Healthy Eating on a Budget

“Eating healthy is expensive!”  My client had researched the cost and calorie counts at restaurants and fast food, but the differences between frozen meal choices in grocery stores sent her over the edge.  “How can a salad costs a lot more than a burger?”

 

Current nutrition philosophy recommends a return to eating real food and getting away from the processed diet food products.  “Shop around the perimeter of the grocery store” is always good practice, but the added layer of terms like organic, grass-fed, pasture raised, non-GMO, and gluten free adds expense.  Good idea – more expensive.

We know why.  Organic costs more to produce because it’s less automated.  My grandparents raised cattle and turkeys on acres of land long before I heard the term “free-range.” I chased many turkeys from the range to the roosting pen before sunset so they could eat bugs and grass throughout the day.  Good for their health, but it adds to care costs. The cows do love grass, but having the land to support enough feed isn’t cheap.  We get it.  Healthier stock and crops cost more to get from the land to the table. Understand.  Appreciate.  Still tempted to choose the eggs that are under 50 cents as opposed to $2.79+ a dozen.

So how do we eat healthy without blasting the budget?

Recognize that food with better nutritional value will be more expensive up front, and better nutrition has health benefits that will save you money in healthcare down the road.    Do what you can to improve food quality as your budget allows, AND we have to make choices.  Perhaps buy one thing that has better nutrition and compromise on another, or look at other areas where you can economize to free up cash for better quality food.  It’s the prevention vs. the price of the cure approach, and with the cost of healthcare, prevention may be our best long-term investment.

Convenience foods and restaurant/take-out meals may save you time, but they can also be expensive both in cash and nutrition.  Making dinner at home with fresh and whole foods can cost a lot less, be more satisfying, and usually produces less waste (or waist).  You maintain more control over calorie counts with homemade meals.

Eat only when you’re hungry.  We know we veer toward comfort and stress relief eating.  How much would you save in terms of calories as well as cash if you ONLY ate when you were physically hungry?

When you eat, focus on the food and the experience of eating with friends and family.  Avoid distracting yourself with television. When we’re focused on television, we eat a lot more and enjoy it less.  We have the bag of chips or cookies there, the story line or game gets intense, and suddenly the whole bag is gone, and we didn’t notice the flavor as it passed through our mouths.

Budget-friendly options will cost you a little time in preparation, yet it pays dividends in better nutrition, more satiety, long-term health, and even a slimmer body.

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