One of the popular myths within health & fitness industry is that eating healthy is expensive.
It is specifically true if you buy exotic or out of season food, prepacked meals, or when you buy mainly ‘superfoods’, in which case you pay premium for marketing.
Labels such as organic, bio, and nice packaging also comes at premium price.
When I was working in coffee industry as a sales person, I learned not to look at the packaging. Or do. Some of the cheapest looking coffee packaging contained premium coffee, while popular, premium packaging usually means the company has to cut costs somewhere else. In this case cutting the quality of the product itself. This is especially the case if pricing of such product is competitive.
On the other hand if you buy food at farmer’s market, you can easily get premium organic produce for fraction of the price. There are plenty of affordable foods you can purchase that are healthy and easy to add to your diet.
As long as you stick with traditional produce, you get healthy and affordable food.
Here are some foods that are healthy & cheap:
- Grains: whole wheat, barley, oats, buckwheat, millet, spelt, rye, pasta
- Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, even canned legumes
- Vegetables: kale, broccoli, spinach, chinese cabbage, red/yellow cabbage, sweet peas, carrot
- Tubers: different varieties of potatoes
- Dairy: cottage cheese, milk
- Frozen goods: sweet peas, corn, green beans, vegetable mixes, frozen kale, frozen spinach cubes, fish
- portobello mushrooms
Organic vs. Conventional
What about conventionally grown produce? Aren’t you risking your health consuming it?
It depends where the produce comes from and how it was treated.
For example foods on the dirty dozen* list are sprayed heavily and you should avoid buying those, unless organically produced.
The list from 2019 includes spinach, strawberies, kale, nectarines, apples, grapes, peaches, cherries, pears, potatoes, celery, tomatoes.
Buying organic oranges or conventionally grown does not make much difference. Even if they are sprayed with pesticides and herbicides, most of it is on the peel, which you don’t consume.
But organic food contains much more minerals and vitamins and tastes much better, doesn’t it?
There have been studies done comparing organic and conventional produce. They compared their nutritional value, price and even tested for taste differences. They found no significant differences in their nutritional value and no difference in taste.
While I propose eating organic produce I also pay attention to price like many of you. The easy way out is to buy local, in season produce from your farmers.
What conventionally produced food is safe to eat?
Similarly to the dirty dozen, there is also a list of clean fifteen* foods. It includes avocados, sweet corn, pineapple, frozen sweet peas , onion, papayas, kiwi, asparagus, eggplants, cabbages, cauliflower, broccoli, mushrooms, cantaloupe and honeydew melon.
I’d also include legumes and grains* (there are regions where those are sprayed heavily like some states of the USA), potatoes, fruit with thick skin, dairy*, small fish and algae.
* “The guide is based on results of more than 40,900 samples of produce tested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration.”, therefore it does not reflect European or Australian produce and farming practices.
Tips & Tricks
TIP #1: Cook at home
TIP #2: Smart buying
We’re cooking like our great-grandparents did. They lived through the Depression, wars, famines, and other challenges… what were their secrets for feeding a family in uncertain and difficult times? (Hint: Potatoes, dried beans, grains, root vegetables…) – Coalition of Health and Fitness Leaders