Is Eating Healthy Expensive?
Food is medicine and the right nutrients, from a good diet, go a long way in supporting the body to begin the healing process itself. However, often when I discuss this with my patients, they express the impression that healthy food is so expensive. This is a myth. Healthy food is only expensive if you add it on top of all the unhealthy snacks and treats we consume in our day but if you take into account the following tips for healthy eating, in fact, changing your diet away from food that diminishes health to that which enhances, will also save you money.
Many convenience foods include a heavy markup in the final price. Convenience foods are packaged in boxes and containers that require their own manufacture, printing, labeling and marketing. When you are faced with an array of 20 different breakfast cereals, each one vying for your attention and each with its own marketing strategy, you can be sure that you are paying for that marketing. To top it all, we have the wool pulled over our eyes with labels like ‘9 vitamins added’ when the quantity of vitamin is barely more than a wave over the manufacturing vat.
- The True Cost of Convenience.
All those special designer coffees, take away’s, readymade convenience meals in their special, microwavable containers, are not only expensive but take their toll on our health and energy. If I could factor in the true cost of poor meals, in time away from work, visits to the GP or specialist, extra money when we go over our medical aid threshold, the cost of the food would be astronomical. Pain is masked with prescription drugs. Energy is lifted using temporary energy drinks, or high sugar ‘Energade’ that lifts one temporarily, only for us to crash an hour later, requiring another take away cappuccino. All hidden drains on our finances.
Another factor to consider is the cost to the economy. Feeling sluggish, with brain fog, migraines and poor health also affects productivity. Companies have to take this into consideration. Many do, with Wellness Centre’s and health care professionals on the premises but people use these Centre’s when they are ALREADY feeling unwell. How much better for productivity if employees never needed these Centre’s because staff felt well and vibrant.
The only benefit to readymade food is the time we save, but how much of that time we feel we do not have, is a result of the vicious cycle of low energy that results from… a poor diet. We work all day and come home starving and want to just crash in front of the TV. Often our family life suffers because communication plummets with our children. They are also in front of the box, or behind their cell phones. Children too have lost their energy to play and interact, because a poor diet saps them as well. Is this really ‘living’ or just existing on that hamster wheel with no joy and no motivation to go out and try interesting and special activities.
The price we pay is larger than we think and it becomes a downward spiral, that requires more and more effort to get out of, like swimming against the current.
We do not need to spend more to eat healthy!
Even if time and money aren’t on your side, you can still eat healthy. This is one of the most common misconceptions I hear. I understand the challenges of trying to eat well with limited financial resources, limited time, or both. But you don’t have to be rich or retired to eat well and take care of yourself.
Good quality, healthy food need not take time to make, nor cost a lot. We don’t need to cook with ‘special’ ingredients.
The top items purchased in supermarkets are:
- Canned drinks
These are all addictive substances. Just giving up, or even cutting back on the above, will substantially free up funds for healthy food.
Healthy food is also very accessible. Shop in the outside aisles of the supermarket, or even better, get a group of office friends together and order online from an organic veggie market that will deliver. Then you can divide the produce between all of you.
Preparing healthy food, with the right equipment, is super easy. A steamer does your veggies for you. Then a quick turn in the frying pan, in a dab of butter with spices, will add a delicious flavour and take less time than waiting for the pizza delivery. Sauces can be made in bulk over the weekend and will keep for 4-5 days in the fridge. Have 10 recipes on hand, that you can easily rotate, that require only small tweaks to feed you and your family during the week. Over the weekend you can be more adventurous. Preparing large quantities of a delicious chicken casserole that can be stored in smaller containers in the freezer will also save time and energy
Ideas for budget healthy cooking
- Keep a journal for a week. Record what you eat and the costs for 1 week. Add everything. At the end of the week, review what you must have and the cost and what you can do without, and what you will save. This will be an enlightening experience.
- Choose a few items from your journal that you can do without. For example, don’t buy that convenience coffee every day — these add up to R100’s a year! Extrapolate the costs of these items over a year to see what you will save by eliminating them.
- Buy in season. Local is better Order from local markets who will deliver. Form a veggie group with a few friends in your office.
- Learn the Dirty Dozen. Organic and grass fed is more expensive and sometimes there is no firm guarantee you are indeed getting organic but the more you can, the more you will avoid GMOs and have better health. To learn the most and least pesticide-ridden foods, visit this link.
- Frequent family owned grocery stores. Search out cheaper sources of fresh, whole foods in your neighborhood. Support the small businessman. It may appear that his food is more expensive but it is putting the circle of money where it belongs, within your own neighborhood and not in big corporate hands.
- .Keep some essentials on hand. Develop around 10 easy, cost effective and healthy meal plans you can rotate. Have the ingredients available at home at all times so you don’t get stuck eating food that doesn’t make you feel well or help you create the health you want. You will only need to plan this once.
- Create a “food club”. Have coworkers share the responsibility of making lunch for the group once a week or every two weeks. You get to eat real, home made, fresh food and only have to cook a few times a month. Or create a “supper club” with a group of friends; rather than go out to dinner, once a week or once a month rotate dinner parties at one another’s homes. Sociable and healthy. Swap recipes to build your recipe base.
- Buy some items in bulk. Certain items keep well and are cheaper in bulk, such as rice, some spices and coconut for example
- Make your own salad dressing with lemon juice, olive oil and spices. Far cheaper, tastier and more healthy than the store bought one that is full of MSG and other preservatives.
- Cut up the salad ingredients every weekend and store in glass containers in the fridge. Then all that is left is to toss in the lettuce. Add colourful fruit to your salad. Pears, naartjies and well washed strawberries.
- Change your breakfast ideas. Eating cereal just because it is convenient is very unhealthy. Consider a new breakfast mindset with brown rice and lentils for example or oats and nuts. Oats make an easy breakfast. (not instant oats). Either make a large pot for the week, or cook as needed, in the microwave with cinnamon, raisins and apple.
- Protein does not always mean meat. Beans and lentils are nutritious and easy to make in advance. Be cautious of tinned beans as many are loaded with sugar. Both keep well in the fridge and can be added to precooked brown rice for a quick, super healthy, breakfast.
- Make soups in advance. In winter, slow simmer a large pot of ‘everything colourful you can add’. Either divide and freeze or keep in the fridge and serve a small bowl daily, to cut your hunger while you wait for dinner to cook. This will prevent the tendency to eat biscuits and unhealthy snacks because you arrive home starving.
- Make double of everything. Most foods, except for fish, will store well for 3 days in the fridge. Make double quantities and either freeze or eat 2 days later.
- Share quick healthy recipes with your friends. Start a competition for the most healthy, with quick and easy as a criterion.