhealthy result of eating on $3 a day.

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Staying slim on a budget can take some work. But try munching on rabbit food and lean protein with only access to food stamps? Coined The Food Stamp Diet, this low budget eating plan forces you to eat like the 26 million Americans who live on food stamps, which allots to just about $3 a day.

Made famous by politicians who have tried to step in the shoes of the millions of low-income Americans by surviving on bananas, peanut butter sandwiches and brown rice, The Food Stamp Diet starkly and grimly shows anyone who is willing to try it just how difficult it is to eat a healthy diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables on a mere $21 per week.

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  • Effectively demonstrates how challenging it is to eat a balanced diet on food stamps
  • May promote greater awareness and funding for those in need of food stamps
  • May encourage healthier foods to be included as part of the food stamp program
  • Carbohydrate-rich Food Stamp Diet can lead to weight gain
  • Obesity is a serious problem in low-income populations
  • Void of nutrients like those found in fresh fruit and vegetables and lean protein
  • Weight gain is an enabling factor for a multitude of health conditions
  • Inexpensive food tends to be less healthy

Given its limited financial budget, The Food Stamp Diet is comprised mostly of carbohydrate-heavy foods and few if any fruits, vegetables, lean proteins or heart-healthy fats. Foods that are included in the food stamp program are generally inexpensive, have a long shelf-life and are not perishable. Politicians who experimented with this diet subsisted largely on peanut butter, processed cheese, bread, tortillas, legumes and bulk grains like oats and cornmeal.

Those on The Food Stamp Diet can eat their daily quota of calories and perhaps even more than they normally eat because the food is fairly energy dense. But it is this lack of low calorie but very nutritious foods like fruit and vegetables that often leaves them craving fresh foods and sometimes even gaining weight.


There are no exercise recommendations that go along with the Food Stamp Diet.


The Food Stamp Diet is an experiential eating plan that gives the individual a direct taste of the challenges that are encountered by the 26 million Americans who try to subsist on food stamps. Given the severe financial restrictions of eating on just $3 per day, most of the food choices are carbohydrate-heavy and void of fresh food items.

In addition, because of The Food Stamp Diet’s reliance on energy dense food, it is easy to observe how weight gain and not getting the proper nutrients are likely consequences of surviving on food stamps. The Food Stamp Diet sheds light on the inadequacy of the food stamp program in the hopes of bringing more awareness and funding to this program so that healthier foods can be made more available for those who rely on food stamps.

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The Food Stamp Diet, Food Stamps Diet, Food Stamps Deit, Fod Stamps Diet, Food Stamps Diut, Welfare Diet

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(Page 1 of 1, 7 total comments)

John Mariani


If you have a car that you can afford to keep running, you can choose to eat healthy on food stamps: you can get to an actual grocery store, and eating healthy actually can be cheaper than not.

Yes, beans and peanut butter are cheap and provide protein, and oatmeal is the cheapest breakfast I know (about $2 to $3 a month). Chicken can be cheap as well. Our politicians playing at being poor figured that much out.

But the problem is not that fruits and vegetables are too expensive. Sweet potatoes, apples on sale, celery, carrots, cucumbers, etc are all affordable on a food stamp budget. They can actually be a great deal less expensive than many packaged and processed foods that people choose to spend their food stamps on.

I think the problem lies mainly in the habits of many food stamp shoppers. Don't get me wrong. I'm not blaming them. While most people are stressed out and in a hurry and have unhealthy eating habits, the food stamp shopper who is trying to raise a family and work and deal with transportation challenges and the rest is under severe duress. Add that the food that is pushed in the media and presented like it's all candy in the stores themselves is the packaged, processed high carb, high fat, high sugar, high salt foods that dominate the diets of most Americans.

Manufacturers know all about the instant gratification these foods offer. The manufacturers are shooting for a kind of chemical dependency. What potato or bean or even apple can compete with the hypersweet impact of a fruit rollup washed down with a beverege containing 8-9 teaspoons of sugar per serving?

While it is very unwise to bring the kids to the store, many people have to and feel the pressure to give them what they crave. And of course the people crave as well and succumb to the sugar sirens sitting on the shelves. It's not fair to expect people on food stamps to eat healthier than their wealthier counterparts.

However, consider the extreme costs to the American people as a whole as a result of the obesity and accompanying diseases that the typical food stamp diet all too often produces. Food stamps, unfortunately, need greater restrictions on what people can buy with them. We need to use them to supplement a food budget, not be a food budget. How do we do this?

First, we have to challenge agribusiness and all other lobbying food manufacturers who hold sway over the food stamp money making game. Food stamps, while not much per person, are huge money in the overall scheme of things. Some manufacturers, like those who produce very cheap colas, appear to live off the food stamp dollar.

Second, we need to increase the monthly amounts people receive from SSI, SSDI, and TANF. DIsabled people have not been receiving increases comparable to inflation. Realize, however, that the more money a person receives from any of these programs lowers their food stamps (as well as their housing grants, if they're lucky enough to have one).

Third, fresh foods must be more available in poor neighborhoods so people can choose them! There is a movement to make fresh foods available and free in some of these areas, and I support it fully. But most poor people shop and will continue to shop in the neighborhood corner store. The prices of these foods must not be subject to the same markups as all the other canned, packaged, and processed foods available in these stores. This way you won't need a car to get to an actual grocery store.

posted Nov 25th, 2012 10:11 pm



Yes, it is hard to eat healthy on food stamps, but this business of only eating peanut butter sandwiches and the like is a bit nonsense. A large variety of food is available for people with food stamps. The only problem is that typically food stamps provides $1 to $6 per day per person. As mentioned in other comments, individual dietary needs are not considered; celiac people, for example, have to somehow stretch this when nearly every gluten-free specified food is twice or three times the price. For people who know how to stretch a budget and who have access to a variety of food, a $6 a day diet is healthy, though at times boring and frustrating. Redesign the food stamp diet to reflect the ability of its users to buy whatever is available, then try a WIC diet. Even better - go the extra mile and try a "Food Desert" diet, where you have to somehow eat healthy when the only grocery store in your area is a convenience mart. That is a huge problem in inner cities which so many people don't even know or care about.

posted Nov 11th, 2011 4:36 pm


Here's the deal. In Oregon a family of three gets $526 total if they have 0 taxable income. That is a tight budget, especially if your child is not on table food and you either have to buy baby food or buy fresh foods to puree. This breaks down to under $200 per person and if you have a child allergic to milk and soy and your only option is $3.50 per half gal almond or coconut milk or $26 per can hypo formula than its more like $400 for babe and the parents are left with $100 each for a month. The state doesn't take health issues like this into account when giving an allowance, the family is forced to make due. Dieting on $100 per month ($25 per week) is almost impossible. Diets that can be done with foodstamps are slimfast and weight watchers. However, to follow the slimfast to the tee, it would cost a minimum of $40 per week and that's keeping your calories at 1200. The weight watchers pre made meals (smartones) are $2 and more per meal. That's $8 per day ($56) per week per person. Yuor only option is to try a real food diet of peanut butter and wheat bread. They provide protein and you will lose weight if you only get 3 of those per day or you can get enough chicken to have one meal w/chicken per day and fill the rest of your day with lettus and watermellon. A balanced diet is 3 meals plus 2 snacks per day. Each meal should be 3 courses and each snack should be 1-2 courses. That's a total of 5 courses for each day (35 courses per week) that's less $1 per course. How do you do that and still manage to drink things like milk. Milk is vital or a healthy diet for adults and aids in weight loss but its about $3 out of your $25 budget (3 courses suffer). Now does this mean you can't be skinny on a food stamp budget, no. You just aren't as healthy as other people not on it. Now I will say that places like Grocery outlet are helping in the way that they will sell items near due date for about half the store price but these items aren't guarenteed weekly and must be eaten in 2 to 3 days or be frozen and even then you can ensure that you are getting all the nutrients from them as they were frozen at the end of their shelf life not when they were fresh made or picked, so once again the health suffers, not nec the weight. This doesn't only go for families on food stamps, it goes for families on tight budgets as well. Most people's bills these days far out weigh the food budget and people who are just over that food stamp qualifacation are getting hit hard aswell. Retired elders with health problems like diabetes that just make enough to cover the bills but too much to get food stamps are suffering in their health tramendously. I've seen it first hand with my dad. Bills come first because they need a house to live in and a car to get to the doctor and medical bills have to be paid in order to see the doctor and yet half the reason their there is because they can't afford to eat right. Diabetics are required to eat much more often and have a much more strick diet, something that is also not taken into account when your allowance is determined. Now, for a single healthy person on a food stamp budget, they should have no big issues staying healthy if they qualify to receive the full amount allowed which is like $176 per month. But let's face it, there's way more families on snap than singles and almost no family is completely free of health related diet issues that require more money to be focused on their food.

posted Aug 25th, 2011 3:50 pm


I think ppl are missing the point, the average person on food stamps receives about $3 per day. This is very difficult to budget for healthly food. I've been on an allowance that had us barely making it, and healthy food was a luxury, I've been on an allowance that I supplemented with WIC during my pregnancy... during which I gained about 130 pounds. Granted it was due to a myriad of extraordinary circumstances, it was also because of a high fat, high protein diet that I was not accustomed to. Currently I try to eat a diet high in fiber and vitamins/ minerals as I know now which herbs, vegetables, and fruits contain these health benefits, but even though there has been a raise in my benefits... I still can only afford a few fruits and one good healthy meal a month. I usually make that a began soup that will freeze for later. However, alot of this issue is education and funding. Which stems from lack of priorities. The government often sees an issue, does a few independent studies of their own that are unrealistic, and places unwarranted blame where they wanted the blame to go in the first place...on the social programs that help. But as I've been told so many times by my own social worker, food stamps are not meant to be your sole source of food income, even though those receiving them know different, they are designed to be a supplement. This puts a whole other perspective on everything, you would think.

posted Oct 10th, 2010 12:58 pm



This is a bunch of bull! These so called politicians got their programs mixed up. All the food they're talking about in here, like peanut butter, tortillas, bread, legumes and cheese is not what you get on food stamps. You get these from WIC and they are for pregnant woman who need to gain weight. No wonder why these fools gained weight.

Food stamp are something totally different. I get food stamps and I can buy whatever I want, and I never run out. I never have to worry about if I have enough on my ebt card because I always do. I get plenty of baby food and snack for my daughter. I can buy just as much groceries than ppl who have more money than me!

As far as low income ppl being obese, that's not true for me! I buy alot of fruits and veggies with my food stamps. I'm thinner than ppl who dont get food stamps!
This program should be stopped, because they have no idea what they are talking about.

posted Jan 12th, 2009 2:02 pm



This is madness. That is an unhealthy diet, and even with that darn EBT card, you can still find a way to buy healthy foods. This is just madness.

posted Jan 7th, 2009 7:27 pm



i was on WIC and it is really hard to eat healthy

posted Dec 26th, 2008 1:43 pm


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