One of the most prominent arguments for the cause of the obesity epidemic in the United States is the supposed higher cost of healthy food items…and I can tell you as a personal trainer and nutrition coach that I hear this excuse all the time from people; however, the reality is that most “healthy” wholesome food items are extremely affordable and can even cost less than fast foods if you plan ahead, shop smartly, and prepare your own meals for the day. Just take a look at the example comparison picture above.
What many people don’t realize is that fast foods are only cheaper than healthy foods on a per calorie basis. Healthy/wholesome food items are actually cheaper per edible gram and per average portion than fast food items. An edible gram is used by the USDA for measuring the amount of a food item that falls into one of the major food groups (vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, and protein foods). Processed fast foods typically have a much lower edible portion that falls into one of the five major food groups, which is why the nutritional value is always much lower. Processed foods also lack nutrients like fiber and phytochemicals which are responsible for the release of hormones that give you the feeling of fullness and prevent you from overeating…another costly issue. The majority of Americans consume a diet that not only fails to meet the USDA’s recommendations in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010, but is also an average of 1,100 calories more than their daily caloric needs. The bottom line…fast foods give you more calories for less money; however, most Americans eat way more calories than they require and still don’t meet their bodies nutritional needs.
A hypothetical example: you swing through a drive-thru or stop at a gas station to pick up a popular breakfast item like a doughnut. A glazed doughnut has roughly 240 calories and costs $1.20 and you would probably eat two donuts to feel satisfied. Did you know that a large banana has 5 grams of fiber to fill you up, is only 120 calories, and costs around $0.50/pound for 3-4 bananas, or approximately $.25 each? So if you substitute a large sweet banana for two donuts, you cut the calories to one-third, save money ($2.15 in this example), and receive tons of beneficial nutrients!
Furthermore, overeating calorie dense foods results in obesity and health complications which means costly medical bills. By eating nutritious foods and staying healthy, you’ll save money now from not overeating and in the future by preventing unnecessary medical expenses.
There are affordable healthy food options if you look for them, shop smart, and prepare your food ahead of time. Get the whole family involved so you can buy in bulk. Buy fruits and vegetables that are in season, on sale, and not already prepared…same goes for your proteins. Some of my personal favorites can be found year round and cost less than $0.50 per serving (1 cup). They include beans, rice, oats, apples, potatoes, bananas, and carrots. For optimal nutritional benefits, be sure to eat 4-5 servings of fresh fruits and vegetables per day and 3-4 servings of whole grains.
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