Is eating healthier really that more expensive?

Published 6:30 pm Saturday, March 19, 2011

With National Nutrition Month being highlighted in March, one of the most common complaints I hear against healthy eating is that it is more expensive.

But is this really the case? Let’s take a look.

The top causes of death in the United States are:

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1. Heart disease

2. Cancer

3. Stroke

4. Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

5. Accidents

6. Diabetes

What are the leading risk factors for four out of the top six causes of death — heart disease, cancer, stroke and diabetes? The answer: Unhealthy eating and inactivity (which leads to overweight/obesity). According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, unhealthy eating and inactivity are the leading causes of death in the United States, resulting in 310,000 to 580,000 deaths per year. This death rate is 13 times more than those killed by guns and 20 times more than those killed by drug use. Tobacco kills 260,000 to 470,000 people per year.

These diseases are expensive when you factor in medication costs, medical appointments and hospital stays, lost productivity and lost lives. In fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, $71 billion per year could be saved if Americans lived healthier lifestyles. When you count the costs of a healthy diet, don’t forget to also count the cost of being overweight or unhealthy. What you eat and how you move matters now and in the future. After all, what price can you put on your health?

So what are the foods that are healthy on both the wallet and the waistline? And how can you get the most nutritional bang for your buck? Knowing that most of our food budget goes towards meat/seafood, convenience items and eating out, there are some foods that won’t cost you a lot but will give you a lot in return. Here are just a few of my top picks:

1. Oatmeal (in the canister): A whole grain with 4 grams of fiber per 1/2 cup dry oats.

2. Canned/Dry Beans: Packed with protein and loaded with fiber, an economical meat stretcher. For canned beans, be sure to “DRD:” drain — rinse — drain to reduce sodium.

3. Frozen Vegetables (without sauces): Frozen at their peak ripeness which means peak nutrition!

4. Natural Peanut Butter: Excellent source of protein and heart-healthy fat.

5. Eggs

6. Apples, Bananas and Oranges: Think seasonal fruit

7. Sweet Potatoes

8. Canned Seafood

9. Yogurt: Calcium- and protein-rich. Buy the 32-ounce size and add to your fruit or cereal.

10. Canned Tomatoes