By: Amanda Froelich,
Many are still quick to assume that in order to eat for less, fast food is the optimal way to go. While one is likely to experience more satiation from a dollar-menu burger than a head of broccoli, the health implications from eating refined, low-nutrient food can tax in other ways.
Researchers have recently concluded (in this new study) that eating healthy costs less long term than paying for expensive treatment down the road. While cheap, quick food may be a bargain in the present, the costs associated with long-term illnesses pale in comparison to the small investment healthy eating can charge.
The main difference between the two meal options (fresh, high-nutrient or packaged, convenience food) is in the preparation. It is extremely economical to enjoy a meal of rice, beans, and sauteed vegetables (all abundant in vitamins, minerals, and amino acids), yet it requires forethought and kitchen preparation.
Many flock to fast food chains because they believe there is a lack of time to create nourishing food at home and it is easier, as well as less expensive. But this is a common misconception.
According to Mayuree Rao from Harvard University, “People often say that healthier foods are more expensive, and that such costs strongly limit better diet habits.” Until now, the scientific evidence for this idea has not been systematically evaluated. To determine how expensive eating healthy may actually be, researchers looked at 27 studies from 10 high-income countries that included price data for individual foods and eating habits. The study evaluated the difference in prices per serving, and per 200 calories, for individual items of food, and prices per day and per 2,000 calories for overall diet patterns.
It was found that healthier diets (those rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and fish) cost more than unhealthy diets (for example, those rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains). On average, an individual’s healthy food cost about $1.50 more than an unhealthy person’s food costs.
But, to invest in one’s health saves an extraordinary amount of money, hospital costs, and heartbreak down the road. At this point in time, it is estimated $1.5 trillion (in the US) is spent on diet and lifestyle related diseases. The emotional cost of preventable diseases is also a concern; 60% of deaths in the US are from diet and lifestyle-related diseases. This is unacceptable.
If one does not wish to live out their days in fear or buried under medical bills, they can do a lot to safeguard their health, and for only around $1 more per day.
Although the extra cost may be a stretch for some families, it is a necessity. Researchers who conducted the study are in support of high-income countries passing a new policy to make healthier food more accessible to lower-income families. Until that is achieved, there are a few ways one can begin to live healthier now. Seeking discounted produce, consuming more plant-based fare, and cooking at home will jump start the world’s ability to reduce food costs and remain healthy.
Instead of paying exorbitant amounts of money and experiencing emotional strain later in life, you can invest in your health today by consuming more fresh, wholesome, and plant-based foods.