One of the comments I get often as a speaker, educator and nutritional consultant is “but eating healthy is too expensive!” This is a perception the public has been given through the influences of the fast food and processed food industry. Let’s look at not just the food cost but also the real cost impact of fast and processed foods and healthy foods.
Having been a very sick and obese man and Gwen (my wife) dealing with the effects of fibromyalgia and its symptoms over 9 years ago, I can give you first hand knowledge of the cost differential between cheep fast food and a sedentary lifestyle and a healthy diet and lifestyle.
Our diet was consistently the Standard America Diet of fast food, processed foods and fried foods. We were also very sedentary people. I was over 450 pounds with multiple health conditions and multiple medications. Gwen was very sick and under the care of 3 doctors and taking 7 medications.
I began my health revolution in November of 2006 (I must have been crazy to start a new lifestyle journey during the peak of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner and party season) and shortly afterwards Gwen jumped on board the wellness train with me.
In 2006, Gwen and I had out-of-pocket medical cost exceeding $13,000.00 this is after insurance coverage. This was for medical expenses and prescriptions. These cost did not include surgeries or non-routine charges. In 2007, our out-of-pocket medical expenses dropped to less than $7,000.00. In 2008, our out-of-pocket medical expenses dropped to a little over $3,000.00. Our total medical cost for 2009 dropped to less than $1000.00 and has been under $500 per year since. (Except this year because I had to have surgery on my shoulder.) Now we have yearly a physical and routine Chiropractic visits. We have saved over $70,000.00 in medical cost over 10 years by living a healthy lifestyle.
Why did our medical cost go down?
Our diet and lifestyle change reduced our need for emergency doctor visits, routine doctors appointments, medications, monthly and quarterly blood test and scans of different sorts. The healthier we ate and the more active we became the less we needed doctors and drugs. It’s that simple. The nutrients in healthy foods fixed the root cause of the symptoms we needed medications for. By minimizing the intake of toxic and inflammatory chemicals in fast and processed foods our body could use the bounty of nutrition from real foods and begin repairing our broken bodies. We didn’t have deficiencies in chemicals or medication we had deficiencies in nutrition and activity.
Meat is the most expensive item in your shopping cart. If you just cut your consumption of meat in half and replaced with legumes (beans, pea’s and lentils) you would save a lot of money. When Gwen (my wife) and I changed our diet many years ago we cut our grocery bill in half just by cutting out so much meat. This meant we could buy a lot more veggies, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds for the same amount of money. The bonus is the extra plant-based foods made us much healthier. Today, we have a diet that is at least 90% plant-based.
Why does healthy food look to be more expensive?
Granted, we do have the cheapest processed and refined foods of any country on this planet so its easy to think this way. Processed foods are cheep because our government subsidizes the manufacturing cost to make the foods. (you should be asking why would they do that?) On the other side of this food issue is the fact that very little funding subsidies exist for healthy foods like produce, fruits, nuts, seeds, beans, lentils and whole grains. This makes those foods more expensive to buy. There must be a reason the government wants to make processed foods so cheap.
If we review this situation a few points become obvious.
Processed and refined foods are cheaper. That’s a given. The dollar menu is really the billion-dollar menu concerning the health impact.
Studies show that the consumption of processed and refined foods are the root cause of most illness and disease for Americans.
Our most recent data indicate that 75% to 80% of America is suffering from a preventable illness and disease. Preventable means a choice could have been made that could have prevented the illness or disease.
Recent studies also indicate that less than 12% of the American population eats the government recommended 3 vegetables and 2 fruits per day. (That’s not enough to promote a healthy body, it’s just enough to prevent some illnesses)
If only 12% are eating the recommend 5 a-day, that means 88% are eating the Standard American Diet (cause of more than 75% of America’s ill health).
88% are eating nutrient depleted and toxic chemical laden foods. 75% of Americans are suffering from illness and disease such as heart disease, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis, IBS, depression, anxiety, obesity, eczema, psoriasis. I see a relationship between these facts, do you?
Your food may be cheap but your health is costing you in doctor’s visits, medications and eventually quality of life.
Tips for buying healthy foods at low prices
Every grocery store has a certain day they take produce off the shelf and replace it with fresher produce. Usually a couple of days before they restock produce they will have sales on those items. Ask the Produce manager and he will gladly tell you when the sales happen weekly.
Buy produce in bulk and freeze, can or dehydrate vegetables and fruits. You can also buy in bulk and store root vegetables, winter squash’s and whole grains and keep them in cool dry storage for a long time.
Join a local farmers and growers co-op. Just about every city has a few of them. This allows you to buy produce weekly at very reduced rates. You are buying direct from the farmers.
Visit your local farmers markets and get to know and support them through your purchases.
As a smoothie and juicing fan; vegetable, fruits, nuts, seeds, herbs and spices are part of our everyday life. We see and feel the benefits. However, that’s not the case for most of the American population. America’s diet is primarily processed and refined foods. Our culture has evolved into a society of fast and easy. We eat on the run to any convenient source of quick and easy food, which is high in calories and toxic chemicals and bankrupt in nutritional potential.
Sadly, The truth is, you cannot afford to keep eating processed, fried and refined foods. It is costing you much more than you think. You will pay for it with your health and your pocket book sooner than you may be aware of. I deal with this everyday and I can tell you emphatically that a diet rich in real foods, particularly organic produce can turn your health around. You have to stay away from the toxic and inflammatory chemicals in processed foods.
The actual cost of healthy food is much cheaper than you may be thinking. Our friends at Spark People did a recent blog comparing different meal values for fast foods and processed foods versus healthy food choices of the same value. The blog with comparisons is found at this link. http://www.sparkpeople.com/blog/blog.asp?post=what_20_will_buy_at_the_drivethru_and_at_the_supermarket
I wish you the very best in health and wellness,
Wally Bishop C.N.C.
Integrative Nutrition Health Coach
The contents of this blog are not and should not be considered medical advice. This blog is for informational purposes only. Always consult with your doctor before making any dietary or lifestyle changes. Never quit taking prescription medications unless advised to do so by your doctor.