How can it be said that “healthy food” is more expensive than junk food? It’s enough to make anyone just give up trying to do the healthy eating thing.
Whilst I don’t believe everything I read, I would have expected more from Science Daily – which I subscribe to. The articles here are summaries of research, but there is always so much to take into account. Is the research good – is it impartial or are the researchers being paid to show a specific theory? Has it been correctly carried out – was the sample big enough and were all the variables accounted for? There’s more. When you read a summary, it is common for the author to add their own slant or try to interpret findings. All this (and more) can make reading research findings and the reports of research findings, a minefield of misinformation!
I’m not saying I am an expert here either. I have forty-plus years in health and nutrition and the experience I have gained has made me careful in what I say. However, if it makes good sense to me then I will use it for sharing and in my blogs.
There is SO much that could go wrong with a subject this big. I’ll itemise a few of the problems:
1) Whose “healthy food” idea has been used? The chances are it has been measured against government guidelines for a healthy diet. To my mind, this is not the healthiest diet. My recommendations are here.
2) “Healthy foods in 2012 are three times more expensive per calorie than less healthy foods.” This assumes that calories count – which, in the main, they don’t! It also indicates that the energy we obtain from food is the most important and whilst it is important, micronutrients are equally important. If you just want energy, you could just get it from sugar. If you want nutrition, you should eat whole foods – eggs, vegetables, meat etc.
3) In order that “healthy” and “unhealthy” foods can be compared, these must have been packaged and not fresh. Food that isn’t packaged is usually healthier anyway. You don’t get ready meals unpackaged, but you can get a low-fat lasagne (“healthy”) and a regular lasagne (“unhealthy”). The ingredients list has been used to determine “healthy” or “unhealthy” and of course, government guidelines are used to decide..
4) The article doesn’t say, but foods will almost certainly have come from supermarkets. Bet they didn’t buy from farmer’s markets!
5) “The finding shows that there could well be merit in public health bodies monitoring food prices in relation to nutrient content..” The content is not the same as its nutrition. Content means that the nutrients may be present but it does not mean that they are bio-available to us. In other words, the nutrients may be in a form that is either difficult for us to absorb or even impossible. Nutrition takes account of these differences. For example, adding vitamins to food looks good, but they are often in a form that we have trouble metabolising. Also, when vegetables are incorporated, especially legumes such as peas and beans, they can interfere with how we absorb minerals as well as contain nutrients we may not be able to use!
I have to refer to my previous blog. This is all about what people are prepared to do – or not do – in the kitchen. If we can cook, we can produce nutritious food which is less expensive. Due to advertising, we believe that we are “worth it” and “deserve” the things that are perceived as more expensive and better. We think that meat means steak and other muscle meats. We think that fish means salmon and that fruit means pineapples and mangoes. Advertising has much to do with what we believe and we have lost sight completely of what is in season, now that most foods are available all the year round.
Here is another article regarding a woman who wants a cash incentive from the government to lose weight because she “can only afford junk food”.
These women just need cookery skills. Of course, motivation to be healthy would help. Blaming everything and everyone else for one’s own situation is misguided since the only person who can make a difference to your life, is you. Sadly, many people would buy their daily latte for £3, but wouldn’t buy organic eggs for £2. Education is needed.
A few tips for eating well on a budget:
- Learn how to make a stew or soup from cheap cuts of meat. Lots of recipes on the net. Get started with the basis for nourishing soups here - broth.
- Learn how to make real porridge instead of “quick” oat cereals or cold cereals. These are expensive.
- Buy seasonal vegetables and a little fruit (not essential to health but nice to include as a treat).
- Grow something! Everyone has room for something.
- Use eggs (even organic are cheap) and cheese for main meals. Great nutrition on a budget! No health problems associated with eggs now, so just go for it!
- Learn how to use lentils and beans. Treated properly, they are great nutrition.
- Shop around. It is just not the case that supermarkets are the cheapest – and they often don’t even sell the cheaper cuts of meat. Try markets and farm shops.
- More advice here in my six part blog on healthy eating during a recession.
What price would you put on your health? Frankly, if you don’t have good health, you have nothing. You may not be able to work so outgoings will be a problem, your relationships will suffer and it could be physically, very uncomfortable for you. Chronic poor health leads to early death but the whole situation is up to you. Eat nutritious food and good health becomes the norm.
Nourishing November on a Budget is coming. Please join in! Follow me on Twitter and my Facebook page for more information.