Healthy eating on a budget


Choosing to eat a nutritious diet is not merely a decision about health. For some, money often has an impact.

“Eating healthy is expensive,” said Carmichael Caldwell, a senior economics student from Greenville, S.C. “It’s more convenient to eat fast food because it doesn’t take long to prepare, and it’s typically cheap.”

Although fast foods appeal to some students because of the low costs, they prove to be detrimental to long-term health and longevity.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Healthy Eating Index showed that the average American scored 58 out of 100 points. An average score ranges between 51 and 80. Poor eating habits are among the top reasons for low scores.

After learning that her body mass index classified her as overweight, Adrianne Smiley, a senior occupational therapy student from Lithonia, Ga., decided eating healthy was a necessity. Choosing to make healthier eating decisions, Smiley has lost 60 pounds in 11 months.

“I chose to start eating healthier because I want to lead a comfortable and happy lifestyle,” she said. “To save money, I simply eat smaller portions when eating healthier.”

Patrick O’Donahouge, a personal chef in Jacksonville, said a person is less likely to be hungry after eating a small meal of nutritional value than a larger meal with none.

“A small portion of broccoli and cauliflower is more filling that a hamburger and French fries,” O’Donahouge said.

According to Caldwell, proper planning is the first step to saving money. He recommends taking inventory of foods you already have before heading to the grocery store. And preparing a detailed list of necessary food items prior to grocery shopping is helpful when trying to eat healthy on a budget.

“If I make a grocery list and stick to it, I can usually save about $30,” Caldwell said. “The challenge is not throwing random stuff in the cart at the grocery store.”

The USDA recommends buying nutritious foods in large quantities. Buying in bulk is almost always cheaper than buying small portions. Most grocery stores offer large family size packs of chicken, seafood and vegetables.

Purchasing foods in the right season at the right places also helps cut down on costs. But shopping for healthy food does not have to be limited to supermarkets and grocery stores. Many seasonal discounts are available at farmer’s markets and ethnic food stores.

Certain foods remain relatively cheap year-round. Tuna, eggs and chicken are among the cheapest proteins, while tomatoes, carrots and corn are the least expensive vegetables.

Many people feel eating healthy is a costly decision, but Smiley has a different view.

“There are ways to save money if people take the time to research and plan,” she said.

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