Tuesday, November 24, 2009

5 Ways to Eat Healthy for Less

Everyone is looking to eat healthy for less in this economy, which is a great idea, but have you noticed how the grocery store seems to conspire against you in that area? Do you ever wonder why Twinkies and doughnuts cost far less than whole grain cereals, healthy vegetables, and lean meats?

Luckily, it is possible to eat healthy and inexpensively, despite the fact that unhealthy foods tend to be cheaper than healthy foods.

5 Ways to Eat Healthy and Not Break the Bank
If you walk down the aisles in your local grocery store and really calculate the cost per serving between the healthy foods and unhealthy foods, you'll find a definite price difference. But here are 5 places you can save money as you shop for healthful diet choices.

Fats
The difference between the price of olive oil and a less expensive oil, like corn oil, looks significant if you look at the price per bottle. Yet olive oil is so much healthier for your body than corn oil. These days you can find olive oil for about $8 per liter. If you use just 2 tablespoons per day for salad dressing or cooking, the cost is about 50 cents a day. If you just can't stomach spending that much money on cooking oil, another inexpensive and healthful option is canola oil, which has less flavor but is healthy for you.

Protein
This is one area where cost and healthfulness actually line up with each other. Experts agree that eating large amounts of red meat isn't healthy, which is fine, because red meat tends to be more expensive. Healthier options, like chicken, turkey, and some kinds of fish, are less expensive. Choose white meat over red meat whenever possible, and splurge on red meat once in a while. This plan will keep both your body and your bank book healthy.

You can also consider plant-based sources of protein. For instance, whole grain rice combined with beans makes a complete protein. Another rich source of protein is blue-green algae (AFA or aphanizomenon flos aquae), which is 60% protein and contains all eight of its essential amino acids in perfect balance for humans. Beef, on the other hand, contains only 20-25% protein.

Fruits and Vegetables

While the price of fruits and vegetables is higher than it used to be, these foods deliver much-needed nutritional value with few unwanted ingredients (like sugar). The USDA estimates that in most parts of the country you can still buy 7 servings of fruits or vegetables for about 75 cents. I'm not sure if that's true or not where you live, but here are some sample servings of fruits and vegetables so you can judge for yourself whether those costs are in line:

1/2 cup apples, carrots, broccoli, or romaine lettuce
1/8 cup raisins
1/2 cup grapefruit juice

Carbohydrates
The price difference between whole grain products and non-whole grain products is actually fairly small, since many food manufacturers are putting emphasis on producing more whole grain products. Consider the cost difference between brown rice and white rice. The per-bag cost difference may be about $1, which means the per-serving cost difference is much less. You get a whole lot of health benefit with whole grains that are definitely worth the price.

Supplements
This is where I see a lot of people overspending and not getting as much value as they could for their money. Many people buy multi-vitamins and then supplement it with enzymes, probiotics, and inorganic minerals (like magnesium and calcium). I prefer to use whole food sources of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals. These daily packets that contain two forms of blue-green algae, enzymes, acidophilus, and bifidus are the ones I favor.

This complete package not only gives you a protein-rich source in a convenient capsule form, but also provides all the enzymes and probiotics so your body absorbs the maximum amount of vitamins, minerals, and trace minerals. Plus, 97% of the algae can be used by the human body, which is a far higher percentage than for inorganic minerals. The cost is about $1.25 per day.

What You Won't Buy

I'm sure you've noticed the gaping holes in this list of foods above: chips, snacks, sweets, and other junk. They cost less to buy, sure, but they contribute nothing positive to your health and can definitely detract from it. If you skip buying junk food, except for every now and then, you'll find that your food budget will expand. You'll easily be able to afford healthy fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and even the occasional steak for special occasions. Eating healthy doesn't have to be crazy expensive, it just requires a little forethought before heading to the grocery store.

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Photo credit: Free Digital Photos

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