If you’re a health-conscious person, the daily menu items might consist of tofu, wheat grass, fresh fruits and veggies, skinless chicken breasts, a nice cut of beef filet, and many other healthy options.
Take a look at these items in the grocery store, though. You will find that food lower in calories and lower in fats and sugars are actually more expensive. Why? It all has to do with marketing and the money to be made by playing to health conscious people.
For poorer, budget-driven people, healthy food is harder to purchase. Even using a 1:1 scenario of a freezer dinner, a person willing to spend $5 can enjoy one of those lean-and-fit meals, containing fresh veggies and lean protein in a savory sauce. The budget shopper can purchase 5 x $1 processed nugget meals that goes a long way to feeding their entire family on the cheap.
Cheaper foods are the unhealthy foods
Harsh critics of obese and unhealthy people may simply shout out that people need to shop smarter, but that’s easier said than done when you only have $100 to work with and a large family to feed. It doesn’t seem logical, but greasy potato chips and snack bars costs less than any type of ready-made salad mix and pork loin.
Because of the need to stretch money in tough economic times, people buy more processed, high calorie foods than whole or organic foods, and thus they’re ingesting more saturated fats, more carbohydrates, and fewer of the healthy fats and nutrients that they should. Processed offer us the best of both worlds: cheap and tasty.
Even though organic food or good old fruits and vegetables are better for you, they cost four times the amount. Healthy meals, unless you’re willing to spend a lot more money, usually come per the ingredient and not ready-made (unless we’re speaking about the $5 meal example).
Why do we love cheap foods so much?
As far as taste is concerned, our bodies are programmed to be omnivores with certain “flavors” standing out to our taste buds (salty, sweet, spicy, savory), with the nose—smell—taking care of the rest. So, again, while it might be easy to tell a kid to enjoy a salad, it’s harder to actually make kids eat their veggies and bean-paste rice cake dinner!
Cheap food give us what the body wants: salty, fatty foods. Thousands of years of starvation and famine, our bodies crave for fat to store. Today, we don’t need that and thus must condition our bodies to eat healthier. It takes time, but our body is so well attuned to itself that it knows to eat foods with vitamins and minerals, mainly fruits and vegetables, when offered.
If you are on a tight budget, do your best to buy fruits and vegetables in season, they will be cheapest and also the most nutritious. Substitute simple cereals for potato chips and soda for water. They’re small steps but can put your whole family in the right direction of eating better.