Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Too Broke to Eat Healthy?

Too Broke to Eat Healthy?

The Cost of a Healthy Diet

According to study conducted at the University of Washington, eating healthier can add almost 10 percent to the average American food bill. This research was carried out in order to assess the impact of the new U.S dietary and nutritional guidelines. These new guidelines advocated increased intakes of potassium, vitamin D, dietary fibre and calcium. The single most expensive nutrient of these was potassium which could add USD$380 (JMD$32,775) to the average yearly cost of food for one person. The study also pointed out that foods high in saturated fat and sugar reduced overall food costs. In other words, unhealthy foods are cheaper and thus more accessible to lower income persons.
            With studies likes these, its easy for us to want to throw in the towel and resolve that healthy eating is simply out of reach. But, its important to keep in mind that other factors may be contributing to the increase in your food bill such as personal preferences. Needless to say, the study did point out that marketers for healthy eating usually highlight more expensive food choices such as a plate of salmon, broccoli and rice pilaf even though there are less expensive food options.  As a result, many are led to believe that cheaper options are not as nutritious. For instance, salmon, which is quite expensive, is high in the nutrients vitamins D and B12, tryptophan and selenium. A less expensive food option is tuna which contains higher amounts of the nutrients selenium and tryptophan though not containing vitamin D & B12. Clearly, eating healthy doesn’t have to cost a fortune! We just need to know what to buy and when to buy.

How to Eat Healthy on a Dime!
“Fresh”, Ideal but Not the Only Option:
 It’s a misconception that you can only meet your nutritional requirements by eating fresh fruits and vegetables. Canned, frozen, dried and 100 percent juices all contribute to meeting your daily nutritional requirements. This can help to cut food costs especially when fresh produce is in short supply and, therefore, more expensive.

Buy in Season!
This is will not only cut your food bill, but it also ensures that you get best produce available, in abundance and better tasting.

Be a Flexitarian!
Meats can be quite expensive especially at the supermarket. One way we can cut down on the amount of money we spend on meats is by having at least two meatless alternatives a week. We can get the added benefit of more nutrition and variety.

Snack Wisely!
Its often been said that sugary and high fat snacks are much cheaper than buying fruits. But I beg to disagree. I have bought five to six fingers of medium-sized ripe bananas for less than JMD$150 which provides 2 servings of fruit. Compared to a bag of plantain chips which costs about JMD$48 (tax not yet included) and is only one serving! I’d get less than three servings of plantain chips with the same amount of money. But, wait: I get a ton of sodium and fat with hardly any vitamins and fibre! Stick to the fruits and veggies. You and your pocket are better off.

For the Long Haul
Eating healthy costs less in the long-term. Being unhealthy, overweight and eating a diet high in added sugar and fat will increase your healthcare costs, not to mention make you miserable. Medications to manage Type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol and the complications that come along with them aren’t cheap. 

 So weigh your options when deciding on your food budget. If you follow these tips, you’ll find it’s much easier and cheaper to add more fruits and veggies. 

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