In a world of misinformation, Fitness Pudding is here to separate fact from fallacy, and science from fiction.

Eating Healthy is Cheaper Than You May Think

Eating Healthy is Cheaper Than You May Think

If I had a nickel everytime someone said eating healthy was too expensive, I would have enough money to actually eat healthy. To test this theory, I did my own little experiment with one meal. Based on my own shopping receipts, which is mainly whole vegetables, whole fruits and legumes, I made the following meal comparison table (my lunch one day).

Food

Serving

Price

Carb

Fat

Sat Fat

Trans Fat

Protein

Fiber

Calories

Grilled Eggplant

1/2 whole

$0.75

16g

 .25g

0g

0g

3g

9.5g

66

Broccoli

2 cups

$0.42

6g

 0g

0g

0g

3g

2g

31

Sweet Potato

1 large

$0.50

37g

 0g

0g

0g

4g

6g

162

Olive Oil

1/2 Tbsp

$0.15

0g

 7g

1g

0g

0g

0g

59.5

Ice Water

16 oz

from sink

0g

 0g

0g

0g

0g

0g

0

Total

-

 $1.82

 59g

 7.25g

1g

0g

 10g

17.5g

318.5

Now, let's compare this healthy lunch to an average fast food lunch-time meal from McDonald's.

Food

Serving

Price

Carb

Fat

Sat Fat

Trans Fat

Protein

Fiber

Calories

Quarter-Pounder
with Cheese

32 oz Coke

Large Fries

1

 $5.39

 190g

51g

15.5g

1.5g

 36g

9g

1338

As you can clearly see, not only is a normal healthy meal cheaper than the other potential meal, but more nutritious and way less Calories (1,000 Calories less!!). Now, if you are only concerned about energy (i.e. Calories), and not the health and quality of the food, then yes, the fast food meal is cheaper at 248 Calories for every $1 spent, while the healthy meal was only 175 Calories per $1 spent.

However, for the majority of us, our desire is to eat healthfully, and not break the bank doing it. Even though this is a simple example of one meal, it clearly shows that eating healthy is not too expensive.

What does the research say?

Even the most expensive healthy diets are, on average, still only about $1.50 more than unhealthy diets. When considering the billions of dollars the U.S. spends on preventable diseases, brought on my poor diets and physical inactivity, the extra $1.50 should be worth it.

Time just published an article summarizing this study from Harvard.

For more examples and information, see the resources provided by ChooseMyPlate.gov: Healthy Eating on a Budget.

Buyer Beware!

Now, I will admit that you can rack up the bill with 'healthy' food, just as you can with unhealthy food. Unfortunately, the food industries are going to try their best to take advantage of us through our desires to eat healthy.

  1. The Health Food Craze. A lot of us want to eat healthier. The industry knows this, and can mark up prices. In addition, we use little information to make our choices when buying our food. We may go to a 'whole food' store, and assume it is all good. We buy what we want, but may be over paying for food that is no different than buying it cheaper somewhere else.

  2. Organic? Eating 'organic' is fine, and I support the common intent of those seeking these foods. However, because a product puts 'organic' on their box or bag, it does not ensure that it is healthier or more nutritious than a non-organic product, especially in light of the higher price. If you are not on a 100% organic diet, then I would suggest reading this article by the Mayo Clinic.

  3. Colors, Style and Wording. Marketing groups are extremely smart and effective in getting us to buy the products they want us to buy. Many of the food decisions we make while shopping are based on little information. Have you ever bought a bottle of wine, because it 'looked' fancier (thus, must be better)? Have you ever bought a food that 'looked' healthy?
    nature-bar
    Products use healthy, natural colors, such as green, yellow, and brown. We see images of whole foods, and sometimes happy people. We also see words like, "nature, valley, health, grain, whole, nutritious," and so forth. For example, does this nature bar product look healthy to you? It runs $4.50 per box, with 6 cereal bars per box.

    However, other than claiming to be 'organic', it is very comparable to much cheaper versions, such as the Nutri-Grain cereal bar. Both do not have any high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils, and have the same amount of calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, and fiber (see labels below). The big kicker here is that the Nutri-Grain version, is only $2.78 per box at Wal-Mart, and has 8 cereal bars per box (compared to 6 in the other).

Health Valley Organic

Nutri-Grain

Health-Valley-Organic

Nutri-Grain

Conclusion

If you are smart with your shopping and fervent about your healthy food preparation, healthy eating does not have to be more expensive than eating unhealthy. Our beliefs and perceptions dictate our behaviors. If you believe eating healthy is too expensive, then you may not attempt to eat healthy. However, if you believe that eating healthy is not as expensive as you once thought (which you now should), you may be much more inclined to give healthy eating a shot.

 

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