I remember watching a documentary on TV about an overweight family that brought their kids to eat fast food everyday because it was “cheaper” than buying vegetables at the supermarket and cooking them (it might have been Food, Inc.).
Now, I never was at the point of eating fast food everyday, but I used to be a full-time student that worked part-time, and I used to buy a lot of easy-to-prepare food at the supermarket. I did it because it was easier to prepare, I was younger, so I didn’t know any better, and back then, my body was able to handle the crap just fine.
Since I’ve graduated and especially over the past year, I have been shifting toward a healthier way of eating. A couple of weeks ago, this shift accelerated. I had been enduring some increasing symptoms, and I decided to kick the symptoms in the balls and cut out all of the foods I suspected to be at fault. I’ve cut out grains, some dairy, and I try to avoid processed foods in general, though I still do eat these types of foods on occasion.
How much is it going to cost?
There seems to be an ongoing myth that healthy food has to be more expensive. I worried about that, myself, as I started shopping for healthier foods, including vegetables.
First, let’s look at the costs if we eat out instead of eating at home:
|2 slices of pizza + a drink||700||$6.00|
|McDonald’s Angus burger trio||1190||$9.00|
This could be a fairly typical way of eating if you never cook at home. I find it hard to believe that eating out could be less expensive than cooking at home, at least where I live.
What about if you eat at home? Can you save money by buying the cheap food instead of healthy food? I decided to compare the healthier type of food I eat today with the less healthy food I was eating only a year back. This is what a typical Sunday could look like for me:
|2 tbsp. Cream||90||$0.30|
|4 cups red leaf lettuce||20||$0.50|
|50ml olive oil||433||$0.40|
|½ leek stalk||27||$0.08|
|1 cup bai cai (bok choy)||10||$0.25|
|½ medium brocoli stalk||39||$0.50|
|3g fish oil||27||$0.24|
Now while I consider this healthy, it is not supremely healthy. The chicken is not organic (organic meat doesn’t seem to exist where I live; the closest I’ve seen is “anti-biotic free” pork that was insanely expensive), and the sausage still counts as processed food. I don’t practice this very strictly, but I do try to stay within some bounds.
Nonetheless, compare it to how I used to eat a year ago:
|2 pizza pockets||480||$2.00|
|2 tbsp. Cream||90||$0.30|
|2 servings pasta||640||$1.00|
|1 cup pasta garden sauce||70||$1.00|
|Whole grain bag of popcorn, ¼ bag||350||$0.88|
I wouldn’t say that this is horrible; it’s much better than the fast food diet. It’s still not that great, though. I wasn’t eating very many vegetables or fruit, and this diet is very high in carbs and processed food. Even if you are not overweight, a diet high in inflammatory insulin-spiking carbs is not necessarily very healthy. I guarantee you that I don’t have the daily routine of Michael Phelps and that I won’t burn off all of those carbs.
As you can see, I didn’t save any money at all by switching to a less-healthy selection of food. The only advantage to eating these kinds of foods is that preparation time is quicker. The pizza pockets take a 2 minute microwave, whereas the eggs take around 5-6 minutes of pan-frying. Washing all those vegetables and salad takes time, too, and it also means more dishes to wash. However, today I’ll trade an extra 15-20 minutes for my health anytime.
These are approximate prices where I live; your mileage may vary.
So, what do you think about preparation time vs. eating healthy? Let me know about it in the comments!