When I wrote my book on eating healthily, I interviewed a number of people to find out what the most common barriers to eating healthily were. Many of my interviewees said the same thing: “Healthy food is so expensive!”
Now you can, if you choose, spend an enormous amount of money on healthy food. But you don’t have to.
And I’m not going to make the point about how cooking from scratch is so much cheaper and healthier than ready meals, processed snacks and takeaways. I’m sure you know that. But one of the other barriers my interviewees mentioned was lack of time. Not everyone can find the time to cook from scratch, nor cook batches of meals to freeze (even if it is Lean in 15).
Instead, what I want to discuss are the things we splash out on simply because we think they are healthy: the latest superfoods, clean eating snacks, smoothies, juices and obscure ingredients.
Take smoothies. There was a time when if you wanted a drink when you were out and about, you bought a can of something. Now, a can of diet coke or a bottle of fizzy water is usually under £1.50, even in Central London. But a smoothie? You can’t get many smoothies, fresh juices or cartons of coconut water for that price. Now it’s true that a smoothie might contain more nutrients than a can of coke, but in terms of sugar? A 250ml Innocent pomegranate smoothie has 34g of sugar and 154 calories. A 330ml can of full sugar Coke has 35g of sugar and 139 calories. So if you’re forking out the extra money because you think a smoothie or juice is better for you, think again. You’re simply paying more for the same old sugar hit. Better to carry a bottle of water or buy a can of fizzy water or diet drink, and if you want some fibre or one of your five a day, eat an apple.
Turning to superfoods, do you splash out on goji berries, kale, chia seeds or sweet potatoes because you believe them to be the most nutritious option? Would you be surprised to know that these foods only become popular because of expensive marketing campaigns? Take a look at this article if you want to read more – https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/oct/02/quinoa-chia-seeds-kale-superfoods-marketing.
In fact, the nutrients you can get from these admittedly nutritious foods can be found in lots of other cheaper, more familiar foods. If you eat oily fish you don’t need to buy chia seeds to sprinkle on anything, and if you like other green vegetables there’s no need to buy kale. If you stick to simply eating whatever fruit and vegetables you like, you don’t need to pay through the nose for specific heavily-promoted ones.
And “clean eating” brands? Let’s say you fancy an energy fix mid-afternoon – a Deliciously Ella coconut and oat energy ball sounds ever so virtuous doesn’t it? It’s free from gluten, dairy and refined sugar. It ticks the vegan box. But a 40g ball is 146 calories and has 16g of sugar. Unrefined sugar is still sugar. These energy balls are about £1.79 and are gone in about 4 bites. A handful of nuts and a few berries would cost less, have less sugar, have more good fats and more fibre.
Although I completely believe in eating for good health I also believe that healthy eating is a very, very profitable industry, exploiting our belief that if we can just eat the right things we’ll feel and look better. Don’t fall for it!
And finally, if you’re trying to eat healthily in order to lose weight, don’t buy into the great big commercial con that if you just buy the right (overpriced) foods/supplements/shakes the weight will fall off. Weight loss is not about what you eat, it’s about how much you eat. And there you have the most cost effective way of losing weight – eat less. It will actually save you money. In a restaurant, share desserts and side dishes instead of having one each. Don’t buy crisps with your lunchtime sandwich, buy a smaller sized latte on your way into work (if you need to have one at all) and don’t snack on the go when you’re not really concentrating on the snack anyway. Please, please, please don’t buy weight loss shakes. They only work because you’re taking in less calories. You can do that without shakes! Eating less costs nothing, and what you save can go towards a nice new dress in a smaller size ☺.
Joanne is a health and weight loss coach, specialising in helping people with a history of failed diets and fitness regimes to change their relationship with food and exercise so that they lose the weight they want to lose and improve the way they feel about themselves for good. http://www.whatsyourexcuse.co.uk/for-not-eating-healthily/