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How to Profit From the Trend Toward Healthier Food


The war on obesity is starting to heat up. Here are two stocks that will cash in as more Americans look to cut their waistlines.

No matter where you stand on New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg's proposed ban on the sale of large soft drinks, you have to admit that the proposal has kickstarted the discussion around obesity.

The problem is certainly a serious one: According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 35.7% of Americans are now obese. That amplifies the risk of a range of serious health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

From a financial point of view, cutting the obesity rate also makes sense. According to the CDC, obesity-related medical costs hit $147 billion in the US in 2008, with obese people running up $1,429 more in medical expenses during the year than more fit Americans.

Michelle Obama Puts Her Popularity to Work

At the other end of the spectrum from Bloomberg's heavy reliance on government regulations is Michelle Obama's Let's Move! program. The First Lady has been working on the initiative, which aims to combat childhood obesity and promote more nutritious food for kids, for the past two years.

Let's Move! encourages healthier lifestyles in a number of ways. For example, the First Lady recently hosted a "kids' state dinner," in which she invited children who had participated in a healthy recipe contest to dine at the White House. The event also included a surprise visit from the president himself.

Mrs. Obama has also been making an effort to set a good example herself, recently revealing that she rises at 4:30 a.m. to work out-leaving the president snoozing in bed-so she can be back before their two daughters wake up.

It's easy to dismiss such efforts as empty public relations ploys, but before you do, consider the First Lady's sky-high popularity ratings. In May, Gallup found that 66% of Americans had a positive impression of Michelle Obama-a rate that's held steady for the past two years. That was far ahead of the president's 52% rating.

Corporate America also seems to have taken notice: Last year, Wal-Mart (WMT) joined the Let's Move! campaign, rolling out a five-year plan to make its food healthier and cheaper. Other companies, such as Walgreen (WAG), have also signed on.

Two Stocks That Will Profit From Thinner Waistlines

There are a number of ways investors can cash in on the trend toward healthier eating. Here's a look at two companies that are on the leading edge: One dominates the niche health-food retail market, and the other is a diversified food maker that's launching a steady stream of new, more nutritious products.
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