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Friday, November 19, 2010

Lifestyle: The Cost of Healthy Eating

I saw an article the other day about the cost of food and how it affects how people eat...which, of course, is a topic close to my heart. We don't have a lot of money and sometimes, making dinners week to week requires creativity not only with the recipes but also with the costs of the ingredients. As demonstrated on this blog, you can still make some pretty phenomenal food for a decent price, but there are times in the grocery store where spending the extra dollar or two feels a little painful. So what is the cost of eating healthfully, and is it worth it?

I once heard the perspective that when you buy organic and sustainable foods, the cost difference is an actual reflection of what it actually costs to produce that food. You're paying what it costs to sustain the world we live in, and to raise foods without any harmful chemicals and pesticides. It does cost more to eat well, it would be silly to deny that when you can grab an entire Totino's pizza for $0.99...less than the average pound of apples. But you aren't just paying for a brand name or a label, either. Fresh produce - especially that which is local and sustainable - will provide nutrition that Totino's couldn't come close to, and without all the preservatives, bleaches, and chemicals.

If you add up the nutritional value of the fast food, processed food, or frozen foods that you can buy so cheaply and compare it to the nutritional values of whole, healthy food...it's actually cheaper. You get what you pay for, in terms of food, and even though the grocery bill is coming out to a higher number, your health and that of your family will improve greatly. Of course, this means less doctor visits and hospital bills, trimmer waistlines and increased wellness of mind and body. Maybe it's difficult to think of those things when paying a higher grocery bill, but when you see results, it's hard to argue.

So it costs more to eat healthy...but what if you don't have more to spend?
The best way to save money on food is to cook your own meals at home. Cheap fast food is full of empty calories and lacking in the vitamins and minerals that your body needs. Cooking your own meals not only gives you a better chance of nutrition for the same amount of money or less, but it also ensures that you know exactly what's going into your food. Peace of mind and nutrition!

It's undeniable that buying ingredients form the grocery store can end up running you a high bill, so if you're trying to stay within a tight budget and still eat well, it's important to be choosy about what recipes you make. Dried beans are dirt cheap, eggs are low-cost as well, even when you are buying cage free, vegetarian diet eggs. Whole wheat flour isn't expensive, and if you buy produce when it's in season you can get it quite cheaply as well. Good meat is expensive, so limit your intake of meat to one meal per day (or less, if you can!). You can replace that protein with legumes, eggs, almond milk, and etc.

There are only certain night where my entire family has a chance to eat together...for those nights, I plan the elaborate meals. For other nights, we eat more simplistically, find leftovers, or fend for ourselves. It's always good to cook and make foods ahead of time in order to have leftovers for meals on the go. Keeping healthy meal supplement bars (such as Luna or Clif) in the cabinet or in your purse can keep you from reaching for something less healthy throughout the day.

It's true that eating healthfully on a tight budget takes commitment and work, but it comes down to priorities. Your body will give as good as it gets, and if you are filling it with the best nutrition possible, you'll be able to feel the difference.

The Calm Cook

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