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Eating Healthy for Cheap

By Cary Anderson

It’s a sad state of affairs in our society when a cartoon of blueberries costs four times that of a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s. But like it or not, there’s no denying that it’s much cheaper to eat unhealthy than it is to eat healthy. At least in the short-term, anyway. In the long-term, all of those savings from eating affordable, processed foods come back to bite you in the form of large health-care costs. But alas, most people are only focused on the short-term and so that’s what this article will deal with: ways to eat healthy without breaking your bank starting today.

What is “eating healthy”?

First, let’s define “eating healthy” because it’s a term that has gotten pretty turned on its head since our grandparents’ day.

1. Just because it’s high in fat does not necessarily mean it’s unhealthy. There’s a popular myth in our society that high-fat foods are universally bad. This is simply preposterous. Fat is needed for survival! Did you know that you could go the rest of your life without eating sugar or salt but that you’d only make it a few weeks without consuming fat? Fat has gotten a bad name because many unhealthy foods are indeed high in fat. But not all foods high in fat are unhealthy. Got it? Examples of such foods include nuts, seeds, avocados, olive oil, and foods like fish that are high in omega-3 fatty acids.

2. Just because there’s a “heart healthy” or some other official-looking logo on your food product does not mean it’s healthy. Did you know even Fruit Loops have a “smart choices made easy” logo on their box? As a rule, disregard all claims, logos, and promises printed on food boxes. All you need to know is this: if it’s a processed food (like Fruit Loops), it’s probably not that good for you. If it’s some boring food item like a potato that doesn’t have any health-claim stickers on it, it’s probably okay to eat. As food author Michael Pollan says in his book Food Rules, if your great Grandma wouldn’t recognize it as food, you probably shouldn’t eat it.

3. Less is more. When it comes to eating healthy, the best rule of thumb you can use is to find foods that have only a couple of ingredients. The more ingredients, the more processed it is and worse it is for your body long term. Throw out the food rules that suggest fat-free Twizzlers are better for you than a fat-laden avocado. What matters in terms of weight gain and weight loss are calories, not fat content.

Healthy foods for cheap

So how do you eat healthy for cheap? Well, it’s not always easy. It takes a bit more work than just going through a drive-thru. Here are some tips to keep good fuel going into your body and money leftover for other things:

1. Grow a garden. Growing your own plants is one of the most effective ways to put yourself in high supply of healthy foods for cheap. Dedicate a small plot of your yard to planting seeds for food. If you don’t have a yard, you can grow potted plants on a patio or window-sill. Things like tomatoes, potatoes, and carrots are good high-nutrition plants that grow in most climates. Befriend others who maintain a garden and swap yields to keep yourself in high supply of an array of different vegetables.

2. Buy in bulk. Many households use vegetable oil to cook their foods instead of olive oil since it’s cheaper. Unfortunately, vegetable oil has been demonstrated to be pretty bad for you while olive oil is about one of the best things you can put into your body. At a typical grocery or convenience store, olive oil can be pretty expensive. Try shopping at a warehouse store like Costco or Sam’s Club. You’ll be able to find the same nutritious olive oil for what works out to around half the price.

3. Learn to love the potato. Potatoes are one of the cheapest non-processed, healthy foods in terms of dollars per calorie. Learn to love and use the potato. There are an infinite number of ways to cook using potatoes as your primary staple. For one of the tastiest, healthiest, and most filling snacks, slice potatoes into small wedges, drizzle a little olive oil on them, add some fresh herbs and garlic, and bake for 20-30 minutes. Use Google to find other yummy recipes that use the potato. Just because it’s healthy doesn’t mean it won’t be delicious!

4. Eat at home. A final tip on how to eat healthy and do so as cheaply as possible is to eat at home. Most eating done out of the house is pretty unhealthy, usually even worse than people realize. Be skeptical “healthy” options at restaurants. There many regulatory agencies preventing restaurants from making whatever health claims they want. If it sounds too good to be true (ie: a “healthy eating” option from McDonald’s), it probably is.


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