Eating Healthy on a Budget

In a recent survey, 70 percent of respondents reported that they were concerned about the affordability of healthy foods, 53 percent often opted for less healthy foods because of price, and 44 percent said their budgets prohibited them from eating better. Granted, times are tough and money is tight, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your health.

The most nutritious foods you can eat are whole foods such as fresh and frozen vegetables, chicken, and fish; dried and canned beans; canned light (not albacore) tuna; and modest amounts of dried whole grains, fresh fruits, eggs, and dairy products. You don’t even have to go to a health food store for these items. They are available in all grocery stores and are among the least expensive foods you can buy. Prepared and processed foods may be more convenient, but you pay for convenience—and it’ll really cost you if they’re made in restaurants. You may be tempted to switch to less expensive fast food joints, but eating at home is far more economical and better for your health.

What are Americans actually buying in grocery stores? According to Information Resources Inc., a market research company in Chicago, the best-selling items in 2009 were:

  1. Carbonated beverages ($12 billion in sales)
  2. Milk ($11.2 billion)
  3. Fresh bread & rolls ($9.57 billion)
  4. Beer/ale/hard cider ($8.17 billion)
  5. Salty snacks ($8.09 billion)
  6. Natural cheese ($7.64 billion)
  7. Frozen dinners/entrees ($6.13 billion)
  8. Cold cereal ($6.11 billion)
  9. Wine ($5.49 billion)
  10. Cigarettes ($4.63 billion)

Take a hard look at your grocery bills—it may be eye-opening. I know a woman who was hooked on sodas and drank several every day. It wasn’t until she realized that she was spending more than $1,000 a year that she was able to stop. As the Roman poet Virgil said in the first century BC, “The greatest wealth is health.” We’re all tightening our belts these days, but let’s not shortchange our health.

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