Eating Healthy IS Affordable

Do you have to choose between cost or healthy?

Making healthy food choices is something that has grown increasingly important to me.  After all, food is what fuels my body.  I want my body to serve me well for years to come, so I want to treat it well and eating in a healthy way is a part of that.

I often read and hear the statement that eating healthy food isn’t an option because it is “too expensive”.  This always surprises me.  I am not sure why statement is made, but I’m guessing the person hasn’t really compared costs.  The statement that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food just isn’t true.  We don’t have to choose between healthy eating or spending less. Eating healthy is affordable.

I define “eating healthy” as eating whole foods, so eating minimally processed foods.  To me, eating healthy is also about the proportions of different types of foods on my plate.  In general, vegetables and fruits take up the biggest amount of space on my plate, and meat portions are small, about 3 to 4 ounces.

You might think that my statement that eating healthy is affordable is just my opinion.  It’s not.  I will demonstrate just how affordable eating healthy really is by doing some price comparisons.

The healthy food plates (i.e. minimally processed, whole food) are real meals that I have prepared for my family in the past month.  They are typical meals for us.  The processed food examples are items that are widely available in grocery stores, and the portion sizes are based on the portion size provided on by the manufacturer on the food label.  In the comparisons, I have kept the type of meat the same within the pairs, as the cost of meat is typically the largest part of the meal’s cost.

Price Comparisons

All prices are in Canadian dollars.  The costs of the whole food meals are calculated using the real prices that I paid for all the ingredients.  The costs of the processed foods are based on recent sale prices from local flyers, except for the stuffed chicken breasts, as the regular price of that store brand is significantly lower than even the sale prices of all the other brands.

Example 1

cost of processed food meal

Processed Food Meal: Marc Angelo pork souvlaki (1 skewer or 2.8 oz), Betty Crocker scalloped potatoes (1/2 cup) and Ziggy’s oil & vinegar coleslaw (1/2 cup)

Cost: $1.93

healthy eating options are affordable

Healthy Food Meal: Pork tenderloin teriyaki (3.5 oz) with maple ginger carrots (1/3 cup), steamed broccoli (1 cup) and jasmine rice (1/2 cup)

Cost: $1.55

Note:  If I reduced the amount of pork on the plate to 2.8 oz, to match the amount from the processed meal, the cost per portion would be $1.39.

Example 2

processed food is expensive

Processed Food Meal:  VH Steamers Shanghai ginger beef

Cost: $2.99

beef stir fry

Healthy Food Meal:  Beef stir-fry with Jasmine rice

Cost:  $1.27

Example 3

Stuffed Chicken and Pasta Meal

Processed Food Meal:  Compliments stuffed chicken breast (1 breast, 5 oz) and Knorr Sidekicks pasta (1/2 cup)

Cost:  $2.33

affordable chicken souvlaki with vegetables

Healthy Food Meal:  Chicken souvlaki (4 oz), carrots with butter (1/2 cup), beets (1/2 cup) and wheat berry salad (1/2 cup)

Cost:  $2.14

When looking at the price comparisons, note the fact that my plates, made up of whole foods (healthy food) are not only less expensive, but have more food/larger quantity of food, than the portions of processed food.  The costs of processed food would be higher if a person eats more than what the manufacturer identifies as one portion, which is the amount that I used in my price calculations.

In particular, when I hear/read complaints of healthy food being expensive, people often state that fresh fruits and vegetables are far too expensive.  Yet, from the examples above, you can see that meals made up of processed foods are cost more than my plates, even though the processed meals don’t include many veggies and my plates include at least two types of vegetables, which equal at least two portions of vegetables (1/2 cup equals one portion) for each meal.

Maybe you’ve never sat down to calculate the cost per portion of your meals. If you haven’t and eating healthy food, whole, minimally processed food is part of your goals, this is good news.  Healthy food isn’t only good for your body, but it’s good for your wallet too.  Eating healthy is affordable.

What obstacles, if any, do you face when trying to eat healthy?  Share them in the comments below.

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