The Cost of Unhealthy vs. Healthy Food

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A common reason (or excuse) people present for why they can’t eat healthy is the cost. They believe that eating healthy has to be expensive, and that it’s not worth the investment in their health.

The idea that eating healthy costs too much money, or more money than the Standard American Diet (SAD) is little more than a mental block, as people often try and present every excuse they can in order to put the blame anywhere but on themselves for why they aren’t healthy. Cost often comes up as one of these excuses.

Here’s the interesting thing…many people will spend $3.00-4.00 on a bag of chips, $4.00 on a box of cookies, and $3.00 for a bottle of pop (often multiple times a week) when these products do nothing but harm their bodies. No nutritional value, no health benefits, bringing them nothing but short-term pleasure and one step closer to the doctor’s office. In other words, they’re paying to get sick at some point down the road – like an investment they know will tank.

However, when it comes time to redirect that money and spend it on whole foods that nourish and fuel us, they choke, and suddenly the money becomes an issue.

Why? It’s likely because junk food has become such an addiction, that people don’t even think twice about spending money on it, as long as they get their “fix.” They don’t realize that if they trained their taste buds for just a week or two, they would get the same satisfaction from eating real, healthy food. The best part? They won’t be spending any more money on it!

Yes – it’s 100% possible to eat healthy on a budget, as long as you have a little know how and go about it the right way. Here are some tips to help keep your health & budget on track:

  • Buy what’s on sale and generally less expensive. Don’t plan out your weekly grocery trip based on a strict meal plan; be flexible in what you will eat and purchase what’s on sale or less expensive that week to stretch your money further. For example, bell peppers are pricey, so there is no reason you need to be buying them every week. Carrots on the other hand, are less expensive and often go on sale, so load up!
  • Buy what’s in season and local, which is typically cheaper and almost always has a higher nutrient content thanks to ideal growing conditions.
  • Don’t worry about buying organic. If you have the extra money and are willing to spend a little more, purchase the Dirty Dozen organic (the 12 produce items that are the most contaminated with pesticides, search EWG Dirty Dozen for more info)
  • Eat less meat. Meat is the pricier aspect of a healthy diet, and most North Americans eat far too big of portions of it, especially at dinner. Cutting back the amount of meat and increasing the amount of veggies you eat at dinner will greatly reduce your grocery bill and improve your health!
  • Shop in bulk for staples that don’t expire quickly and you know you will always use, such as dry starches (rice, oats, etc), olive oil, and nuts or nut butter. Costco and Bulk Barn are great options for bulk shopping!
  • Drink only water & cut back on alcohol. There is no need for pop, sports drinks, juice, etc. so why spend money on it? It may not seem like a lot of money, but everything adds up! Can’t give up juice? Add fruit to your water to flavor it and help ease the transition. Additionally, if you choose to drink alcohol on your days off, cutting back will save a great deal of money.
  • Avoid eating in restaurants as much as possible. A meal every once in a while is one thing, but relying on restaurants all the time (such as for drivers) is one of the fastest ways to kiss your money goodbye. Plan ahead, do a little meal prep, and save!
  • Speaking of meal prep, when you’re cooking dinner, get into the habit of making a little extra for lunches, and portion it out right away to avoid overeating at dinner.
  • Buy uncooked staples such as rice, quinoa, and oats, all of which are incredible affordable and add plenty of bulk and nutrition to our diets.
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Andrea Morley is the lead nutritionist and health coach at Healthy Trucker (a division of NAL Insurance), where she educates and motivates drivers and office staff across the industry to improve their health through simple, consistent changes in their diet and exercise routines. She has a bachelor’s degree in human nutrition from the University of Guelph, and is passionate about wellness and helping others reach their goals. She can be contacted at

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