Is eating healthy expensive, difficult, and time consuming? Do you shudder at the prices you see at Whole Foods? There’s a reason it’s often referred to as Whole Paycheck. If trying to get healthier leaves you feeling that your pockets are empty, here’s what’s really true. And, what’s false.
For anyone with fibromyalgia, chronic illness, or health challenges they wish to improve, eating healthy is a popular topic. Clean eating is shown to reduce inflammation and improve overall digestive function.
This article shares 5 common truths about how expensive eating healthy can be. Read on to discover if you know what these 5 truths are, and if you’re aware of what’s actually false.
You may be surprised to learn a few new things about what you think is true.
5 Eating Healthy Expensive Truths
- 1) Breads, pastries, cereals, crackers, pastas, mixes, dressings, etc. packaged for the gluten free and/or special diet communities are more expensive than SAD (Standard American Diet) fare.
- 2) Produce with organic labels are more expensive than produce that’s not labelled as such.
- 3) Foods purchased at local, small, specialty items health food store are more expensive than products at a larger chain store.
- 4) Fish, fowl, nut butters, nuts, seeds, pure unrefined coconut oils, and avocados are expensive.
- 5) Restaurants featuring healthier foods are more expensive than your average on-every-corner fast food chain restaurant.
Firstly, all of the above statements are true. There’s no doubt about them. It wouldn’t even take a team of mathematicians to prove their validity.
Tell Me Something I Don’t Already Know
For example, shoes made by machine in giant overseas factories would be cheaper to purchase than ones hand stitched by the nimble fingers of an Italian leather artist employed by a famous designer.
And, the increased price isn’t only due to the labor issue. The quality of materials also deserves consideration.
The same goes for food.
Food Truths Analysis
Three of the cheapest food ingredients on the planet are high fructose corn syrup, highly processed oils (such as vegetable oils, canola oils, etc.), and wheat flours.
I’ve just listed the three most common ingredients in packaged foods – especially convenience foods.
Combine these ingredients with fake colorings, dyes, flavors, preservatives, thickeners, and emulsifiers and you’ve got the makings for nearly every cheap packaged food on the shelf at your local 7-11. Or, your typical grocery store for that matter.
Ingredients make all the difference.
The higher quality ingredients in the foods listed in Truth #1 are gonna be more expensive than those made with cheap and mass produced ingredients. As long as any packaged food refrains from using cheap sweeteners, oils, and flour, it’ll be more expensive.
(There’s a bigger point to make on this subject so pay attention to further discussion below.)
Truth #2 is a bit trickier. There are a couple angles to address.
Yes, vegetables grown on a small farm, harvested by hand, and raised with no artificial pesticides, herbicides, and other fake “enhancing” chemicals will be more expensive than the ones grown in giant fields in foreign countries, harvested by machine.
The two additional factors that also apply are:
- Organic foods purchased in season and grown locally can often be cheaper than a non-organic counterpart. That’s where the massive costs of transportation can’t compete. So, some organic produce can be cheaper depending on the season and the location.
- Do you believe that organic labels matter? If you believe that there’s no difference between an organic apple and a non-organic apple, then the conversation about the expense is moot.
Paying the higher price for Organic isn’t worth it if you believe that it’s merely a label slapped onto the very same (yet cheaper) fruit next to it.
Truth #3 is fairly simple. Here’s what you may not realize about some of your local food retailers. Small, local farmer’s markets, health food stores, and specialty item food stores have a tough road to hoe. They compete with the bigger box stores, yet (typically) carry higher quality foods and purchase them from more expensive small business vendors. They’re also more likely to pay a premium for foods that use eco-friendly shipping and packaging processes.
This is sort of an economics question. I’m all for supporting small business and even entrepreneurship-type businesses. For this reason, I find it important and compelling to support my local food growers and sellers. It’s up to you.
Truth #4 has a hidden side. You may not be aware of the health preservation and disease prevention values of these foods. High quality proteins and healthy fats may be lacking in your diet — the cost of which can be astronomical when it comes to your future health. A body that’s lacking in these crucial macronutrients is more prone to disease and rapid aging among other tragedies.
Yep. A salmon filet is expensive. Especially when compared to quick to grab boxes of mac & cheese, microwavable hot pockets, and frozen burritos.
But, your body knows the difference.
Truth #5 relates to all five truths. Health food restaurants (such as True Foods for example) use higher priced ingredients, organic ingredients, produce purchased from small, local vendors, and healthier sources of high quality protein and oils/fats. And, some of these restaurants are small, privately owned businesses with high operating costs rather than the lower costs of large corporation owned chains. Just as with the other food truths, it becomes a matter of what’s important to you and your overall health.
How Does This Apply to Me?
Here’s where the rubber meets the road … or the tongs meet the salad bowl. Your individual beliefs make all the difference.
Did you know that your expectations actually formulate and direct your beliefs? In a popular Washington Post article, the topic of expectation is discussed in relationship to the cost of healthier fare. When you shop for food, are you expecting anything healthy to be higher priced than your average every day grab and go selection?
Besides expectation, I’d also like to address the elephant in the room. Your decisions.
I’m talking about what you’ve decided – in advance – before your shopping trips.
Here’s an example of what I mean.
A Guest in My Kitchen
A few years ago, I had a houseguest. She sat in my kitchen as I fixed her lunch. She had restaurant leftovers, so that’s what I prepared for her.
I put the leftover battered and fried potato wedges into a saucepan with a little oil to crisp them up. I took apart the panini-like sandwich and put the bread on the griddle to toast. I grated cheese to melt over the ham that I heated in a separate pan. I chopped fresh lettuce and added condiments. When it was all done, I assembled the finished potatoes onto her plate with the sandwich and added a cut up apple on a whim.
On my plate, I put several handfuls of spinach, some sunflower seeds, more of the chopped apple, and a hard boiled egg. I cut up an avocado, drizzled on some oil, and squeezed half a lemon over the whole thing.
She looked over at my plate and then at hers.
She said, “See? I don’t have time for that kind of thing at my house. I just put together a quick sandwich like this, some potatoes, and I’m done. I don’t have time for all that fresh green stuff.”
It took me 40 minutes to make her lunch and less than 5 to make mine. And, I still had 3 pans and a sticky cheese grater soaking in the sink to wash later.
Beliefs on time and difficulty are often related to
the decisions we make about them in advance.
After the meal, I asked if she wanted the apple that she hadn’t touched. She said, “Oh no. I’m so full after eating the healthy stuff that I don’t have any room.”
What Had She Decided In Advance?
My houseguest decided long ago that eating healthy is hard. She believes that chopping or slicing anything healthy takes time that she doesn’t have, but chopping or slicing lunch meat or cheese takes no time at all.
Of course, she also believes that eating healthy doesn’t matter to her health.
I can’t change that.
And, it’s not my job to change that.
What Have You Decided In Advance?
The above illustration isn’t to show where my houseguest was right or wrong. It was just to point out how our beliefs color what we actually experience. It wouldn’t have mattered how long it took to make her lunch or to make mine. Her belief would have demonstrated – to her – that mine was more difficult.
What are your beliefs about eating healthy? While it’s not my job to change them, it is my job to help you reconsider ones that may not be helpful to you. I like to stir up conversations that may give you an opportunity to take a second look. My articles and posts are often geared to challenge my readers and clients to think about their decisions and beliefs from different angles.
Getting back to Truth #1.
As mentioned, those types of foods are expensive. No doubt about it. They’re often referred to as “bridge foods” as they can help someone transition from a diet that consists of mainly packaged foods to one that’s more whole food based.
This next point isn’t rocket science. —> When these packaged foods are eliminated, so are the costs.
Personally, I don’t usually buy many packaged foods. For me, eating healthy is quite cheap. In fact, I spend far less on groceries now than I did in the past. I don’t buy frozen lasagnas, cases of soda, bags of chips, and items that I routinely stocked before my nutritional awakenings. I don’t shop at the big box stores for food and I don’t have a pantry stuffed to the brim with scads of canned and packaged foods.
That’s just how I operate at this time.
I still have a long way to go. I love to experiment and try out new produce and techniques in meal prep endeavors. There’s always something new to try. That’s what having fun in the kitchen is all about.
But it took a few key decisions.
I had to decide that spending time in the kitchen – investing in my health – is important. As I got used to that idea, I even decided that it’s fun.
I also decided long ago that my body is worth investing in. The foods and ingredients I choose matter. I also choose to invest in nutrient supplements and key practices that keep me healthy.
So … What’s False?
Since we’ve already established that the above 5 things are true, where are the falsehoods?
The first key point is that while these are true, they’re not ALWAYS true. By that finite definition, they’re also false. That’s a big deal. Don’t let that type of thinking keep you stuck in a rut.
Next, falsehoods lie in the decisions we make in advance and how they lead us to shop (and eat). These potential roadblocks can prevent us from a healthier future and a healthier life.
A falsehood about the time or trouble it takes to care for ourselves can be disastrous. Just as a decision to believe something different can be a lifesaver.
What have you decided about the cost of healthy eating? What decisions keep you healthy and moving forward?