Fiction: Eating healthy is too expensive

I hear this excuse on a daily basis, even from my husband. But let’s call a spade a spade: an excuse is just that…an excuse. Not to be mistaken for a reason. Even in working with a low-income population in rural America, it’s my job to make proper nutrition a feasible reality to everyone and on any budget.

Eating a more nutritious, balanced diet does not require breaking the bank. How one can justify fast food for every meal (DOLLAR/VALUE MENU OR NOT!) as a less expensive alternative to balanced home-cooked meals is sorely mistaken. The toll is not only on their waistline and their wallets, but on their overall health status.

So, 10 ways eating healthier doesn’t have to cost you more:

1. Buy seasonal products. Fresh artichokes will run you $1.99-2.99 each right now, yes. Darn. Ouch. But a $0.10 ear of corn? Compare that to the canned or frozen versions. You’re coming out well ahead, guaranteed.

2. Research. I make regular trips to Aldi for avocados, bell peppers, and other fresh produce. I’m saving bundles. And if you take lessons in guacamole-making from yours truly, you can make 4x the amount of guacamole from scratch as you can buy at Taco Bell or Taco Bueno.

3. Portions: if you’re eating less volume, you can save lots of money. What a thought!

4. Water is cheaper than soda, shakes, Slurpees, etc. So is Crystal Light.

5. Use “heartier proteins” (to quote Katie Cavuto, the RD on The Next Food Network Star) such as beans in your meals. Beans are an excellent source of protein and fiber…and they’re PACKED with vitamins and minerals.

6. Canned and frozen products are perfectly nutritious options for getting in your fruits and vegetables. While fresh is preferred, consuming fruits and vegetables from any source is a far step above consuming none at all. Be sure to rinse your canned vegetables to rid of excess sodium, and buy your fruit in water or natural juices. Anything packed in syrup (light or heavy) should be avoided.

7. Buy the generic. I love Fiber One bars and they’re sold in bulk at retailers like Sam’s Club. Walmart, however, has a generic brand with identical nutritional content and ingredients for 30% less cost. You’ll find this is commonly true in snack foods and grains, such as cereals.

8. Items such as turkey pepperoni, turkey kielbasa, reduced-fat peanut butter, light or sugar-free syrup, and turkey hot dogs cost the exact same as their high-fat and/or high-calorie counterparts. Choose the healthier option!

9. Create meals using cheap, staple items such as potatoes and eggs. These products offer loads of nutrients, but as with all foods, should not be eaten in excess. Breakfast for dinner, anyone?

10. Substitute similar products. Lean ground beef comes with a heavier price tag than it’s 80% lean version. So, opt for ground turkey instead.

And please, never forget the price tag of poor health. The cost of chronic diseases such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), and diabetes will eventually weigh down much more than your pocket. Consider the emotional, physical, and economical costs your friends, family, and loved ones will pay for your ill-health. The toll is much greater than the cost of that which we choose to fuel our bodies.

Scare tactics are never a first resort, but hindsight is always 20-20 when it comes to our health: don’t wait until it’s too late to make positive changes in order to preserve your health.

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Filed under budget shopping, healthy cooking

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