Robb Wolf recently did a nice blog post tackling the myth that eating Paleo has to be super expensive (warning: that article is pretty snarky).
I would say that the myth that eating healthy (in general, not just Paleo) has to be expensive is pretty pervasive.
I wonder if that’s because people think eating healthy is about eating “special, healthy” food, an idea pushed by food manufacturers looking to up-sell more expensive “healthy” products.
I definitely see this in the gluten free world. “A loaf of gluten free bread costs $5”. And replacing all of your gluten-y processed food with gluten-free processed food is very expensive.
But that doesn’t mean going gluten free is necessarily expensive. Your other option, don’t eat all of that processed gluten free food, eat real food instead.
Principle 1: You have to spend your money or your time, it’s one or the other
- We buy packaged and processed food because:
- It’s tasty – at least if you’ve been eating it for a while. If you go off it for a while you realize most processed food only has two real tastes, sweet and salty. It’s like comparing a bland pop song to real jazz music, there’s no real life there.
- More importantly. It’s easy. It’s easy to grab a bag or box, open it and eat.
- It’s cheaper and healthier when you prepare it, but it means you have to take the time to do so. Buying a box of prewashed, prepackaged salad is more expensive than buying lettuce and chopping it yourself.
- Use coupons, use sales, use specials. Where possible be smart about using different stores to maximize value. This takes time.
Principle 2: It’s not all or nothing – KEY POINT OF THIS POST
- Just because you can’t afford grass fed beef, wild caught salmon and all organic vegetables doesn’t mean you should throw up your hands and binge on Twinkies. Recognize that:
- 80% of the benefit of eating healthier comes from limiting junk in the diet and eating generally healthy foods, which means consuming at least some animal products in your diet, and eating mostly whole, minimally processed “real” foods.
- 20% of the benefit comes from maximizing the quality of the foods you eat – organic, local, grass fed, etc.
So if you can’t afford organic, local or whatever, it doesn’t mean you have to throw away 80% of the benefit you could be getting because you can’t afford the other 20% of the benefit.
So in a nutshell:
- Remove the bad – Eat less junk
- Vegetable oils – corn, canola, cottonseed, “vegetable”
- Trans fats and other Franken-foods
- Food colorings, preservatives, artificial additives – if you can’t pronounce it, be suspicious
- Common sense. Is it junk food? Eat less of it
- Eat good stuff – Eat real food
- Use sales, coupons, etc. Shop the big box stores – Costco, Walmart, etc. if you need to.
- Buy the cheapest cuts of meat you can – pork shoulder (“butt”) is cheap. Throw it in a crock pot for hours and it’s delicious. Look for other bargain meats.
- Eggs are a cheap protein source – they can complement or replace meat if needed.
- Dairy is an inexpensive protein, fat, and calorie source if you tolerate it
- Eat vegetables and fruits of all kinds, look for what’s on sale. Vegetables and fruits are still good for you even if they’re not organic. Just eat them.
- If even the cheap meats and the cheap vegetables are too expensive to fill out your diet, than cut your diet with as much potatoes, squash, and rice as you need to. These are cheap carbs which are reasonably healthy.
- If you can, start to maximize the quality of the food you eat. This is step 3, not step 1!
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Another Interesting post:
What if you ate only what was advertised on TV?