Are they really that expensive?
Everyone wants to be healthy and one way to accomplish this is to eat food that provides the right nutrients your body needs to function efficiently. The problem with this seems to lie in purchasing healthy foods. Whenever you are at the grocery store, it seems like the fresh produce, lean cuts of meat and any other products that are healthier for you cost more money than those that are processed and have a longer shelf life. Is this really true? Does it really cost more to buy healthy food?
When it comes to the notion that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food, there are several reasons why people believe this to be a fact even though it isn’t true. One of the main reasons is the media and marketplace sending consumers the message that healthy food has a premium cost. Therefore, it influences our thinking that in order for a food product to be healthy, it needs to be expensive. There have been several studies done where people were asked to compare two products and determine which one was healthier. Most of the time the more expensive product was chosen as being “healthier” even if nutritionally this wasn’t the case. The claim that healthy food is more expensive is due to the comparison is being done on a “price per calorie” model. Healthy food has large amounts of the nutrients your body needs but with less calories. When it is compared to unhealthy foods, which are high in calories but low in nutrients, it becomes clear why this method of measurement is faulty. Unhealthy food cost less per calorie because they have so many calories in them to start with. Unfortunately, our belief that healthy food is more expensive is so ingrained in our thinking that when people are told that a product is healthy, but it is a lower price than an identical product, people are skeptical and will search out supporting evidence to confirm the cheaper product is indeed healthier. Thankfully, with the convenience of mobile devices, this research can take place while shopping in the grocery store. The key is taking the time to do the research.
It has been estimated that to eat healthy it costs about $1.50 a day more, which comes out to about $550 a year. While this might seem like a significant amount of money, on average a family of four wastes $1500 of food per year. It is essential to note that this daily amount was based off a comparison of a healthy diet that didn’t include any unhealthy foods at all versus a diet that consisted of only unhealthy foods. So, the price difference is based on an extreme contrast that most individuals would not experience if they made a switch from a diet consisting mainly of unhealthy foods to one that had more healthy foods than unhealthy ones. The other big factor of cost is that high-processed foods that have more salt, sugar and additives, you need to consume large quantities because the food doesn’t have the nutrients your body needs. This means you need to eat larger amounts in order to feel full. Ultimately, this means you need to purchase food more frequently and in greater quantity, which makes the unhealthy food more expensive than you initially thought.
There is far more to consider than just calories and price. In order to have cheaper products, companies use mass production, the cheapest ingredients, low-grade packaging and have distribution deals. The bottom line is quantity over quality. Hopefully, when you consider this is what you’re putting in your body to provide it the nutrients it needs to function, it makes you stop and think twice. Over time, choosing the cheap high-calorie source means that you aren’t providing your body with the crucial nutrients it needs and this can significantly harm your health. A diet in high-processed foods can lead to a multitude of illnesses and be responsible for many chronic diseases, such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease. These health care needs lead to needing time off from work and costly bills, which can cause more financial concerns for individuals who already are struggling.
Another misconception is that healthy food doesn’t taste good, so many people don’t want to eat it. Actually, healthy food can be quite flavorful. The best way to do this is by using a variety of herbs and spices and being imaginative. It can be fun to experiment in the kitchen and see what dishes you can create. Remember, if you are buying your spices, try to find ones without salt added into them, like garlic powder versus garlic salt. The truth about unhealthy food is that they are engineered to make us want to eat them. The prominent items, salt and sugar, that are in the foods feed into our body’s pleasure centers. Since the feelings we initially get from unhealthy foods are pleasurable, our bodies crave more it because it wants to have that same feeling. However, it takes more and more unhealthy food to get the same feeling. This is how unhealthy food is like an addiction. Think of it this way, you are at a social gathering and notice a whole table designated just for desserts. All of the desserts look amazing and they have your favorite treat. To resist having it would be challenging, but if you have just one small sample of it that won’t hurt you. The problem is stopping after just one. Once your brain gets a “taste” of treat, it wants more. While at the gathering, you might be able to restrain yourself, but what happens if you are at home, how do you resist eating more than just a small amount of the treat? This is why it is incredibly hard to have your favorite items in your house because they are much more accessible and it is that much tougher to limit how much of them you eat. Also, most of us feel that we should enjoy the foods we like without an outside source telling us what to eat or not eat. While it is important to enjoy what you’re eating, we need to remember to not overindulge most of the time.
The other big issue when it comes to eating healthy is related to cooking. There are plenty of excuses, such as you don’t know how, you don’t have time or cooking is too much work. Many people have not learned how to cook because they were never taught or took an interest in learning how to cook. Our perceived lack of time greatly contributes to our unhealthy food choices. Many people view fast food as the only option in order to fit in eating around work and their activities. Unfortunately, this way of thinking has been ongoing for a while now. This is evidenced by the fact that for every supermarket we have, there are about five fast-food restaurants. Also, many people feel that after working all day, they don’t want to have to go home and cook because it is viewed as being work rather than something enjoyable.
In order to transform all of these misconceptions, changes need to be made to several areas of our lives. First of all, individuals need to be educated on how eating healthy actually isn’t expensive. Also, we should be informing them of all of the health benefits a few simple changes to their diet can make, not only in the short term, but over the span of their life. Second, families need to be encouraged to educate and demonstrate to children the pleasure and importance of eating home cook meals that provide more nutritional value than something from a fast-food restaurant. Third, the government needs to step in and help make systemic changes that would benefit society. One of these changes could be limiting marketing time of unhealthy food products in recognition that advertisement of unhealthy food isn’t really the exercise of free speech, but behavior manipulation on the part of companies selling addictive products. Another change could be placing a small tax on unhealthy foods and using the revenue to subsidize the production and distribution of healthier foods. This would ensure that healthy options are available and affordable for everyone. An additional change, could be to alter how food stamps are used by tying their worth to the nutritional quality of the food. If you buy unhealthy food with food stamps, they are face value. However, if you buy healthy foods, then they could cover more than face value. Some people might argue that this is too big of a job for the government and society to be able to tackle. It is important to note that the process of taking something that is popular and making it detested has been done before. Think of the shift in view and use of tobacco products after they became better regulated thanks to the awareness of the health problems they cause. There is no reason that the issues we, as a society, are currently having with food cannot be handled in a similar manner.
It may take a while for wide sweeping changes to be made, but there are several ways that you can make it easier to buy healthy foods in the meantime. The biggest one is to meal plan. The best way to do this is to see what you have in your cupboard and refrigerator, look at the ads for your local grocery store to see what is on sale, cut coupons (just be aware of which type of coupons—don’t use them to buy unhealthy food) and plan what meals you are going to make for the next week based off of your schedule for that week. The main goal of doing this is to prevent needing to make multiple trips to the store throughout the week because that is when you are more likely to buy impulsively. This is also why it is important not to shop hungry because you’ll end up buying things that you don’t need. The best way to avoid this is to have a healthy snack, like fruit or veggies, before you go to the store. While you are in the store, don’t be fooled by labels that say “healthy” or “natural.” Instead, be sure to read the nutrition panel on the packaging and if you don’t understand something, take the time to look it up either on your mobile device or before you go to the store the next time. It is usually cheaper to buy whole foods rather than those processed for convenience, such as buying a block of cheese rather than shredded cheese or buy whole fruit instead of pre-cut fruit. Also, it is cheaper to buy seasonal produce. The good news is it is usually fresher and at its peak nutritional value. Don’t worry about wasting it because you can freeze whatever you have left for later use. Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is a great way to stock up on nutrient-rich food and not worry about it expiring too soon. The key with selecting frozen produce is to make sure that it isn’t mix with any sort of sauces because these usually contain high amounts of sodium or sugar. Another great way to make use of your freezer is to make larger meals and freeze leftovers. Leftovers can also be used for lunch or included in another meal. Some people find it easier to cook only one day a week and then warm up meals the rest of the week when their schedule might not allow them the time to be able to prepare a meal. This can include lunches and snacks. While it does take a bit of planning, you will find that you are eating healthier and it costs less than eating unhealthy fast food. Another other way to save money while shopping is to buy generic brands. They are often just as good as name brands and must meet the same safety standards but are usually cheaper. Stocking up on sales of items that you know you will use and buying in bulk items that you know won’t expire for an extended period of time is also useful. If you are buying meat, look for larger cuts because they are usually less expensive and you can divide it up into smaller portions to be used for several meals. Using other sources of protein, such as legumes, eggs, canned fish or beans, as a substitute for meat once or twice a week is a good way to save money while having some variety. Typically, they have a long shelf life, which is also helpful. Try to buy less unhealthy food—you’ll be surprised how much you are actually spending on these items. By exploring different herbs and spices, you’ll be able to try new flavors and use fewer ingredients. It is important to make sure that any spices you buy don’t add salt to them. Remember, you can always add salt, but have better control over the amount than if it is mixed in with another spice. Growing your own produce and herbs is a great way to save money because seeds don’t cost as much as the actual product and you can freeze whatever extra items you grow. A new and great way to save money is to buy from online retailers. Often it can be up to 50% less for same product that you would buy from an actual store.
Healthy food isn’t expensive as advertisers and the media want us to believe. Instead, we should be asking ourselves why hyper-processed, sugary, salty, additive-laden food is so cheap. The solution isn’t to expect fast-food chains to provide healthier meals but a shift in our thinking. We need to realize that cooking is a normal part of life and shouldn’t be viewed as a burden. By planning meals, making smart choices at the grocery store and cooking at home, you can eat healthy without spending a fortune. The key is to not deprive yourself of things you enjoy, but to make choices that are consistent with the results you want. Remember, the price of unhealthy food isn’t just the cost for the food itself but should take into account the cost of the related health issues that come with ingesting these types of foods on a regular basis. Healthy eating is good for your body and it is affordable!