The biggest complaint I hear about eating a whole foods diet (foods that look as much like themselves as possible) is that it’s expensive. My answer is yes…no…sorta…it’s more complicated than that. There are cost and savings. You have to consider the direct cost of the foods you buy and the indirect health-care savings in order to have a full appreciation for what eating a whole foods diet means to your financial health.
First there are the direct costs associated with upgrading your food. If you compare the cost of fresh meats, vegetables, grains, etc. to the dollar deals from McDonald’s, then, yes, the whole foods diet is going to lose every time, money-wise. However, if you compare a healthy meal prepared at home to take out, you will find that you spend much less per meal on the healthy, home-cooked meal. Of course, for those of us that eat at home, the switch to a more whole foods diet is more expensive most of the time. But never fear! I will be dedicating the next few posts to tips and tricks that will help you reduce the cost of eating healthier. Although, even with tools to reduce the cost of a healthier diet, a whole foods diet may make a larger dent in your wallet than your current diet does. But this is where it’s important to remember that you are what you prioritize. When we prioritize cheap food or convenience over our health, we pay the indirect cost of those choices.
A diet high in processed foods that are loaded up with sugar and chemicals plays a major role in obesity, diabetes, stroke, heart disease, and other lifestyle-related diseases. The statistics on how many of us are affected by lifestyle diseases are fairly staggering. I won’t try to recreate the wheel; so go on over to the Center for Science in the Public Interest to learn more. I will say that the impact that these diseases have on your finances are enormous when you account for the lifetime cost of monthly prescriptions, doctors visits, lab test, hospital stays, surgeries, long-term care, etc. In 2013 the US alone spent almost $3 TRILLION dollars on healthcare (or, more appropriately, sick care) where as the US (its people, its businesses, and its government) spent just over half of that on food, $1.8 Trillion.
Food should be our medicine. We should be eating to nourish our bodies, but instead we end up filling our bodies with cheap, synthetic food to satisfy a warped version of hunger. So the next time you are enticed by the dollar menu, try to think about the real cost associated with that meal and then go grab a $2 avocado and get to work on your health. Because you are what your prioritize!