Often, clients tell me that they can’t ‘afford’ to eat healthy, or to supplement their diet while healing and getting healthy. We always have a long conversation about why that’s not always the case.
Many times they sketch out their own lifestyle… soda pop in 2 litre bottles, a large soda pop and candy bar or chips while getting gas, a donut when they get to work, a pastry in the afternoon, lunch at a fast food joint, and often dinner, too. When they do ‘cook’ at home, they describe boxed meals, canned goods, prepackaged mixes, etc. Ingredients for ‘recipes’ are all cans, boxes, and others. Time off work for illness, doctor’s appointments, testing, and very expensive prescriptions is mentioned. They also often have issues with weight and are looking for weight loss programs. It turns into a huge cost not only for eating, but for medical care and other programs.
In turn, I compare the cost of fresh and raw ingredients, supplements needed while transitioning (or possibly for health issues), and appointments with a holistic nutritional consultant and possibly other complementary and integrative practitioners. Other factors come into the conversation, but we will focus on the cost of eating for now.
Canned goods have NO digestive enzymes, as they’ve all been processed out, as have many of the nutrients. Refined foods have been stripped of their natural nutrients, and are ‘fortified’ with new ones, often times missing the other natural nutrients needed to absorb the ones they’ve put back in. And so on.
Below is my list for cutting costs while eating healthy. It’s not a list that you can begin using today, because it includes making some life decisions and changes.
1. Portions. For example, a portion of meat is 3 ounces. You can normally get 5 servings from 1 lb of ground beef, which makes the cost of 1 lb grass fed, hormone and antibiotic free ground beef (at Aldi for 5.49) seem more realistic. And, it is more cost effective than a 2.99 pound of bad quality, unhealthy ground beef that is mostly water and fat, and you get very tiny portions after it is cooked. Or sweets…. If you normally eat half a container of ice cream (at about 800 calories and tons of carbs), look at a frozen gelato, frozen yogurt, etc. Even though the cost is a bit higher, if you eat the size of portion the labeling indicates, there are quite a few servings in it. You really don’t need any more than that! Another example is juice…. Remember the small juice glasses? That’s because a serving a juice fits in that glass. An orange, for example…. Juice of an orange fits in that glass. If you use an 8 ounce water tumbler, you’re actually ‘drinking’ about 10 – 12 oranges. Watch portions and eat correctly, and the food will last longer and you will be able to afford better quality and healthy food.
2. Smaller bites. Don’t take large bites. Don’t take another bite while one is still in your mouth, Savor and enjoy your food.
3. Don’t throw food away. If you can’t finish something on your plate, save it in a container or baggie and have it for your snack later.
4. Use fresh, and raw foods. You will need to market more often, but it is enjoyable. You are starting to look for foods you enjoy eating….. Keep vegetables on hand and steam them (steaming retains the enzymes and nutrients) for dinner, eat them raw for snacks, or juice them for quick meal. Fruits can become deserts, ingredients for salads and stir-fry, and you can juice an orange into a glass in as much time as it takes to take a carton out of the refrigerator, shake it, etc.
5. Don’t deep fry and use less oil. Use small amounts of olive or coconut oil, just enough to get the pan oiled. Or better yet, use a Misto (a can you pressurize with air and spray your oil out of).
6. Buy in bulk. Divide chicken strips, fish filets, and even beef and pork into portions for a meal and freeze.
7. Stock your spice cabinet well. Having many spices on hand can change the flavor and tone of foods without adding calories or other ingredients. Grab a bag of those frozen chicken strips and after thawing, thrown some mixed spices in the bag, shake it up, and then cook on low heat in the lightly oiled pan – using different spices and cutting the chicken differently each time will quickly have you getting creative and throwing in veggies and nuts one night, and fruits and quinoa the next, and you’ll start seeing how cheap you can not only eat healthy, but like a gourmet!
8. Spend part of a day cooking…. Whether it is on a weekend or an evening, it is a great family activity (whether you have kids or are a couple) and you can make several things at once. Pick up cheap crock pots when on sale or at garage sales, and have several going at once….. red beans, pinto beans, black beans. Put portions you would cook with into baggies and then ALL of the baggies in one big one, marking it with the name and date and throw in the refrigerator. You can do the same with steamed veggies that can be warmed up quickly later. Make a large pan of breakfast bars, or even 2 ingredient cookies (bananas and oats mixed together, add chips, nuts, berries, or whatever else you want) for quick to-go breakfasts. Make snack packs up of your own mix of granola, or dried fruit, or even popcorn and store them in a basket. Now you have several beans for cold salads, soups, chili, even black bean brownies that you can grab out of the freezer and quickly use. Grab your to-go breakfast and squeeze and orange into a juice glass while your coffee or tea is brewing.
9. Shop smart. Locally, we are fortunate to have Aldi grocery store. While I am not promoting any certain store, I suggest Aldi for the purpose of this article. Aldi is a company from Europe that focuses on healthy foods…. Hormone and antibiotic free meats, and you can find many items like Sprout bread (which is 5.99 to 6.99 at mainstream and health stores) for 2.99, unrefined virgin coconut oil is 4.99 instead of the 9.99 – 12.99 at mainstream and health stores, etc. Having this store locally makes it not only affordable, but convenient, to eat healthy.
10. Work with a holistic nutritionist or another complementary and integrative practitioner to develop your eating plan. This is not a ‘diet’ but will address any medical issues or health history and tailor your diet to being more friendly to yourself, and heading for homeostasis…. Homeostasis is what we all strive to achieve – perfect balance and your body in the state it should be in. If your eating habits are geared this way, you may possibly see less and less of pharmacists, etc. While some illnesses always require medication, it is possible to not need as much and for your body to not fight the medicine with proper nutrients and less antioxidants.
In reality, we can’t NOT afford to eat healthy. Our pocket books and bodies will both feel better, and life is truly more enjoyable when your palate is free of refined whites, oils, artificial sweets, etc. Happy Eating!
Lisa C. Baker, CNC, RNHP, is a certified Nutritional Counselor, and also holds a certificate in Complementary and Integrative Health. She is a member of the American Nutritional Association, the International Association of Natural Health Practitioners, International Institute for Complementary Therapists, and is a Registered Natural Health Practitioner by the IANHP. She is currently enrolled in a Doctor of Naturopathic program.