I have had my fair share of discussions (ok arguments) about the cost of eating healthy. I find it utterly ridiculous and absurd when people tell me they cannot afford to eat healthy. I would break down the cost of eating in SERVING SIZES and show them that it is not expensive. The problem with that theory was that people would have had to read the side of a box or can to understand serving sizes. In today’s bigger is better world people feel ripped off if they don’t get a 16oz steak for $4.99. I mean really, what kind of quality are you getting for such a large portion at such a low price anyway?
I tried reasoning and rationalizing with them but to no avail. I showed them that a pepper cost $.99 or that you could shop the sale items only and walk away with a meal for the same cost as the Value Menu at McDonald’s but with twice the nutritional value. Today my response to the notion that it is too expensive to eat healthy is to go to the ridiculous since that seems to be the only way to resonate with some people. I simply ask them what it costs for open heart surgery. When they look at me dumbfounded I simply and calmly tell them that open heart surgery is the byproduct of poor eating habits. Now this may not be a direct correlation but it does ring a bell in their heads. It does say to them that if they don’t change how they go about their eating that they COULD end up in the hospital getting surgery. So at that point in time the question about eating healthy takes a turn.
Time away from work. Time away from family and friends. Rehab and having to change your diet anyway. And the real kicker, without having to say it out loud, is death. Please don’t get me wrong and post ridiculous comments about how if you eat in moderation these things may not happen. Or how you have a great great great uncle who all he ate was deep-fried pork rinds every day and washed it down with a coke and a dessert of one pint of ice cream. I get it, not EVERYBODY has these types of scenarios fall upon them. The issue is that the small percentage of people who can get away with a horrible diet like that is exactly that: SMALL. The majority of people, if they were to eat highly processed foods, would wind up with a health problem that is related to their diet.
I was reading an article in the online version of the New York Times (do they have a paper version anymore?) that was titled Is Junk Food Really Cheaper? It was an op-ed piece but it made so much sense. It was within the first few paragraphs that I was enthralled with what the author was saying because it made sense that eating healthy was not as expensive than people thought.
This is just plain wrong. In fact it isn’t cheaper to eat highly processed food: a typical order for a family of four — for example, two Big Macs, a cheeseburger, six chicken McNuggets, two medium and two small fries, and two medium and two small sodas — costs, at the McDonald’s a hundred steps from where I write, about $28. (Judicious ordering of “Happy Meals” can reduce that to about $23 — and you get a few apple slices in addition to the fries!)
In general, despite extensive government subsidies, hyperprocessed food remains more expensive than food cooked at home. You can serve a roasted chicken with vegetables along with a simple salad and milk for about $14, and feed four or even six people. If that’s too much money, substitute a meal of rice and canned beans with bacon, green peppers and onions; it’s easily enough for four people and costs about $9. (Omitting the bacon, using dried beans, which are also lower in sodium, or substituting carrots for the peppers reduces the price further, of course.)
I have been preaching this argument for a long time. Eating at the dollar menu can be expensive because most people don’t have any self-control when it comes to the fact that these foods are high in sodium or sugar and essentially force you to order more to feel satisfied. This occurs because there is next to no nutritional value in these foods. Eating healthy means you get healthy fat and fiber into your diet which makes you feel full and those control your consumption.
The discussion then turns to organic or grass-fed. I get the fact that these are more expensive than the junk food. I am not ignorant to that fact, but I don’t believe I have ever said that you have to eat organic only. If you comb through this site or spoken to me I have always preached moderation and healthy eating. Never has healthy eating equaled eating organic only. I have also never said that everybody has to be a vegetarian but have asked that we all eat in serving sizes. It takes nothing more than reading a box or can to find this information. Eating a vegetable then use that magical power called Google and see how much of a pepper is a serving size. The author makes this point very effectively:
The alternative to soda is water, and the alternative to junk food is not grass-fed beef and greens from a trendy farmers’ market, but anything other than junk food: rice, grains, pasta, beans, fresh vegetables, canned vegetables, frozen vegetables, meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, bread, peanut butter, a thousand other things cooked at home — in almost every case a far superior alternative.
When the argument turns to cooking I get truly enraged on the inside. It doesn’t take HOURS and HOURS to create a healthy meal. Guess what I had for breakfast this morning. It was an egg sandwich that consisted of 1 egg, 2 slices of Ezekiel Sprouted Bread and a Asian Chili Garlic Paste. Breakfast was cooked in about 5 minutes. Crazy concept but while the bread toasted I made the egg. The nutritional value of my breakfast was 239 calories, 7.5g Fat, 30g Carbs, 7g Fiber, 14g Protein. I was full for hours and did not have any hunger pains for over 3 hours at which time I ate a banana with 1 tbsp of peanut butter. See so eating healthy can be simple, easy and cheap.
The point of this is to say that you don’t have to create a 5 star meal and spend all day in the kitchen to make a healthy meal. If you have 5 minutes to get in your car, drive, order, wait, drive home and eat then you can cook a meal. Heat up a sweet potato in the microwave for 5 minutes and it will be soft. Add some chili garlic paste to it along with raw veggies and you will have a meal in the same amount of time it took you to drive and order that fast food.
I am passionate about eating healthy which means a clean and nutritious meal. This is not to say that I don’t have treats such as chocolate, but I eat it in the serving size and typically it is dark chocolate. It is also served with 1/2 a serving size of peanut or almond butter (1 tbsp if you need to know) and that takes care of my sweet tooth and fills me so that I don’t craze that sugar over and over.
It is the simple things that we need to do to change the way people view healthy eating. Next time somebody tells you that eating healthy foods is more expensive than eating junk food just ask them if they saved enough to pay for the surgery they will inevitably need. Might make the conversation a short one but it will also allow them to think twice about their choices which is all I can ask for.
What Do You Say When People Tell You It’s Too Expensive To Start Eating Healthy?
Do You Think It’s Too Expensive To Eat Healthy?
If you want to help change the culture and educate people on diet and exercise please donate to Shape Up America!. I am currently raising funds for this organization and to date have raised nearly $1,000. Thank you for your donation.
To read the article in its entirety click [HERE]