Cost can often feel like a barrier to eating healthily, especially if you're living on a tight budget. Organic and exotic foods usually come with a hefty price tag, while junk food can seem like a real bargain. This isn't necessarily the case, however, as it's perfectly feasible to follow a healthy diet and forgo the junk food, whether you're on a low income, or just saving your dollars for those designer shoes you've been hankering for.
The Cost of Healthy Eating
Some healthy foods are expensive, no doubt about it, but not everything has to cost the earth. If you're buying all your food fresh, or from high-end grocery stores, the cost can add up, but these aren't prerequisites for eating healthily. To save money when shopping for food, the United States Department of Agriculture recommends planning ahead so you know what you're going to buy, looking for coupons and special offers, buying in bulk and looking for in-season fruits and vegetables. To ease your concerns over the cost of healthy eating, a 2010 study from the Department of Family Medicine, Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences found that a well-planned menu based on budget foods from large supermarket chains was cheaper and healthier than relying on junk or convenience foods.
Despite clever advertising and marketing, junk food is rarely cheap. Women who use cost as an excuse to eat junk may just be looking for an excuse to justify their bad habits. Food journalist Mark Bittman writes on the "New York Times" website that a meal to feed four people from a typical fast food restaurant can cost upwards of $28, while you can feed the same number of people with food you cook yourself for less than half of that. Junk meals may seem cheap at first, but by the time you add in side orders, drinks and dessert, it's seldom the case.
Sample Low-Income Healthy Menu
Coming up with an interesting, tasty and varied low-income healthy diet is amazingly easy. Start your day with plain rolled oats, made with skim milk or almond milk and served with in-season fruit and chopped nuts, or a couple of boiled or scrambled eggs. At lunch, make your own salad, pasta salad, wrap or sandwich using meat or fish cooked at home, or a vegetarian protein source such as cottage cheese or tofu. For your evening meals, casseroles, stews, pasta dishes, stir-fries and chillies can all be made in bulk and frozen, thus cutting the cost down.
Assess your goals and priorities to decide if eating healthily really is important to you. Even if some healthy foods are more expensive, such as free-range meats, organic fruits and vegetables and whole grains in comparison to refined grains, the benefits to your health outweigh the burden on your purse. Look for ways to eat healthier within your budget and plan junk food meals as a very occasional treat. You might be surprised how much choosing healthy food over junk benefits you both in the short and long term.
Mike Samuels started writing for his own fitness website and local publications in 2008. He graduated from Peter Symonds College in the UK with A Levels in law, business and sports science, and is a fully qualified personal trainer, sports massage therapist and corrective exercise specialist with accreditations from Premier Global International.