It seems like everyone is on some type of diet these days. Many of these diets are fad diets meaning they are in vogue for only a short time. Most fad diets greatly restrict or eliminate a particular food group entirely (eg. Palo diet, low carb diet). There are several problems with these types of diets. Any diet of this type is destined for failure especially those that don't allow certain foods because folks tend to go back to eating what they are used to. One of the biggest problems is, if followed for any length of time there is a risk of becoming deficient in one or more essential nutrients that in turn can cause health problems. In some cases, the damage done may not be reversible. The biggest problem with a lot of these diets is the focus is on the food rather than a lifestyle change. As a result the diet really is only effective for a very short time before the person dieting gets bored or doesn't get the results they want so they move onto another fad diet or give up on dieting. Finally, a lot of fat diets are expensive. Many encourage you to buy special foods as a substitute for your regular snacks (eg. Atkins products) or meals (eg. Weight Watchers entrées). Essentially what they are doing is diverting you away from regular processed foods to their higher priced processed foods. The bottom line is a diet based on processed foods is not only expensive, it is not good for you.
A few days ago, one of my friends on Facebook shared a graphic that said "No I'm not dieting, I'm eating healthy.". Obviously this was a result of someone commenting on her food choice and having been on that side of the coin on many occasions, I can so relate. Why anyone feels the need to comment on my food choice is beyond me. Seriously, I get so many comments when eating out over always ordering a salad of some kind yet the folks making the comments don't realize that my choice for including a salad with my meal has nothing to do with dieting. I'm not and never have been a dieter nor am I a calorie counter but I am aware of the nutritional value of the foods I enjoy. I eat what I want and that tends to be healthier foods. Eating healthy does not have to break the budget and in most cases it is less expensive than not eating healthy or following a fad diet. Here are some of our healthy food choices that are inexpensive while helping maintain a healthy weight:
- beverages - By far many beverages (eg. sodas) are filled with empty calories, HFCS, and additives (eg. artificial colours, flavours, preservatives) and they are expensive. What many don't realize is that any beverage sold in a can has a low level of mold that can cause allergic reactions and asthma flares. An average 355 ml (12 oz) can of soda has 120 calories and costs 75¢ or more. My drink of choice is filtered water (0 calories, 0 cost) in reusable water bottles, not purchased bottled water. I often add fresh squeezed lemon juice which adds flavor while adding Vitamin C and helping the body detoxify. The juice of half a lemon costs about 10¢. If I want a fizzy drink it is either club soda or Perrier neither of which have the problems of soda although the cost is about the same. Infused water using fresh herbs and fruits is another way to get flavour and vitamins at a lower cost than soda. Tea, coffee and herbal teas are all 0 calorie unless a sweetener or cream is added. I substitute milkshakes that are high in calories, sugars, fat and in my case lactose that my body doesn't like with homemade fruit smoothies. There are a number of energy drinks on the market. I use the juicer to make homemade energy drinks using fresh fruits and vegetables at a fraction of the cost of store bought. We seldom drink milk as it is not a healthy choice for either of us, which is a considerable savings.
- snacks - Mass produced snacks can really add up in terms of calories, sugar, salt and fat even those snacks marketed as diet snacks. The biggest problem with snacks is they are often consumed even though you aren't really hungry. I'm not much of a snack person. My healthy snack choices include: nuts, carrots, cucumber, broccoli, cheese, fruit and organic dark chocolate. My husband likes saltier snacks so instead of store bought potato chips, I make kale chips, popcorn, and baked potato chips. He also enjoys sunflower seeds and nuts.
- produce - We choose locally grown, in season, usually organic produce wherever possible and directly from the grower. We also grow whatever we can seasonally and year round. This is less expensive than store bought, fresher and healthier because they are pesticide-free. Herbs take no more time or effort to grow on a windowsill than a non-edible houseplant. Sprouts, if you can find them in the store will cost about $2 for a small container. I sprout beans and seeds at home. The amount that will fill a 500 ml container when ready to use cost about 2¢ a considerable savings over store bought.
- miscellaneous - We choose to cook mainly from scratch and do extensive home food preservation to avoid food additives, excess salts, excess sugar, HFCS and preservatives, all of which can cause health problems. This lifestyle choice saves us a considerable amount of money. We use unbleached flour, whole grain flours, ancient grain flours (eg. spelt, kamut), sea salt (additive free), organic sugar, local honey, and etc., all of which are the same price or slightly higher as well as being healthier than their regular counterparts. Homemade versions of mass produced snacks, convenience foods, boxed foods, and baked goods are healthier and less expensive. Our meats for the most part are organic, free range, grass fed and hormone free yet are less expensive per kilogram than farm factory raised meats. We use portion control for meats, especially red meat which reduces the cost plus less is healthier. We eat at least one meat free dinner a week which is also healthier and saves money.