In every health discussion I’ve ever been in, someone inevitably brings up the cost of healthy eating. “Eating healthy is so expensive!” But is it really? While several people have realized that the upfront costs for healthy food are outweighed by the cost of health care if you don’t eat healthfully, that isn’t the whole story. You don’t have to wait to realize the cost benefits of healthy food, if you understand how your body works and what you’re really doing when you make the switch.
Why It SEEMS More Expensive
On the surface, healthy food is definitely more expensive. You can go to a fast food restaurant and get 400-700 calories for a dollar. When you spend a dollar in the grocery store, you only get 100-200 calories for the same dollar. Obviously, your dollar goes farther at the fast food place, right? You get more food.
What’s REALLY Happening
The first thing you need to consider in this scenario is, how many calories do you actually need? That fast-food restaurant meal with the burger, fries and a non-diet soda is going to be 1000-1500 calories in one sitting. If you’re a non-athletic woman, you probably don’t need any more calories than that FOR THE WHOLE DAY. That’s just one meal! But for most of us that isn’t the only meal for the day. The average person will have that meal and keep eating. That’s why we have an obesity problem. So, before you can compare real costs, you have to reduce the calories down to just what you need, spread throughout the day.
The other thing to consider is that the processed food meal has very little actual nutrition in it. Some fillers are actually designed to make you keep eating. When you feed your body calories without proper nutrition, you stay hungry because your body didn’t get what it needed. The lack of nutrients combined with factory flavors and textures designed to appeal to you, you keep eating – and keep spending.
If you take the amount of money you spend on processed foods and buy healthy foods instead, you will get less calories, but more nutrients. That means you’ll only eat the calories you need – and those calories will contain the proper nutrients to feed your body, so you won’t need to constantly keep eating. When you look at it that way, your food bill will probably stay the same, but you’ll be healthier.
The Time Factor
The one thing you will need more of if you eat in a healthy way is time. It takes time to actually cook things and very few places are selling ready-to-eat or ready-to-microwave healthy meals. Great places to pick up pre-packaged fresh foods are Trader Joe’s, Fresh & Easy, Sprouts and Whole Foods. But even if you don’t live near one of these stores, you can make your own prepackaged meals and enjoy the health benefits and the convenience. The way to do that is to plan out what you want to cook and make sure you have the ingredients. Then, choose a 2-3 hour period on a particular night or on the weekend, and cook EVERYTHING. Use handy portable containers to portion out your meals, and then throw everything in the freezer. Now, you have a freezer full of microwave meals that are full of health, and just what you like because you made them. Get an insulated lunch bag and throw a frozen meal into it and you can have a healthy lunch every single day. This is also great if you have kids who may not be old enough to use the stove unattended. Instead of buying processed microwavable treats for them to eat when you aren’t there, the kids can go into the freezer and microwave a proper meal that’s full of health.
Supplement for Success
If you’re moving from processed foods to fresh and healthy, you might be malnourished. That means when you start your health regiment, you still may not get all of the vitamins and minerals your body needs every day. A multivitamin can bridge the gap. As you eat more healthfully an take your vitamins, you’ll make up for the lost nutrition you weren’t getting and your appetite will regulate itself so that you don’t get as hungry.
And Don’t Forget the Water!
Hydration is also important for your health and your weight. Many people confuse thirst for hunger, so make sure you get plenty to drink. Fresh foods contain a fair amount of water in them, so incorporating fruits and vegetables into your diet will lead to a small boost in hydration. Add water, herbal teas, non-caloric flavored water, and coconut water to round out your hydration regiment.