Updated: Mar 9
“I would like to eat more fruits and vegetables… but they’re just too expensive!”
I hear this sentence so often in my consultations that I think it’s time to end this myth once and for all.
The truth is that healthy eating is much more affordable than what most people think.
And for those of you that don’t believe me, I’ve taken the time to compare specific items that wouldn’t be essential for health to your fruits and vegetables and, I’ve made a breakdown of the costs for each. The results speak for themselves.
But before jumping into it, let’s start by taking a look at what healthy eating actually means.
What does “eating healthy” mean?
Eating healthy is all about making the best choices for your health possible within your budget.
You don’t need to buy organic, you don’t need to eat exotic superfoods, you don’t need expensive supplements and you don’t need to avoid any food groups.
All you have to do, is make sure you include plenty of vegetables and fruits as the foundation of your diet. I’m not proposing anything new here. This is basic knowledge which is taught to many of us in school. Unfortunately, clever marketing has gotten us confused about food.
For the sake of this blog post, as from now on I will refer to eating healthy as eating more fruits and vegetables.
The price of a healthy diet is…
In this post, I compared two different types of shopping baskets :
One basket with non-essential food purchases from the supermarket for one week (And I've been very conservative!!!). By non-essential, I mean things your body does not necessarily need for good health. I'm including bottled water as you can get water directly from the tap at a minimal fee.
The other, is a trolley full of a variety fruits and vegetables than would be more than enough for one person for one week.
Here’s what I found:
If someone were to spend less money on the non-essential food items in basket 1, it would be completely in their budget to eat healthy. In other words, eating healthy is a choice. Let me show you.
In Basket 1, I've included non-essential items that people usually consume in one week. I'm not saying these are acceptable amounts to eat, but these are my observations of current habits.
I'm sure many of you include several of these products in their shopping. You may go for a different brand or a slightly different product. But since I’ve done my best to include the cheapest options available, it’s more likely that any changes will make the final price higher than lower.
You may think, "That's a lot! I don't buy all this." But keep in mind that the shopping trolley is for illustrative purposes only. Most people won’t buy all of these items in one shopping trip, but instead purchase some of these as impulse buys throughout the week (ex: chocolates, biscuits, samoosas etc…).
For basket 2, I’ve done my best to include many seasonal items in the basket. Whenever possible I have chosen the products that contained less pesticides (MauriGap). And, if you were to go to local markets, these prices would be even lower!
You will notice that I’ve included canned tomatoes here. Why? Simply because there is nothing wrong with canned tomatoes. Since the price of fresh tomatoes is quite high at the moment, I decided to go with the canned options. However, I've made sure to choose canned tomatoes that contained no added salt.
Remember, eating healthy is all about making the best decision for your health with the budget you have. And if that means eating some canned vegetables, then that’s fine because even if it’s better to eat fresh foods, canned goods still offer good nutritional value whenever necessary.
So what’s my conclusion after all this? Well, that you can afford more vegetables and fruits by cutting down on a few non-essential food and drinks every week.
You don’t have to eliminate all of the items in basket 1. All it takes for a healthier diet is to cut down some of the non-essential foods from your shopping list and I guarantee that you’ll have more money to buy the things which are actually good for your health.
Now I already know what you’re going to say: “but, Anya there are no organic foods in basket 2!”. Yes indeed, which leads me to my next point...
Should you only buy organic because it’s the best for your health?
Is organic food good for you? Yes. Is organic food more expensive? Sometimes. Do you need to eat organic to be healthy? No.
I believe in organic food and hope that more people are able to have easy access to it in the future.
However, it’s a fact that organic foods and products sold in supermarkets are sometimes more expensive than their non-organic counterparts.
Does that mean that you have a good excuse not to include fruits and vegetables in your diet? Absolutely not!
Remember, eating healthy is about making the best choice possible within your budget and that it’s better to buy conventional vegetables - wash and soak them carefully - than not to buy them at all.
And even if you're doing your best to avoid pesticides by excluding vegetables from your plate, you may still be consuming pesticides every day. How?
Well, most junk foods (moolkoo, samoosas, "gateau cravate" etc…) and fast foods contain traces of pesticides because these foods are made from flour (wheat) which is not organic, and therefore contains (you guessed it) pesticides.
The same applies for the chicken or beef in your plate. These foods contain traces of pesticides as plants used to feed these animals (you guessed it again) contain pesticides.
What’s more, you can’t wash the chemicals away from your steak or bowl of molkoo… but you can remove some from your fruits and vegetables (check this link to find out how to remove pesticides from your fruits and vegetables).
So, there’s no excuse to avoid fresh fruits and vegetables in your diet even if you cannot afford organic fruits and vegetables every week.
That being said, if you really want to buy organic, it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg. For example, FarmBasket offers organic or semi-organic fruits and vegetables which align with supermarket prices of conventional products. SensiBio Farmers Market is also another option where you can buy from the farmers directly at a very decent price.
There you go, I hope that I have managed to make it clear that eating healthy is something that can be done within any budget. Remember, just make sure you add more fruits and vegetables to your diet and you’ll be on your way to a healthier and better you.
Notes to the reader:
- Water is essential for health, bottled water is not. Let's not even start on the environmental impact of single-use plastic.
- I'm not endorsing any brands here, I've only tried to reflect my current observations.
- I can understand that this particular basket may not apply to everyone, and some may have a more limited budget.
- I don't encourage vegetables packed in plastic either. These were only used for the comparison photo. I am a big fan of local markets and farmers markets and try to do all my shopping plastic-free ;)
- If you eat plenty of high fibre foods, aka veggies and fruits, you will feel full for longer and you won't be buying as much food and snacking all day. So more money left in your bank account :)
The photo on the right is my basket with vegetables and fruits from SensiBio Farmers Market.