What is the REAL Cost of Healthy Eating?

by Bailey Green Dietitian Candidate on May 18, 2016

We’ve all heard it, and maybe we’ve even said it ourselves: Eating healthy food is just more expensive than eating unhealthy food.

It’s relatively hard to dispute this. After all, you can argue that a fast food value meal can fill you up for 5 dollars, while grabbing a fresh salad or sandwich at your local deli can sometimes set you back 10-15 dollars. Thanks to a study published by the Harvard School of Public Health in 2013 we can say that yes, it costs about $1.50 more per day to eat healthy foods than it does to eat unhealthy foods. You can read the entire study HERE, but basically what is boils down to is something that we all know – diets that are rich in vegetables, fruits, fish, seeds, and nuts tend to cost more than diets that are heavier in processed foods, meats, and refined grains.

Not really something that you’d think someone in my position would admit, right? But, if we’re looking at the financial cost of health, it also doesn’t hurt to note that taking care of your body now with good nutrition and fitness can help prevent or manage disease states that may cost even more in the future. In Canada alone, the annual economic burden of unhealthy eating is estimated at a whopping 6.3 billion dollars. Additionally, if you look at some of the top causes of death in Canada (like heart disease, stroke, and certain cancers) many of them can be managed, or even prevented, by good dietary and fitness habits.

So… what can you do? First of all, you can use resources at your fingertips to save yourself money on the healthy foods that you enjoy. For example:

  • Buy only what you need to prevent spoilage. Store fresh produce in ways that make it last longer. A couple of very handy guides to maximize product storage can be seen HERE and HERE
  • Shop the sales, and use apps to your advantage. While most of us get flyers delivered to our homes, you can get them on your mobile device as well with apps like Flipp and Reebee.  These apps can also store loyalty cards in one convenient place, and provide money saving coupons on products that are offered at the locations of your choice.
  • Plan grocery trips in advance – and don’t leave your list at home! If you have the opportunity, a grocery store tour is a great way to gain a little bit of product knowledge from expert dietitians who have the main goal of helping you eat healthy in a way that’s both simple and inexpensive.
  • Don’t shy away from frozen. Frozen fruits and veg can sometimes offer a better price than fresh, with the added bonus of less spoilage!
  • Buy in season. We’re fortunate to live on PEI, where we have local farming and fishing. Sometimes this means we can get a better price on certain items. For veggies that don’t spoil as easily (think carrots, turnips, and potatoes) we can take the opportunity to stock up with great local prices.

The Verdict: Can healthy eating cost more? Certainly. Can we take steps to save money by making simple changes to how we plan,shop and store? Absolutely. After all…isn’t your health worth it?

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