Are you eating as healthily as you’d like? One reason people give for not putting healthier foods on the table is they cost too much. They believe choosing healthier food options will strain their bank account. When inflation is an issue, you might cut corners with your diet. Even in good economic times, it’s easy to spend a fortune on groceries. And that’s before you even factor in restaurant meals. But this article will dispel the idea that eating junk food is better for your budget. Here are five reasons why investing in healthy foods is a smart and affordable option.
Healthy Eating Saves on Medical Bills
Buying a dollar meal at a fast-food restaurant might save a few bucks but there’s a price to pay for poor food choices later. One study that looked at the cost of unhealthy foods found that poor eating habits cost $50 billion per year in added medical costs. Studies show that chronic health problems people deal with, including heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and some types of cancer, are 80% attributable to lifestyle and only 20% to genetics.
The food you put on your plate is a key contributor to lifestyle-related diseases. Unhealthy food choices may sustain you short term, but they can create problems later, such as high blood pressure, elevated blood sugar, and blood lipid abnormalities.
Eating Healthily Can Indirectly Increase Your Earnings
What you eat affects your mental health, cognitive function, and energy level. Research links a diet rich in ultra-processed foods with greater feelings of depression, anxiety, and fatigue. In contrast, eating a nutrient-rich diet provides the energy and motivation to power through your busy day and get more done at work and home.
Mental health can also affect your ability to make a living. A 2012 study found that people who munched on junk food were 51% more likely to experience depression than those who didn’t, and the effect was dose-dependent — eating more junk elevated the odds more. This doesn’t necessarily mean that junk food causes depression. People who are depressed might eat more junk food because they feel down, but research clearly shows that food choices affect mood and energy levels, and that impacts productivity and the ability to earn.
Not All Healthy Foods Are Expensive
Don’t buy into the idea that eating healthy is always expensive. For example, you can buy a pound of quinoa for less than $7 and use it for several meals. How about stocking up on apples and berries by the bushel and freezing them to have on hand during the winter? Beans and rice are relatively inexpensive, too. Take advantage of your freezer and buy in bulk when you find good deals on healthy food.
Don’t be afraid of ugly produce either. Stores often sell less aesthetically pleasing produce at significant savings, and they’re just as nutritious as their more perfect counterparts. Also, check the bulk bin section of your supermarket, where they offer whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, and seeds by the pound at a discount. For example, dried beans are inexpensive and a great source of iron and other minerals. Beans also contain antioxidants that help fight inflammation and keep your heart healthy by reducing bad cholesterol. They’re a heart-healthy choice for the lunch or dinner table.
Stock up when there are sales on staples like oatmeal, frozen vegetables, and whole grains at grocery stores like Walmart or Costco (or even online). Many people don’t take advantage of the opportunities they have to eat healthy foods and save money. Instead, they opt for processed foods based on the idea that they’re cheaper.
Eating Healthily Isn’t as Expensive as You Think
An analysis of multiple studies by the Harvard School of Public Health found that making healthy food choices isn’t as expensive as people think. The research revealed that healthy food choices cost an additional $1.50 per day compared to unhealthy options like junk food. As Harvard points out, this is the largest and most thorough study comparing the cost of healthy eating to unhealthy eating. When you consider the cost of health issues that come from choosing cheap, ultra-processed foods, choosing whole, unprocessed food is a smart decision.
Unhealthy Eating Has Hidden Costs
Some healthy foods are more expensive but they’re more satisfying than ultra-processed foods that lack fiber. Foods with a higher satiety index that make you feel fuller include proteins like eggs, chicken breast, tofu, and fish; fiber-rich vegetables like spinach and broccoli; whole grains like brown rice or barley; and high-fiber legumes such as chickpeas or kidney beans.
These foods will satisfy you longer than a bag of potato chips or a cheap burger on a refined carbohydrate bun that you wash down with a soft drink. You’ll be satisfied with less food when you take the healthier route, and that will help trim your food budget (and body weight).
The Bottom Line
As you can see, eating healthy is an investment in your future health. Understand how important it is to eat healthily and look for ways to do so while being budget conscious. Take advantage of bins and sales and know that you’re doing something good for your body when you make smarter choices.
Supporting your body’s natural ability to maintain health requires dedication and intention. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and healthy protein sources, and avoiding processed foods, is the best way to support health and wellness. Eating healthy will save you money in the long run by lowering your healthcare costs due to preventable diseases.
- “Eating healthy vs. unhealthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day.” 05 Dec. 2013, hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/healthy-vs-unhealthy-diet-costs-1-50-more/.
- “Do Healthier Foods and Diet Patterns Cost More Than Less Healthy Options? A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Mayuree Rao, Ashkan Afshin, Gitanjali Singh, Dariush Mozaffarian, BMJ Open, December 5, 2013.
- “Americans’ poor diet drives $50 billion a year in health care costs.” 17 Dec. 2019, nhlbi.nih.gov/news/2019/americans-poor-diet-drives-50-billion-year-health-care-costs.
- “Junk Food Makes a Bad Mood Worse – Live Science.” 18 Mar. 2013, livescience.com/27977-junk-food-bad-mood.html.
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