Need some help planning healthy meals for less? Our dietitians have created a helpful meal planning guide and a weekly grocery list with a few tips to make shopping healthy easier on you and your wallet!
The typical American diet does not include adequate amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat dairy. Many people claim this is because "eating healthy is just way too expensive"! If you're watching your budget and think healthy food is too expensive, you may find you spend most of your time shopping the center aisles for cheap, quick meals that are shelf-stable for a long time. Sound like you? If so, you are like many other people!
It would seem obvious to many that cheaper, easier meals in minutes that don't spoil quickly are the way to go, but you may want to rethink! Highly processed, convenience foods like potato chips, box dinners and frozen entrees tend to be higher in calories, fat and salt than fresh produce and low-fat dairy. Typically found in the center aisle of the grocery store, these convenience foods, over time, can increase your risk of chronic conditions like obesity, heart disease and high blood pressure. Chronic conditions often mean more doctor visits and medicine, which can be very expensive! A recent study by the USDA also suggests that healthy foods are not as expensive as we once thought.
There are a few reasons that eating healthy can cost less!
The added cost is in waste
A 2012 study by the USDA suggests that healthier foods are actually cheaper than less healthy processed foods, but early spoilage and waste contribute to the added costs. Try planning meals ahead of time and purchasing only the right amount of fresh produce and dairy to save money. The added cost is usually not in the food itself, but in the lack of planning and waste.
In-season fresh produce is very inexpensive. Try buying produce that is in season, even if it's something you've never tried before! Look for a new healthy recipe to use local, in-season fruits and vegetables. Not sure what's in season? Contact your local farmer's market who may even have a special sale on seasonal produce or check out this handy seasonal produce guide and tips.
Purchase in bulk when you can
Although you may not be able to buy fresh produce or dairy in bulk, many inexpensive whole grains can be purchased in large quantities. These are also great to keep on hand for a quick, healthy meal anytime. Brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, and oatmeal are a few examples.
Healthy eating can be easy and economical when you shop smart and make meal planning a priority. It's also an investment in your health now and in the years to come! Eat healthy!