Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Eating Healthy is Cheaper than Eating Junk

Despite what you might be inclined to believe, it's cheaper to eat healthful foods than junk foods.

Take McDonald's. Okay, so a burger is $1, let's say, and the fries $1.50 and a drink for $1. (I have no idea what these items cost. I am just guessing and being conservative.) That's a total of $3.50. What nutrients will your body derive from these foods? You have a little slab of beef, (lettuce, tomato, pickle, cheese?) the bun, greasy, deep-fried french fries (sauce?) and who-knows-what to drink. Soda? Milkshake? I'll just call those unnecessary sugar/beverage calories.

The nutrients your body gets from ingesting the above are questionable. You get some protein, a lot of empty calories and carbohydrates from the bun, possibly trans fat with your french fries and a lot of starch from those fries and empty calories from that soda that your body's insulin will have to deal with to regulate your blood sugar. The hamburger bun, as I talked about in an earlier post, offers nothing but sugar to the body. Its carbohydrates are almost immediately digested in the stomach, leaving you feeling hungry.

For $3.50 I could buy kale or red chard on sale, and a loaf of tempeh or some bulk quinoa to boil, and maybe an apple or orange for dessert. The nutrients I get from this healthy variety of colorful foods greatly outweighs the poor nutrients offered in the McDonald's scenario above. Nutrient per cent spent on food equals this: you get more nutrients from a few healthy foods than you do from 10 hamburgers or 30 french fries.

If we were to compare the contents of two different grocery carts at a grocery store, it may reveal something like this:

Cart A: Bottles of soda, frozen pizzas/meals, bags of chips, crackers, ice cream, boxed cereals, white rice, etc.

Cart B: Cabbage, blueberries, apples, cherries, turnips, carrots, beets, spinach, kale, chard, bulk quinoa and steel-cut oats, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almond milk, etc.

It would take you a tremendous amount of calories from the foods in Cart A to get nutrients for your body. Even then, you are not eating foods that your doctor would ever recommend. (If you do have a doctor recommending these items, you may want to consider switching doctors.) However, if you ate from Cart B's list of foods, you would get more nutrients, and quicker so that you feel full and are apt to eat less.

I can almost hear some of you ho-hum right now--preparing foods like those in Cart B can be so overwhelming and time-consuming. I'll just mention priorities this once. It comes down to not wanting to prepare all of these fruits and vegetables. It is not convenient and we are living in a culture of "convenience is best." We want more time at our computer, or being on the phone, in the car, working, etc. We spend more time doing the very things that end up being very stressful to us and eventually killing us.

Have you tried telling yourself that it is okay to spend more than 15 minutes in the kitchen? Have you told your partner/family member that it is a priority to eat healthy and might require more time in the kitchen? Don't forget to tell them that you also saved money on your groceries because you bought healthy foods instead of expensive cereals, crackers, chips and drinks. Everyone can still munch on snacks, but they will be different. Out goes the Cheetos and Oreos and Ben & Jerry's (admittedly, some of my old favorites) and in comes the fresh, crispy carrot sticks and slices of cucumber and tomato and trail mix, to name a few.

Eating healthy is tough these days. There are so many options and gimmicks that we fall prey to, especially when our stomach begins to get hungry.

Think of it this way: 15 extra minutes in the kitchen (simply to wash and slice and store veggies/fruits in the fridge as snacks) may save you 15 days in the hospital down the road if you don't watch what you eat. Heart disease, obesity and diabetes are leading health concerns in our country. People are not having these problems because they ate their vegetables. Although these health issues have many variables and can have complicated relationships with lifestyles, no one ever regrets eating more fruits and vegetables than junk foods. No doctor is going to point his/her finger at you and say, "The problem here is that you just eat too damn healthy."


Just in case you did not know, and in case you were wondering if there is some sort of conspiracy to get us to eat junk food, there is. It's called, wait. You are not going to believe this. I was shocked that there was such an organization. Why haven't I heard of this before? Why didn't we ever talk about it in school? It's called the Snack Food Assocation. No kidding.

Here is a brief introduction: "The Snack Food Association (SFA) is the international trade association of the snack food industry representing snack manufacturers and suppliers. SFA represents over 400 companies worldwide....SFA business membership includes, but is not limited to, manufacturers of potato chips, tortilla chips, cereal snacks, pretzels, popcorn, cheese snacks, snack crackers, meat snacks, pork rinds,snack nuts,party mix, corn snacks, pellet snacks, fruit snacks, snack bars, granola, snack cakes, cookies and various other snacks."

I'm surprised they don't just come out and call themselves the Junk Food Assocation. "Snack" bars? Oh, and we're just in time to participate in SNAXPO, which "will draw thousands of industry professionals from more than 60 countries around the world looking for the latest products and developments, face-to-face meetings with suppliers, networking, outstanding speakers and educational seminars."

I have this little fantasy that I dress in sharp, career-woman clothes and join in the SNAXPO event, talking to people and hearing what goes on in such an event. I can't imagine. Bottom line, though, is that even the Snack Food Association isn't trying to make us fat. All they care about is making money. The demand (for junk food OR for organics and healthier foods) helps initiate what companies will supply. They do not do it for conspiracy reasons or out of the kindness of their hearts. A corporation's goal first and foremost is to make their shareholders happy. They are about money.

The bottom line is what I love to say most: EAT HEALTHY. Make those tough decisions to just "SAY NO" to the bright cereal boxes that beckon, the chips that call your name and to the ice cream that does not have your name written all over it. Try your best to see past fancy packaging (think of multi-millionares mingling at the snack expo and talking about how they can get someone just like you to buy their junk-food product to increase their wealth.) and make the effort to break bad habits. It's worth the time, it's less expensive and it is something in life you won't regret. Be a leader in your family, your social network and your community.

Small steps towards this goal work great!


Losing Waist! said...

I am glad you wrote about this. All over the media they report that eating healthy is SO expensive and that low income families cannot afford it... It is a monster load of bullshit. Stocking a grocery cart full of produce, nuts, whole grains, and even lean meats- is nothing compared to a $5 box of sugared cereal, a $5 case of soda, a $4 bag of chips, frozen processed dinners at $6-$11 a piece... the list is never ending.

Anyway. The media and health experts are fudging this information, but there is an element of personal responsibility to figure this stuff out with a calculator...

Great thoughts!

anastasia_wolf said...

It can be quite exxy though! LOL! I've now moved to about half organic foods, things like organic coconut oil... and things like agave and maple syrup are REALLY expensive in Australia, so I do use a lot less. However, I eat less food overall, my body is in great shape and I feel much more energetic... so it's worth it IMO! I think there's the very simple lifestyle where you don't buy all the fancy sweeteners etc which is definitely cheaper than the junk food diet though; I just like my fancy organic foods!

Michelle said...

Amen, sister. And as I like to say, food is the one thing we SHOULD spend money on. We need nourishing food more than, say, a Netflix subscription.

Hanlie said...

Great post! You're spot on!

S* said...

I am totally a fan of healthy eating. Especially getting children to like it. My kids don't eat refined sugar, and are happy to snack on organic veggie sticks any time. Which is a whole bunch cheaper than buying say, tortilla chips !