Is Healthy Eating Really too Expensive?

Eliana Lakritz MS RD LDN, Clinical Dietitian, Baystate Noble Hospital (WNG file photo)

One of the most common excuses for a poor diet is that healthy eating is just too expensive. Depending on where you shop and what you purchase, this can be the case. However, a balanced, wallet-friendly diet can be attained by anyone with some nutrition education. First of all, it is important to understand what a well-balanced, healthy diet includes. In general, a healthy diet consists of whole grains, low/non-fat dairy products, lean protein sources, fruits and vegetables.It seems that peoples’ false perceptions of healthy foods have been standing in the way of healthy eating.

Below are five common claims and explanations to help you makehealthy, budget-friendly choices.

Claim #1: I have to buy all organic to eat healthy

Many people are under the impression that only organic products are healthy. However, the label “organic” does not typically signify nutritional benefits of the product. It’s certainly possible for an organic cookie to be even less healthy than a non-organic cookie! Make sure you read the nutrition-fact label.

Claim #2: I can’t eat healthy because fresh produce is too expensive

While fresh fruits and vegetables are certainly healthy, buying them may be unpractical if not eaten before going bad. Consider trying low sodium/no salt added canned or frozen vegetables for your family. Fruit can also be found frozen or in canned (try in 100% juice). These alternatives will help to save you money if you’re continuously throwing produce away due to rotting. You can also buy fresh produce in season, which is often a better value than out of season produce.

Claim #3: I cannot feed my whole family healthy foods for each meal.

Buying staple foods in bulk is a great idea for medium to large families. Foods like brown rice, dry black beans, eggs, milk, oatmeal, frozen chicken breast or fish can all be purchased in large amounts and often have a lower unit price than smaller amounts. This will likely enable healthy foods to be served to your family regularly.

Claim #4: I can only eat healthy if I shop at “health food” stores.

Healthy foods (both organic and non-organic) can be available at your local grocery store at varying prices.  Check the paper or look online to find sales at your favorite grocery stores. You can compare prices between different brands (even the store brand) to find the best prices. Look for lean cuts of poultry or meat, whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy. If you stick to these guidelines, there is no reason why you cannot eat healthy by shopping at your favorite budget-friendly, local store.

Claim #5: It costs the same to eat out than it does to cook at home.

Most of the time, foods prepared at home cost less and are healthier. You have more control over the calorie count, sodium, and saturated fat when you prepare your own meals. Convenience foods like frozen meals, pre-cut vegetables/fruits, and deli salads also cost more than if you prepared them from scratch.

If you are interested in learning more about nutrition counseling sessions with a registered dietitian at Baystate Noble Hospital, please call 413-568-2811 ex: 5671 for more information.

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