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Credit: University of Washington

Salad or soda? Where you live shapes how you eat

If you live on Seattle’s waterfront, you may have a healthier diet than someone who lives in neighborhoods along I-5 and Aurora Avenue. That’s because your income, education and property value determine what you eat.

A new University of Washington study published in the journal Social Science and Medicine-Population Health looks at social disparities that affect health outcomes. It shows that where we live determines our food choices.

Adam Drewnowski of the UW School of Public Health and lead author, says those food choices aren’t always driven by what’s available nearby, but what’s affordable.

“If you only have $5 to spend, what will it be?” he said. A salad, for example, costs more than a soda.

“Many people make the only possible economic decisions through no fault of their own,” Drewnowski said. “I want to insist that this is not a fault of their own, this is not a bad decision; this is the only economic decision possible under the circumstances.”

The study used local data and surveyed more than 1,000 King County residents. Questions included their education, income, how often they consumed salad and soda, and how often they exercise.

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Researchers have expanded the study to include Yakima and Pierce counties.