By Karen Axelton

87689708Americans are tightening their purse strings, but if this article from MarketWatch is any indication, pretty soon they may have to bust out some cash to buy bigger pants.

For many Americans, MarketWatch reports, healthy eating is a casualty of the poor economy, and they’re putting on “recession fat.” In a recent survey by Technomic Inc., 70 percent of respondents said healthy foods have become difficult to afford. The percentage of Americans who are overweight or obese, as well as those who have diabetes, all increased in the past year.

The culprits behind the weight gain are many. With companies laying off employees, those left behind are working longer hours and have less time to exercise (or money for gym memberships). They’re also stressed, which tends to lead to snacking. Market research firm Mintel says salty snacks such as chips posted double-digit sales increases this year.

Businesses are stepping in to fill the need, with restaurants adding “value menu” offerings and an array of snacks that, while cheap, are often fattening. People still want to go out to eat, and they also have less time to cook—so they’re turning to these options instead.

Sure, it’s easy to make money making Americans fatter—but in the long run, wouldn’t it be better to profit from helping them stay healthy? When the economy improves, there’s going to be big business in products and services that help people get back in shape.

And if you’re noticing your staff—or yourself, putting on a few “recession pounds,” why not urge them to get more active? Spending 10 or 15 minutes doing some quick yoga moves, or taking a brisk stroll around the office park, will pay off in more productivity when you go back to work—and better health in the long run. Yes, we’re all stressed right now—but there are smarter ways to deal with it than by sticking your hand in the cookie jar.