I can't afford to eat healthy
Updated: Apr 22, 2021
It's a big concern, how much is a healthy diet likely to cost?
The assumption being that making changes to how we eat to improve our nutrition is either costly, exotic, bland and unpalatable.
All of that sounds difficult and chances are, you are doing the best you can at the moment and adding more to your plate doesn't seem reasonable.
This is thanks to...dun dun dun!!!
If we take a good look at the food industry's marketing strategies, it becomes clear pretty quickly that most of the advertising dollars go towards convincing you that fast food/processed food is what you should be eating. It's convenient. It's cheap. It's hyper palatable and you can't live without it!
Think about the last time you saw an ad for a whole food ingredient. Although a few come to mind such as milk (it's well known that the dairy industry spends millions of dollars a year annually on marketing even to the extent that they have affected the daily recommendations on the food pyramid that the FDA puts out), or beef (it's what's for dinner), the marketing space is DOMINATED by food companies, not farmers.
It begs the question,
'if these things are so great, why do they have to spend so much money getting you to buy them?'
The uncomfortable truth is that there just isn't a lot of money to be had in you making all of your food from ingredients you find at the grocery store, but there has been a tremendous amount of marketing on all sorts of levels to convince you that making a meal yourself from a few ingredients, will take hours of your precious time and be costly to boot. The food companies can leverage the perceived time and energy you will save buying and using their products versus making your own food.
Cake mix is one of my favorite examples....
Around the 1950s, shelf stable food and convenience food were the wave of the future. Up until this point almost all cooking was done at home from scratch. Cake mix was a new idea and initially was marketed as a one step process. Just open add water and bake!! Amazing!
But people weren't buying it....literally. They didn't trust cake mix to be as good as regular cake and it felt fake. So the food companies figured out that there was a sweet spot of effort that made something feel easier but preserved the feel of actually making it.
Today when you by cake mix you have to add an egg and oil. Then you have to stir it. Voila!
Feels like you are still making something AND also you feel like you are saving time. Win win.
Let's look briefly at what is actually in cake. Just the basics.
What was originally in cake mix was the dry ingredients plus powdered egg and a powdered fat. When they found success by requiring the eggs and oil to be added separately the only thing that remained 'in the mix' were three pantry staples that most households had at the time.
Flour, baking powder and sugar.
SO why would people buy cake mix???
The feeling that you were saving time and effort.
Today's cake mix is full of fillers and preservatives that make the manufacturing super cheap but also add a bunch of food science to your plate. They keep the cost down and drive the palatability up, ensuring that you keep coming back for more.
Food science and marketing have come a long way since the early days in the 50s but the same idea remains. Convince you that their food is faster, cheaper, and better than natural options. It's an expensive and time consuming endeavor, because the truth is....it's not THAT hard to make a cake from scratch. Food manufacturers have convinced you otherwise to the extent that now the idea of making a cake from scratch is HARD and unreliable.
Think of every late night infomercial for household products..."tired of scrubbing those pots and pans? wasting time doing dishes when you could be 'insert desirable activity here'? Well Try disposable pans!!!!'
How our food supply suffers
The farmers growing our fresh produce don't have a multimillion-dollar budget annually to promote the amazing benefits of tomatoes. Hence the birth of the ‘SuperFood”.
Superfoods are farming industry's answer to the powerful influential marketing of Mega food companies and restaurants.
Unfortunately, the farming industry still can't compete with all of the other information being put out there. They can't afford to compete with decades of convenience marketing that has convinced us that food preparation is hard and expensive and unrewarding. Add to the mix the heavy subsidies for corn and soy and suddenly the processed options ARE cheaper.
The health industry has tried to counter this by saying how damaging eating conventional foods are due to their pesticide content or the fact that they are GMO. While there is some truth to this it is a bit like throwing the baby out with the bath water if we are creating an environment that says vegetables are bad!
Carrying around the guilt of eating tainted vegetables is not something anyone should be worrying about. The truth is no veg is worse than some veg 100% of the time. Did you know that over 89% of Americans are deficient in 2 or more vital Vitamins? That’s a pretty huge amount.
So, does it really make much of a difference whether you buy organic or conventional? Not if you are not eating enough produce in the first place!
Here's an helpful article from the CDC on vegetable consumption in the US.
How much produce is adequate to prevent DEFICIENCY vs OPTIMAL for health?
5 servings of fruit or veg everyday is the minimum. The minimum to prevent vitamin deficiencies. Basically you won't get scurvy.
Are you achieving that? Consistently? Like as in every day????
If not that’s ok! Now we know where to start!
Add one serving of fresh, frozen, canned, or any other kind of veg to your day and keep adding until you are hitting those minimums! Cooked, raw, steamed, mashed, pureed, straight off the tree! It doesn’t matter as long as it get in there!
Remember you don’t need to be perfect, you just need to get a little better every day!
Here’s a helpful guide to fruit and veg you can use for some inspiration. And while you’re there, check out the rest of the website!
The truth is when you look at a direct comparison of some common takeout or delivery meals the fast food options just don’t stack up. We conducted an experiment to see how true it was that it was cheaper and easier to eat out. Here’s what we found:
If all of this still seems like too much for you, you can always outsource a couple of meals:
Consider a meal prep service just one or two nights a week. Chances are you are spending this money on eating out anyway, and if you consider the long term cost of preventable disease through eating well now, it's worth it.
One of my favorite coaches once said to me “you can pay the grocery store now or the doctor later.” It's uncomfortable but true.
Maybe if just one or two meals a week were taken off your plate (pun intended) you’d have a little more energy to think ahead about what to eat.
After going over all the facts, it may SEEM like eating out is easier but when you consider the actual long term costs as well as the immediate cost savings of eating at home, it’s hard to argue that eating healthier at home is more expensive.