Eating Healthy: Less Expensive Than You Think?

Originally posted at hicharlie.com

You’ve probably heard that eating healthy is more expensive than eating processed junk. (Whole Foods, Whole Paycheck, right?!) But is it really true? The answer may surprise you. No matter what, we’ve got some pointers to help both your nutrition and bank account stay on track.

The Verdict

According to a 2013 Harvard study, yes — eating healthier will inflate your grocery bill. Processed foods are cheaper to manufacture meaning that adding more produce, lean meat, and fish to your diet will cost you an extra $1.50 per day or $550 per year. While some budgets can’t absorb the hike, the difference between eating a balanced diet and surviving on prepackaged food may be easier to overcome than you thought.

One Caveat

Even though wholesome foods sometimes comes with a bigger price tag, we need to be mindful of our own psychology. Recent research indicates that we tend to assign greater nutritional value to more expensive goods. When we’re wrong, our wallets take an unnecessary hit and we perpetuate the idea that a nourishing diet is financially out of reach. Rather than focus on price, we should review the product label to gauge vitamins, nutrients, fats, sodium, and sugar which are true measurements of nutrition.

Long Term Benefits

Even though your wallet may be displeased now, you’re really doing yourself a financial favor by improving your diet. Research shows that eating well reduces your risk for a whole host of unpleasant and costly conditions like cancer, dementia, heart attack, diabetes, and more. With health care expenses reaching new highs every year, it makes sense to invest a little upfront to avoid a potential fiscal disaster later.

How to Eat Healthy on the Cheap

Yes, you may pay more to eat better — but shopping smart can curb the cost. Here are several ways to boost your diet without breaking the bank:

  • Hit up farmers markets and buy seasonal produce.
  • Buy frozen produce — it’s cheaper, keeps longer, and packs the same nutritious punch.
  • Buy inexpensive whole grains, beans, and peanut butter because they’re tasty, versatile, and good for you.
  • Cook with cheaper cuts of meat like chicken thighs, ground turkey, and beef sirloin.
  • Buy store brand goods — they usually taste the same as name brands.
  • Shop sales, use coupons, and go to discount stores. Where you shop can make all the difference.
  • Meal plan and cook at home. You’ll be in control of the price and what goes into each dish.
  • Grow your own food. While more land and more free time equate to more crops, even busy apartment dwellers can grow herbs in their windowsill.

Check out recipes for inexpensive and wholesome meals here and here.

Final Thoughts

Eating a balanced diet does cost a bit more than eating processed foods. However, with these money-saving strategies, you can curtail the expense and treat your body better. Your future self will thank you!

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