For years now one of the most talked about subjects when it comes to nutrition has been the cost of food. You hear all the time how it is far more expensive to purchase healthy foods than it is to purchase junk foods. When people are able to justify poor eating habits and obesity rates by saying that they can afford to eat unhealthy foods but they cannot afford to eat good food that is healthy for them, well, people tend to believe the hype of junk food costing less. Is it really true though? Is it really cheaper to eat fattening junk foods instead of healthier foods?
The truth of the matter is that none of that is true at all. Sure, people will try to say that it is cheaper to buy a bag of processed potato chips than it is to buy a bag of raw potatoes or they will say they can easily afford to feed a family at a fast food place whereas purchasing fresh meats such as chicken or fresh fruits and vegetables is far more expensive.
So what can someone do to eat healthy as well as save money? First. Stay away from the fast food restaurants altogether. Eating healthy meal purchased at a grocery store and prepared at home is going to cost less than half of what a fast food meal cost. Let’s break a sample meal down to show the cost between the two options.
10 Piece Chicken Nugget Combo
$6.49 plus tax per meal
This meal contains one 10-piece chicken nugget box, a medium French fry and a medium soda.
The price for this meal was found on fastfoodmenuprices.com
Prepared at Home
Roast Chicken with Potatoes and Butternut Squash
$1.62 per serving (Feeds 4) Total cost for ingredients: $6.48 plus tax
• Minced garlic
• Dried rubbed sage
• 1 (3½-pound) roasting chicken
• Red potatoes (12 ounces)
• Butternut squash
- Preheat oven to 400°.
- Combine 1 1/2 tablespoons garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and sage in a small bowl. Remove and discard giblets and neck from chicken. Starting at neck cavity, loosen skin from breast and drumsticks by inserting fingers, gently pushing between skin and meat. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under chicken. Rub garlic mixture under loosened skin. Place chicken, breast side up, on rack of a broiler pan coated with cooking spray. Place rack in broiler pan.
- Combine potatoes, squash, butter, 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Arrange vegetable mixture around chicken. Bake at 400° for 1 hour or until a thermometer inserted into meaty part of thigh registers 165°. Let stand 10 minutes. Discard skin.
This recipe was found on myrecipes.com
As you can see, a healthier meal that is prepared at home cost one cent less than a single meal at McDonald’s and it even feeds four people as opposed to the one person the fast food meal will feed.
What About Those on Welfare or Food Stamps?
This is a question that often comes up when discussing the cost of healthy foods. Some will argue that it is far cheaper for people that must use food stamps or for those that rely on welfare to pay for groceries to purchase cheap foods that are higher in calories to save money and get the caloric intake that they need. This too, is wrong. Even those that use food stamps or other assistance can, and should purchase food that has healthier ingredients.
Let’s break it down a little bit. There are nearly 50 million people in the United States that are enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) also known as the food stamp program. This program allots roughly $5 per day per person to eat. This is not much but when you use your food dollars wisely, as you can see from the recipe above, it is easy to plan affordable, healthy meals.
Now that we have said this, we also need to bring up the fact that there are more than 2 million people that live in areas where there are no grocery stores. These areas, also known as food desserts, will limit the types of food that people are able to purchase. The majority of these millions rely on shopping for groceries in subpar shops including convenience stores, discount stores and even gas stations. There are also nearly 6 million that live at least 1 mile or more from a grocery store but have no vehicle to get anywhere. These will also rely on shops that sell inadequate or unhealthy food options.
Aside from those two relatively small groups, this leaves more than 90% of SNAP recipients within access to grocery stores, farmer’s markets and other healthy alternatives for foods. The fact is, when it comes to healthy eating, it is not really about the money spent to buy the food at all. Instead, it is more about the time and effort that must be put in to preparing food at home. People just do not like spending an extra half hour or longer standing in the kitchen after they have spent the day working, at school or even at job training or required classes that some states require for those that receive SNAP benefits. Some even say they just do not have the time needed to cook and it is easier to swing through a fast food line or pick up a frozen dinner and pop it in the microwave.
The Rise of Convenience and Addiction
In the last ten years, fast food restaurants have seemingly popped up on streets throughout even the smallest towns in America and have virtually taken over large grocery stores. There are roughly five fast food restaurants for every one grocery store in America and these places advertise with billions of dollars in advertising each year.
The cost of things like sugary soda and super processed foods have decreased more than 30% in the last ten to twenty years while healthy foods such as fresh produce and fresh fruits have increased by nearly 50% in the same amount of time. These things place unhealthy foods in the spotlight and make them seem as if they are the better deal or the simplest way to eat the next meal.
Something else that has increased in recent years is food addiction. No, not simple addiction to eating but an addiction to the processed foods that people eat. The more that people eat fast food or other unhealthy foods, the more their minds seem to be addicted to them. Once you have breakfast or lunch at a fast food establishment, something seems to trigger the brain to tell you to have the next meal there as well. These addictions to unhealthy foods are triggered by the same things that can cause an addiction to drugs and alcohol and can also lead to obesity. This occurs because when we eat fast food, it creates a euphoric feeling and this releases a feeling of pleasure in the brain.
It’s Time For a Change
Now that you can see how simple it is to prepare a healthy meal and how hard fast food establishments work to gain your business, it is time for a change. Obesity in the United States has been on the rise for more than 20 years. Children that are obese in the U.S. has risen to more than 20% and for adults, that rate is more than 35%. Those are extremely high percentages for the overall population.
Obesity causes many illnesses, most of which can not only be dangerous, but also deadly. These include heart disease, cancer, high blood pressure and Type II Diabetes. With the right diet and a healthy lifestyle, these diseases can be prevented or even reversed in the majority of people that have them. Unfortunately, with unhealthy eating habits and the convenience of swinging through a fast food drive-thru, the rates for disease is on the rise and with it, the mortality rate for people all throughout the U.S.
When we can finally take a stand and start spending more time in the kitchen preparing healthy meals and less time in front of the television or sitting in line at a fast food place, then we will be able to begin building a healthier population of men, women and children in the U.S.
Once you really start to prepare healthy meals you will soon see that your food dollars will stretch much farther than they were when you were buying unhealthy alternatives or fast food. You will have more money for fresh foods as well as clothing that you may just need when you start dropping a few of the unwanted pounds once you begin to add better food choices to your meal plan.
About the Author
Angela is a freelance writer who is passionate about health and fitness and achieving her fitness goals. When she is not working out, she enjoys writing to inspire others or she can be found somewhere deep in the woods enjoying a long hike, rock climbing or camping. To achieve greatness is to be healthy and fit.