So… I was in the grocery store the other day picking up some fresh fruits and veggies. I was next to a mother and daughter (mother older than me, and a daughter around Kyle’s age).. I heard the mother say that she would like some avocados. Obviously the child laughed and didn’t know what she meant. So she made her way over to the avocados and immediately said “No way! 3 for $5, not worth it.
She put the avocado back and walked away from the vegetables. I watched her, she walked toward the aisles full of dead, boxed, canned, packaged goods. These are the aisles where we are able to buy thousands of calories of poor-quality, nutrient-poor, factory-made, processed foods filled with sugar, fat, and salt for the same five dollars as those healthy avocados. This is the scenario millions of us struggling to feed our families face every single day.
The odd paradox is that food insecurity — not knowing where the next meal is coming from or not having enough money to adequately feed your family — leads to obesity, diabetes, and chronic disease. Examining this paradox may help us advocate for policies that make producing fresh fruits, vegetables, and whole other foods cheaper, while rethinking the almost $300 billion in government subsidies that support the production of cheap, processed food derived from corn and soy.
Anyone see the commercials by Jamie Oliver? Well he’s a chef who’s trying to show Canadians and Americans that you CAN eat healthy – and afford it too. He’s showing us that cooking and eating whole fresh foods at home can be cheaper, more fun and simpler than most people think. Google it, google him, I love him.
So I want you to ask yourself this: Have you ever made poor food choices because of cost? What is the REAL cost of this cheap food — the cost in dollars, on our health, on our environment, and even on the fraying fabric of our social and family systems?
This is what you need to remember:
- The true cost of unhealthy food isn’t just the price tag — in fact, the real costs are hidden.
- Eating healthy doesn’t have to cost more.
Sure, I know it seems cheaper to eat a burger, fries, and a pop from McDonald’s than to eat a meal of whole foods. Especially when there’s all these value menus out there. Of course we think it’s better to purchase a meal for $3.99, but there are healthier, cheaper options. Lets look at why the true costs of eating unhealthy food are hidden, and lets look at some ways that will help all of us save money and stop suffering by eating well for less. Poverty or financial limitations do not preclude eating well, creating health, and avoiding disease.
Let’s start by looking at how our economy and public policy are geared toward the production of cheap, unhealthy food.
(I did some research and found this from the net)
Government Policy Supports the Production of Unhealthy Food
Unhealthy food is cheaper because our government’s policies support its production. We’re spending nearly $30 billion a year to subsidize corn and soy production. Where do those foods go? These foods go into our food supply as high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated soybean oil (trans fats), that are the foundation of almost all fast food and processed foods that are “manufactured” by the food industry.
Since the 1970s — when our agricultural policies where changed to support corn and soy farmers — we’re consuming, on average, an extra 500 calories (mostly in the form of cheap, artificial high-fructose corn syrup) per person.
When you eat unhealthy foods like these, the costs of medical visits, co-pays, prescription medications, and other health services skyrocket.
Corn and soy are also used to feed cattle for the production of meat and dairy. In fact I found that 70% of the wheat, corn, and soy farmed in this country is used to feed animals used for our food. The world’s cattle alone consume a quantity of food equal to the caloric needs of 8.7 billion people — more than the entire human population on Earth!
The Hidden Costs of Eating Poorly
We all know that bad foods are bad for your health. Actually, when you think about it, bad foods are also bad for your bank accounts. For example, one expert has estimated that healthcare costs related to obesity are $118 billion per year. That’s nearly 12 percent of total healthcare expenditures — and more than twice that caused by smoking! Seventy-two percent of Americans are overweight and over one third are medically obese. One in three children born today will be diabetic in their lifetime and the life expectancy of our population is declining for the first time in human history.
So what’s the REAL costs of obesity? Think about it, sure, you save $4 by buying an already prepared, processed burger by buying it from McDonalds… but think about what poor dieting can lead too. It can lead to heart disease, cancer, diabetes, dementia and osteoporosis. Here’s some facts on obesity:
- Obese people account for a disproportionate share of health-related absences from work.
- Obesity accounts for 7 percent of lost productivity due to sick leave and disability.
- 7 percent of all of North Carolina’s healthcare expenditures are related to obesity.
- Obese people visit their physicians 40 percent more than normal weight people.
- Obese people are 2.5 times more likely to require drugs prescribed for cardiovascular and circulation disorders.
- Liposuction is the Number 1 form of cosmetic surgery in the US, with 400,000 operations a year.
- Over 100,000 people a year have gastric bypass surgery.
As these facts prove, the costs of eating fast, junk, and processed foods are often deferred until later. And that’s the key point: When you go to McDonald’s for a cheap burger and fries, you might immediately compare that lower price to whole organic foods which are more expensive in the short term. But the total cost isn’t reflected in how much you pay for your meal in the immediate moment, it’s the cumulative cost of what those decisions cost you over a lifetime.
For example, when you eat unhealthy foods like these, the costs of medical visits, co-pays, prescription medications, and other health services skyrocket. There are other non-economic costs of eating poorly as well. You reduce your ability to enjoy life in the moment due to increased fatigue, low-grade health complaints, obesity, depression and more.
The biggest advantage of eating well now is not just preventing disease and costs later, but simply enjoying each day to its fullest. You can make that happen. Eating well doesn’t have to cost more.
So, to sum up my blog, it’s just known that eating well is not just good for your body, it’s good for your wallet, too! Here are some ideas to get you started.
Four Tips to Start Eating Healthy for Less Today
- Listen to Gandhi. Yes, Gandhi! He said that we should never mistake what is habitual for what is natural. Case in point: Some Chinese are very poor and yet they eat extremely well — small amounts of animal protein, with an abundance of vegetables.
- Be willing to learn. We have to learn new ways of shopping and eating, new ways of ordering our priorities around our health and nutrition that supports our well-being, even if it is hard at the beginning.
- Do your research. There are ways to find cheaper sources of produce, whole grains, beans, nuts, and lean animal protein. You just need to seek them out. It doesn’t all have to be organic. Simply switching from processed foods to whole foods is a HUGE step in the right direction.
- Make an effort. Eating healthy does take more planning. It may require you to find new places to hunt and gather for your family. You might have to reorder your priorities regarding where you spend your money and your time so that you can make healthier eating choices.
Remember, eating healthy foods without spending a lot is possible-and you can do it.