We’re running out of excuses. We’ve been led to believe that healthier foods are more expensive, and this increased cost strongly limits better eating habits. Now the evidence is in. According to a study done at the Harvard School of Public Health, published in 2013…….
Eating healthy vs. an unhealthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day.
This finding is based on a comprehensive examination comparing the prices of healthy foods and diet patterns vs. less healthy ones. Researchers examined the data from 27 independent studies to determine overall trends. This included price data for individual foods and for healthier vs. less healthy diets. They evaluated the differences in prices
- per serving
- per 200 calories for specific types of foods
- per day
- per 2,000 calories (the United States Department of Agriculture’s recommended average daily calorie intake for adults).
The researchers found that healthier diet patterns, which included diets high in vegetables and fruits, fish, and nuts—cost more than unhealthy diets (those rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains). On average, a day’s worth of the most healthy diet patterns cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones.
That’s less money than many people might have expected. It’s a fraction of the cost of a cup of your daily coffee-shop coffee. For most Americans, $1.50/day is no problem, but for some Americans, it slowly adds up, causing an anxiety-provoking, upfront burden to choosing healthy foods.
On the other hand, this price difference is very small in comparison to the economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases. Diseases, like diabetes and heart disease, are very costly in the long run and could be dramatically reduced by healthy diets.
Take the staggering cost of diabetes, for example. The American Diabetes Association has figured this out for us. It’s especially important because the CDC reports that in 2018, 34.2 million (10.5 %) of Americans – of all ages – had diabetes. On top of that, among the US population, 7.3 million adults aged 18 years or older who met laboratory criteria for diabetes were not aware of or did not report having diabetes (undiagnosed diabetes). Isn’t it obvious, now, that the financial impact of diabetes is much greater than we thought?
If you’re diabetic or traveling down that slippery slope of insulin resistance, because of unhealthy lifestyle choices, the medical costs you will eventually encounter are:
- hospital inpatient care (30% of the total medical cost)
- prescription medications to treat complications of diabetes (30%)
- anti-diabetic agents and diabetes supplies (15%) and
- physician office visits (13%).
People diagnosed with diabetes have medical costs 2.3 times higher than would be expected in the absence of diabetes. The average individual medical costs may be as high as $16,752 per year. That’s about $46/day!
Now…… compare that with the cost of eating a healthier diet – $1.50/day.
The good news is….
you have a decision in this. You can delay, prevent, or even improve elevated blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes. It’s up to YOU to decide your path. You can decide to eat well and stay at a healthy weight. You can decide to be active. If you’re at-risk, it’s time to take action and start living a healthy lifestyle.
So, where do you start?
- Make an appointment with yourself at a consistent time each week to shop for groceries. You might like to shop one night during your workweek. At that time, the stores are less busy, making the entire experience more enjoyable. That leaves you with more time to enjoy the weekend. Shoot for a time when your stomach is relatively full – you’ll be more discriminating with your food choices. Stay consistent with this timeframe! Make it a weekly appointment that supersedes other activities – just like a scheduled haircut, going to church or getting your oil changed.
- Plan your meals for the entire week at once and follow that plan during your shopping excursion. Make a menu and list the needed ingredients. Add other necessary staples and supplies. This will cut down on food costs and reduce your impulse to buy things that undermine your health. You’ll even find yourself saving money by not eating out as often.
- When you cook, make extra. Use the extra food for lunches or for another dinner. This will minimize waste and reduce your chances of grabbing take-out or convenience food. Plus, you’ll save a significant amount of meal-preparation time by enjoying your leftovers.
- Look ahead at your upcoming meals and do the prep work at the same time. For example, if you have more than one dish that requires chopped onions or peppers, chop enough for all the dishes. Divide them into labeled plastic bags for use throughout the week. It may take a little more time upfront, but it will make meal preparation a breeze.
- Make a plan to load your crockpot, pressure cooker, instant pot, or baking dish ahead of time at least once a week. You’ll find it very freeing to come home after your busy day and have all your prep work already complete.
- Since protein foods, like meat, can be expensive, use them as an additive to dishes rather than a main course. You can replace them with beans in chili and casseroles. Also, avocado can be used as a good protein replacement in salads or as condiments. Plus, the healthy fat in avocados helps keep you full longer.
- The most nutritious and economical way to buy produce is to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. A good tip is to buy at a local farmer’s market. How about planting a few of your favorite vegetables in your backyard.
After reviewing all this information, aren’t you now convinced that choosing healthy foods can save you time and money? Your choices will go a long way in supporting a happier, healthier YOU.
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Eating healthy vs. unhealthy diet costs about $1.50 more per day, December 5, 2013, BMJ (British Medical Journal).