I’m sure you’ve heard something along the lines of this before – “I eat at McDonald’s because I can get a couple things off the Dollar Menu, and it will keep me full.” Conversely, a good portion of people also say that healthier alternatives are just “too expensive.”
Although this idea does have some truth to it (e.g., if you’re buying all organic, or produce that isn’t in season), in general this is not an entirely accurate statement. Studies have been conducted on this topic before, and the USDA recently came out with a study to add to the pile.
This study showed that, by volume, people are spending more money on unhealthy foods than they would on veggies, fruits, and lean proteins.
So what does that mean, exactly?
Unhealthy foods may seem cheaper, but they also don’t keep you full as long as their healthier counterparts, and then you just end up eating more. If you’re spending a little more money on produce and lean proteins, but you eat less, the cost is actually lower.
Shop Farmers Markets
Your best bet is to maximize your purchasing power. As mentioned above, if you’re on a budget, you may want to skip organic produce. Farmer’s markets, on the other hand, are usually very reasonably priced AND you get to shop local. This benefits not only your community, but because produce loses nutrients the longer it sits, buying local can assure you that your fruits and veggies haven’t traveled the average 1,500 miles that store produce usually does.
Try Other Protein Sources
Capitalizing on lean proteins is also a great idea. Now, you may be thinking, “Lean meat is way more expensive than other meat!” Technically you may be right on that account, but a cheaper meat with a higher fat content is going to “melt” away as you cook the extra fat out if it. Turns out, you’re paying for that extra fat, but you’re not eating it. At least I hope not! Plus, don’t forget about your vegetarian protein sources! Foods like beans, legumes, lentils, and peanut butter are all great sources of protein. And although eggs aren’t a vegetarian source, they’re cheap, yummy, and an excellent source of protein and countless other nutrients.
The bottom line is…you CAN afford to eat healthy, even if you’re on a budget. Even if you think it’s more expensive, it’s still cheaper than the potential medical expenses incurred from years of using the McDonald’s drive thru.
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