By Elliot Fisher MS, CSCS, PES, NSCA-CPT
It’s often purported that it’s expensive to eat healthy foods and that is a main reason people tend to choose less healthy options. While it is true that a lot of fast foods are pretty cheap and readily available, I would argue that most healthy foods are MUCH cheaper.
List of Cheap Healthy Foods:
Jasmine Rice: $0.76/pound (1)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil: $0.23/oz (2)
Old Fashioned Oats: $0.06/oz (3)
Popcorn Kernels: $0.13/oz (4)
Canned Tuna: $0.68/can (5)
Eggs: $0.13/egg (6)
Egg Whites: $0.12/oz (7)
Bananas: $0.23/banana (8)
Chicken Breast: $2.08/lb (9)
Lentils: $0.08/oz (10)
Broccoli Florets: $0.08/oz (11)
Baby Carrots: $0.06/oz (12)
Grapes: $1.58/lb (13)
Cucumber: $0.73 each (14)
This list could go on forever. So why do people not choose to buy cheap healthy foods?
Reasons People Don’t Buy Cheap Healthy Foods
Healthy foods have a short shelf life. It’s common for fruits and vegetables to only be good for up to a week, where processed foods might be good for months. If you have to throw food away every week you don’t eat it can get expensive. To solve this problem you can both buy only what you need for the week, and buy things that do have a long shelf life. Oats, rice, and most starchy carbohydrates have a long shelf life. You can also buy frozen fruits and vegetables that won’t go bad in the freezer.
These foods don’t taste as good as less healthy foods. Some people won’t buy these cheaper alternatives because they won't eat them. To make these foods taste better try adding seasonings for sauces. Most seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, and cinnamon have their own health benefits and are also very affordable.
It takes a lot of time to make healthier foods rather than just going to a fast food restaurant. This can be true, however there are lots of meals that are easy and quick to make. For example, smoothies, eggs, oats, and protein shakes are all quick to make. Also a lot of fruits and vegetables can be eaten right away with no preparation. If a meal takes time to make, you can make it in bulk and have it for multiple meals.
Organic foods and specialty foods ARE more expensive. It’s easy to mistake organic foods and specialty food items for being superior for health. Just because they may also be healthy options doesn’t mean non-organic produce or non specialty items aren’t unhealthy. Cheap chicken breast is very healthy even if you COULD buy organic, free range, omega 3 diet chicken breast. Conventional chicken breast will still be a better option than a typical fast food meal.
Strategies to Save Money
Shop foods that are on sale or have special buys.
Buy in bulk from wholesale stores like Costco or Sam’s Club.
Buy generic over brand names. It’s likely you won't notice a difference, or at least not a big enough difference for the price increase.