Does eating healthy cost more?
When I encourage people to choose healthy foods, I often hear comments that it costs more to eat healthy. But does it? First, what are healthy foods? Research shows that whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, fruits and vegetables provide the most nutrients with fewest calories. We know low-sodium, low-sugar and low-saturated fat foods are good choices.
So, do these foods described cost more than their less healthy counterparts? The simple answer is not always. Many foods that meet the above criteria, for example, skim milk, low sodium soup, no-sugar-added canned fruit, etc., can be purchased without spending more money. However, there are other “healthier” foods that consumers may spend more to purchase. These include, lean ground beef, whole-wheat products and some low fat dairy, etc.
Another way of looking at this is how much nutritional value do you get for your food dollar? Nutritious foods offer high value. Processed foods with little or no nutritious value are very expensive, even if low cost.
Here are some tips for keeping more money in your pockets:
1) Plan! — Spend some time over the weekend planning your meals for the week. Planning decreases the likelihood of visiting the nearest fast food restaurant or loading up the grocery cart with “junk” foods.
2) Get the most bang for your buck! — Plan your meals around what is on sale each week. Store loyalty cards increase savings. Coupons can be found on the Internet, in the newspaper and at the grocery store itself for further savings. However, avoid purchasing products just because you have a coupon.
3) Compare and contrast prices! — The unit price is usually found on the shelf pricing tag below a specific food item. It tells an item’s price per unit weight (i.e., price per pound, ounce, etc.). Using unit prices allows shoppers to compare prices between different name brands and different sizes of the same brand.
4) Buy in bulk! — Buying in bulk is usually cheaper, but only if you actually use the food before it goes bad. Try splitting a large package of food with relatives or neighbors.
5) Buy produce that is in season! — Buying fresh produce in season almost always decreases cost. Produce that is generally cheap all year round includes onions, potatoes, bananas, apples, carrots, and cabbage. To find out when your favorite produce is in season, visit the chart at: ncagr.gov/markets/chart.htm.
6) Make your own meals! — Convenience foods, like frozen dinners, save time, but cost more money. Meals made from scratch (or partially) save money and are often healthier.
7) Waste not! — Americans waste a lot of food, which wastes money. Buy only as much food as you can use (planning). Plan for leftovers (cook once, eat several times) and be creative in using those foods. For example, left over chicken is used in a stir-fry or chicken salad, or chop leftover meatloaf to use in spaghetti sauce!
Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more!