Exposing the myth of “expensive” healthy eating

12 Dec

The other day as I was checking out at the store, a woman in front of me purchased her basket of items containing, two large bottles of Pepsi and about ten bags of spicy potato chips.  Her total came to $17 and some change, she went to pay for the items using her government assistance card.  While this did bother me a bit, I brushed it aside and went about my day.

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The very next day, I went to the local farmers market to get my produce for the week ahead.  After getting everything I noticed that I had spent exactly $17.  Noticing this immediately brought me back to that store.  The contrast of the amount and quality of what we both got for the same amount of money surprised me and inspired me to explore the common objection I hear that it is too expensive to eat healthy.

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It is not fair to blame this woman alone for her poor eating habits because this unhealthy American diet was not born overnight and is largely the result of marketing efforts by large food manufacturers who intentionally fill foods with refined sugar, salt and carbohydrates to make their foods addictive. The fillers and artificial ingredients are also added for the purpose of keeping their production costs low and being able to sell it cheaply in the marketplace.  Those in low income households and on government assistance will naturally be attracted to these cheap foods thinking that they will be getting the most bang for their buck.

Living on a diet of highly processed foods leads to problems down the road such as high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer, among a long list of other ailments.  More than 2/3 of adults in the US are considered overweight 1 in 3 people in have high blood  pressure and heart disease is the leading cause of death.  This is unnecessary illness which is directly linked to our dietary choices.

Now, imagine that after years of eating the standard American diet, you are overweight, have high blood pressure, heart disease and often miss work because you are too sick to go.  You pay very high insurance premiums and rely on several different expensive prescription medications.  This all could have been avoided through proper diet, but the lure of those cheap, processed foods was just too great.

I’m not necessarily saying that eating a healthy vegan diet is always the most affordable option.  For example, certain natural versions of ingredients tend to cost a bit more than their processed counterpart.  However, this still does not mean that healthy eating is expensive. My grocery tab runs me about $25-30 a week, depending on whether or not I need to stock up on any pantry staples.  For many people, that is what they spend on Starbucks for the week.

Food is the fuel for your body.  It either promotes health or feeds disease and each time you eat you choose to do one of those things.  The groceries you buy should be looked at as an investment.  You are investing into your health and creating a strong, healthy body.  Many of us need to re-evaluate what we spend our money on and decide if something such as our weekly coffee habit is more important than our health.  When it comes down to it, the money saved  now by buying cheap, processed food, will later paid in doctor bills, prescription medications and hospital visits.

Do you still think it’s too expensive to eat healthy?

Here are a few of tips I have learned along the way to help you shop healthy on a budget.

1.  Shop at farmers markets

Depending on where you live, farmers markets may be hard to come by in the winter months, but a simple Google search will allow you to see exactly what is available in your neighborhood.  A good tip is to go around closing time when farmers might be looking to get rid of whats left and cut you a deal.

2.  Join a delivery service

Services that deliver farm fresh produce are becoming more and more popular.  Farm Fresh to You is a great service that I have used and they have plans to fit every budget.  What’s great about them is that you can customize what you receive in your box and how often you receive it.  It is also fun to get all types of fruits and vegetables and maybe experiment with something new.

3.  Buy in bulk

You can often find bulk bins in your local supermarket or health food store.  The prices here are usually lower than the stuff that is already packaged and for sale on the store shelves.  I like to place mine in glass jars making my pantry both healthy and pretty to look at.

4.  Shop with the seasons

Those strawberries that you’re buying in the dead of winter likely had to travel thousands of miles to make it into your shopping cart.  This makes them more expensive and lacking in vital nutrients.

 

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