I hear so often how difficult it is to eat healthy on a budget. That eating whole foods is too expensive and what most can afford is fast foods, dried sugar cereals and soft drinks because it’s cheap, portable and convenient. I have to say I agree with that however, it is NOT convenient for your health and by compromising your physical well being for your wallet you are putting yourself at risk for so many metabolic diseases.
Now, if you have been reading my blog or have a good amount of common sense you know all that already. So how do we make the changes we need? Well there is a saying penny wise but pound foolish. Meaning yes, an apple will cost you .99 cents and a can of Coke can cost you anywhere from .25-.75 cents for the same caloric intake, roughly 120 calories; but the Coke gives you nothing in the way of nutrients while the apple gives you fiber and many other vitamins. It will actually keep you fuller longer and will balance out glucose levels so you are not craving something else 15 minutes later.
Let’s break this down a little more:
A Big Mac Meal which include a Big Mac, medium fry or a salad and a soft drink is 5.99. So, for a quick and easy lunch you are well under 10$. However, your lunch is 1,120 calories (most likely ½ of your daily intake), 48 grams of fat and 1,240 mg of sodium (again ½ of daily intake) and finally 148 carbs and 65 grams of sugar. Although there is protein from the burger and potassium from the roll, there is very little nutritional value in this meal.
Now what if you went to the grocery store at lunch and went to their salad bar. You add a ½ cup of grilled chicken, 2 boiled eggs, veggies galore with a little fresh lemon juice and Salt and Pepper. You will not even come close to calorie consumption of the meal above. You will get a ton of vitamins, minerals, proteins and healthy fats that will keep you going all day for roughly the same price. Now we all know those salad bars can get expensive because you pay by pounds. To keep the prices low stay away from the macaroni salad, croutons, heavy salad dressing and cheese. Not only does it keep your salad healthier it keeps it lighter.
We have talked about meal planning before and to make eating whole foods financially sound you need to think ahead. Planning your meals in advance, buying frozen veggies and fish to keep on hand for those quick mid-week meals will help you stay on track and away from those overly processed options. Thinking about the big picture, your health is worth a little more than 5.99. Perhaps you will see when you stop buying what’s fast and you buy what’s in season your wallet will be the only thing getting fatter.
Stacie A. Zamperini M.Ed.