Why Being Healthy Doesn’t Have to be Hard, Expensive or Painful

The idea of changing to a healthier lifestyle can be quite daunting. Immediately thoughts of expensive groceries, early morning workouts, and hours spent cooking meals come to mind. None of that sounds very appealing. So, we stick with our frozen burritos and Netflix and call it good. We hear it all the time: being healthy is hard, painful, and expensive. Hopefully reading this will help change your mind and help you realize that being healthy doesn't have to be difficult. Of course it will take time to adjust to new habits and behaviors, but remember to keep it simple!

An interesting study done at Ohio State University found that when faced with differing options, people automatically assumed that the more expensive items were healthier. And if a cheaper item had health claims on the label people were less likely to believe them (Roberts). In other words, we’ve convinced ourselves that higher prices equal healthy. So how do we live a healthy lifestyle without straining our wallets or our lives?

Take Advantage of What's Around You

Not everyone has the budget for a gym membership; that's okay! You can still exercise just as effectively. If you are within distance to mountains, go on a hike or a bike ride. If you live in a city, find a tall building and run up and down the stairs. Walk or bike to work. Find a park and run laps, bike, take a brisk walk. Use the playground for workout equipment. Workout at home. YouTube is a great resource for free at-home workouts. Also, start out slowly to reduce the risk of soreness and injury. As you build strength and stamina, gradually increase difficulty. If you don’t feel like you have the time to add exercise to your schedule, incorporate movement into your day in other ways: park at the back of the parking lot, take regular breaks at work to walk around, use the bathroom on the floor above you, walk your kids to school instead of driving. Be creative!

Shop and Eat Smart

Kelly Haws, PhD from Vanderbilt University studied how people think about the nutrition and healthy costs of different foods. She found that, “People generally believe that ‘healthy’ equals ‘expensive,’ but that’s often not the case. One part of the problem is that we may confuse ‘healthy’ with other labels that do increase costs, like ‘organic’ or ‘gluten-free’” (Griffin). Just because a product touts a fancy label doesn’t mean it’s healthier. For example, an organic apple has the same nutritional value as a non-organic apple. A bowl of oatmeal with fresh fruit has more nutrients and less sugar than a box of ‘healthy’ cereal. A big misconception when it comes to eating healthy is that you must buy these fancy foods from special health food stores. This is not the case. Rather than worrying about complicated recipes, keep it simple. Shop the perimeter of the grocery store. Stick with whole foods like fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, beans, plain yogurts, and whole grains.

You’re probably familiar with the feeling of lettuce or spinach gone slimy, an avocado that’s far squishier than an avocado should be, or a lemon gone fuzzy and black. Many people find that eating healthy is expensive because they end up throwing away loads of rotten and molding food. A family of four spends an average of $1,500 on food waste in the US every year (Farrell). Here are some tips and tricks to help keep your money out of the garbage:

·       If produce is starting to go bad, cut it up and freeze it. Use it later in smoothies and soups.

·       Bread - take out the slices you will need for a couple of days and freeze the rest. If you want a slice, pull it out and defrost it in the toaster.

·       When you get to the bottom of the jelly or jam jar, don’t throw it out! Add equal parts vinegar and olive oil, plus salt and pepper for taste. Shake it and you have a delicious berry vinaigrette for salads.

Other Ways to Decrease the Cost of Being Healthy

·       Opt for lentils and beans as affordable, long-lasting protein options.

·       Watch your portion sizes. Fill up on cheaper foods like whole grains and vegetables and reduce portion sizes of meat. Casseroles and soups are another great way to make a little bit of protein go a long way.

·       Eat fresh fruits or veggies as a snack instead of expensive granola bars, fruit snacks, chips, etc.

·       Plan your meals and grocery lists to avoid over-buying or wasting food later.

·       Buy produce in season. If something you want isn’t in season, buy it frozen.

Farrell, Mary HJ. “Spoiler Alert: You're Wasting 1 in 4 Bags of Groceries.” Consumer Reports, 21 July 2016, www.consumerreports.org.

Griffin, R Morgan. “Is Eating Healthy Food Really More Expensive?” WebMD, 7 Feb. 2017, www.webmd.com.

Roberts, Catherine. “Why Healthy Food Doesn't Have to Cost More.” Consumer Reports, 23 Mar. 2017, www.consumerreports.org.