Yes, healthy food is more expensive ... in the short term, that is.
Between shows like Man vs. Food and sites like People of Walmart, it’s no shock that overweight Americans will soon become the laughingstock of the London Olympics. British illustrator Toby Leigh — aka Tobatron — has designed souvenir bags donning the phrase "I’ve rented my flat to a fat American family." His goal? To "inject some reality into the proceedings."
And, the worst part? We certainly deserve it.
In 2008, Americans spent $147 billion to treat a condition that almost always results from just plain old, bad lifestyle choices. 78 million adults in the United States are obese. In the US, unhealthy weight gain leads to more than 300,000 deaths each year. In the name of financial savings, we stubbornly reject the latest nutritional information in favor of flashy marketing gimmicks — companies that set out to pump our children full of cheap, empty calories. Quality foods build quality bodies, while rainbow-colored cereals and sports drinks fatten us up and make us prone to disease.
Here are three cost-efficient ways to reverse the international stereotype of the "United States of Chubbiness."
You buy: Gatorade 12-pack, once a week ($6).
Initial cost: $6
Annual cost: $312
Impact: A single 12-oz. bottle contains 22g of sugar. According to research by the Cleveland Clinic, the recommended daily intakes of sugar for men, women, and children should not exceed 37.5, 25 or 6 grams per day, respectively. After one Gatorade, your child has already consumed nearly four times the total amount of sugar each meal, beverage and snack throughout the day should provide. The excess sugars get stored as fat, increasing the risk of obesity, diabetes, and even heart disease. Sugar also fuels the development of pre-cancer cells and contributes to tooth decay.
What should you do instead? Get a pitcher with built-in water filter ($19), one-year supply of replacement filters ($30), strawberries ($3-5) and lemons ($1 or less) for flavor.
Initial cost: $54
Annual Cost: $309
The difference? For nearly the same price, you and your family could replace the sugar-doused sports drink with toxin-free, antioxidant-rich flavored water. Simply let water work through the filter, pour it into a glass and then add the fruit and ice. Both of the aforementioned fruits are rich in vitamin C, which helps fight off cancer-causing free radicals and can even help maintain healthy skin. The natural sweet-and-sour flavoring will quench your thirst and your sweet tooth.
You buy: Microwaveable lunch (Thai-Style Noodles with Chicken) to take to work ($6)
Price per meal: $6
Annual cost: $1,512
Impact: Hopefully your microwave oven isn’t a better cook than you are. Most times, microwaving your frozen meal leaves one side of your food cold and the other side piping hot. Read the label. You’ll find what many would have you believe is healthy nutrition information. By containing a mere 300 calories, this dish seems to be a quality low-fat choice. However, the high percentage of calories from carbohydrates slows your metabolism and makes you more likely to store fat. Not to mention, the meal is also drenched in sodium.
Instead, you should buy: Ingredients for some super easy chicken stir fry (1 lb. organic chicken breast ($8.39), 1 tbsp. of coconut oil ($10.50), half-cup of brown rice ($6), fresh squash and zucchini ($6), and a half tbsp. of ginger ($5) — by the way, all prices reflect multiple servings.
Price per meal: $6.61
Annual cost: $1,603
The difference: It’s true. Eating organic is more expensive — $1.74 a week more to be exact. By reducing your sodium intake, you reduce your risk of stroke and heart disease, as well as help maintain a healthy blood pressure. Also, this meal plan — though high in protein—closely follows the low glycemic index diet known to balance your blood sugar, burn more calories at rest and help you maintain a healthy weight. Pre-cook the meal on Sunday evening so you can enjoy multiple servings with little cook time. Search your car and couch cushions for that extra $1.74. It’ll be worth the effort to reduce your risk of long-term, serious illness.1
You buy: Drive-thru Sausage Biscuit because you’re running late ($1)
Initial cost: $1
Annual cost: $252
Impact: The dollar-menu appeal of items like a McDonald’s sausage biscuit revolve wholly around convenience. You know they aren’t good for you, but they cost one measly dollar, they cook and clean up for you and you don’t even have to get out of your car. The problem is, as always, in the nutrition facts. A single sausage biscuit contains 430 calories, 27 grams of fat, 34 grams of carbs, 11 grams of protein and 1,080 mg of sodium. Nothing about this heart-stopping breakfast option is smart, safe, or even time-efficient.
You should buy: A dozen free-range eggs ($5)
Initial cost: $5
Annual cost: $210
The difference: Eggs are a wonderful source of protein (8-11 grams per egg) , which can give you the energy you need to get a jump on your day. They aren’t laden with snooze-inducing carbs or harmful sodium, and they can be cooked in a number of ways, so you don’t tire of them as easily. The best part? You can scramble a pair of tasty eggs in less than five minutes — or about the exact same amount of time it takes to work your way through a crowded McDonald’s drive-thru line. Fast food isn’t all that fast, and it isn’t remotely healthy. Take it easy on your snooze button tomorrow morning. That extra three minutes could save your heart and blood vessels.
American athletes will surely find their place on the medal stand at the Olympics this year, but the rest of the citizenry needs to take pride in changing the international perception of the American public. This starts with our country’s atrocious nutritional habits that are dictated by convenience and laziness. You can make powerful changes without breaking the bank.