“HEALTHY EATING IS TOO EXPENSIVE”
I’ve been there.
I, too, use to believe I had to spend X amount of dollars a month on “healthy food”.
After years of research (and periods of mandatory experimentation), however, I found that this health game has much more to it than what we put in our body.
Variables such as “how much we sleep” and “our outlook on life” should be improved long before we even think about purchasing organic blueberries or the finest cut of meat money can be. And even then, there is not a clear cut answer to whether purchasing these foods is worth it.
Like you can thrive without a gym, you can eat healthy on your own terms. For the past four years, I have done so with a $80-100/mo budget. In some instances, I even managed to drop it down to $50 (or under $2 a day).
Now, I am not a couponer. Nor am I just loading up on ramen noodles. I buy what I want to eat and here’s how you can too.
STEP 1: LEARN HOW TO COOK
To be honest, I could not survive on a fast food diet. It’s just too expensive. Consuming all my meals at McDonalds would, at the minimum, triple my budget.
Cereals and packaged goodies? Yep, those are out of my price range as well.
If you really are broke, you cannot afford to “eat like shit”. There is just no room for it. Instead, you must 1) figure out what foods are the cheapest in bulk (and are actually good for you) and 2) learn how to cook them so they taste good (and you actually like them).
Here’s my breakdown (in order of overall consumption):
Lentils = nutrition powerhouse
- Green lentils*
- White rice*
- Coconut oil
- Coffee (plus cream and stevia)
- Quick oats*
- Onions, garlic, and ginger*
- Reverse osmosis water*
- Magnesium citrate
* less than a dollar a pound
+ The top 3 foods meet my requirements for protein, fiber, carbs, and fats (this is important).
+ High carbs because: I am active and have muscle. The less you do/have of these two, the less you can probably get away with this. When it comes to cheap food, it pays to be active.
+ No fruit because: I am very sensitive to citrus (which is telling me something).
+ No meat because: Unless you spend a lot $$, you are getting crap (loaded with hormones, antibiotics, and grain). Best to stay away most of the time if you cannot afford the “grass fed, free range” variety.
STEP #2: LEARN HOW TO EAT
Cooking is a luxury and not everyone has the time/energy for it.
Thankfully, getting health from food has just as much to do with how we eat it vs. what we eat. Reality is, you are going to run into “bad foods” and situations that are less than optimal.
Here’s some ways to get the most out of those times:
- Option 1: Fasting (for chaos and celebrations)
So you know you are going to overindulge at tonight’s corporate dinner? Prepare your digestive system, create a caloric deficit, and fast leading up to it. Or maybe you need to resist those 3 boxes of donuts that your co-worker just bought in this morning at work? Coffee fast until lunch. Now it’s not as easy telling someone to fast who has never done it (you’ll need experience here), so I recommend you play around with it a little bit so you’re ready for when that time comes.
- Option 2: Low carb (for traveling)
So you’re on the road today for 8 hours? The gas stations won’t have many options. It will generally come down to processed high-carb goodies (like burritos, candies, and chips) vs. less processed low-carb ones (like cheese sticks, jerky, eggs, and nuts). This latter group should keep your blood sugar (aka mood) more balanced, which will in turn keep hunger in check.
- Option 3: High carb (traveling again)
I initially left this off because I am not a fruit fan but if you are, traveling should be a breeze. Simply load up on bananas, apples, and oranges.
- Option 4: Prepare in general (for the day-to-day energy swings)
So you just worked 12 hours and don’t feel like doing more work over a stove? I don’t blame ya. Rather then wait until you’re at your lowest point (and vulnerable to any kind of naughty food), however, I challenge you to prepare when you are at highest (before work or on your day off). At this time, shop for and cook/prepare the food that you will
want to have to eat once your willpower goes out the window.
Note: If you have to eat out, my vote is for Subway. Yes, it’s “carby”, but that’s your incentive to move.
STEP #3: LEARN WHAT HEALTH IS
So how do we know if this food is making us healthier or not?
Short answer: Look to your bowel movements.
If you are constipated, have diarrhea, and/or way behind on your poop schedule – these are all signs that something is not quite right. Meaning, your body is overly stressed and it’s response has left less resources available for digestion.
Now why are we stressed? It could be the food, it could be the sleep, and it could be even your thoughts. Your job is to play around with the variables to find out what is “off”. Failure here prevents the garbage (aka feces) from being taken out on time. Just like a real garbage, some bad things can happen when this occurs (like attracting pests called parasites).
Unfortunately, this is not as easy as “just eat healthy food”. If you have an allergy or sensitivity, a food that is organic, “natural”, or has an awesome nutritional profile will not make any difference. You have to go with your gut on this one (literally).
- Choose unprocessed foods
- Add one at a time (so you can see its effects)
- Pay attention to your poops
On this last one: If your insides are dieing, this is will you’ll see it first.
Eating is only like 1/7 of this health game.
There is little reason to spend thousands on organic food if we are skimping on sleep and exercise. Along the same token, we can spend considerably less if we acing other areas of the test (like I do).
In the end, be judicious with your time, money, and energy. They are all the same thing, more-or-less.