Roaming the aisles of the grocery store on a Sunday afternoon, I am bombarded by bright signs and prominent stickers flaunting the words “organic” and “all natural”. I pick up the casual blue box of ziti just as I have done a million times before, only to hook my eyes on a bright orange box promoting a pasta made from chickpeas. Always striving to eat healthier I scan the box with interest until my gaze finally lands on the price tag of $2.99 and quickly I am turned off. In relation to my $1.00 everyday pasta, compensating three times the price seemed outrageous. Why is it that healthy eating is always so much more expensive?
In reality, it’s not. The widespread belief that healthier food is associated with higher prices is an idea brought to consumers through unforgiving labels and misleading articles of eating healthier on a budget. Trends of buying only organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, and all natural foods are primarily misconceptions in average shoppers without limiting health conditions. “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,”’ stated Kelly Haws, PhD and associate professor at Vanderbilt University. And while these products are often higher in price, healthier eating still exists for budget conscious consumers.
An interesting study published in the Washington Post between two advertised chicken wraps with different prices concluded that consumers would choose the pricier option on the belief that it was healthier than its counterpart. People chose the “Roasted Chicken Wrap” priced at $8.95 over the “Chicken Balsamic Wrap” at $6.95 with the notion it was healthier. Likewise, when the price was switched, the choices were as well.
Thus, the idea that healthier eating is a luxury for only the rich man is misleading and inaccurate. The “lay theory” of psychology is the term for a non professionals beliefs of how the world works. The notion that unhealthy foods taste better and healthy foods are more expensive are both lay theories of consumers whether this is objectively true. These theories affect how consumers purchase and view foods. Although superfoods that claim to burn fat and fight illness, such as goji berries and chia seeds, may carry high price tags, basic nutritious apples and carrots are as cheap as chips. An individual with no dietary limitations is not confined to follow fads that are not substantial to their budget and to their lifestyle.
Part of the problem is that many consumers associate eating healthy with high priced health foods stores such as Whole Foods which offers pretty displays and exotic selections. For the average Joe, it is still possible to eat healthy from any grocery store. The key is to eat whole, unprocessed foods that define a basic healthy eating habit without breaking the bank.
On one hand, studies show that it costs $1.50 more to eat the healthiest diet in relation to a highly processed, cheap diet. Put into perspective, this amount is less than a Starbucks coffee or a carton of milk. The extra dollar a day, additionally, does not compare to the price of medical bills processed diets lead to in the future. The likelihood of a diagnosis of Type II Diabetes, a serious chronic disease, is one in nine. Globally, obesity has tripled since 1975 and today one third of adults are overweight which can lead to increased blood pressure, strokes, high cholesterol, and heart disease amongst other health problems. Nevertheless, the risks of health outweigh paying the miniscule price of a healthy diet.
So, for those of you who walk around the grocery store with the belief that the only option is a cheap, processed diet, it’s not.
There is no need to by bizarre, orange, plant-based pastas and shop at the finest markets within 20 miles. Instead, it is crucial to change your perception of what constitutes as healthy in today’s society. It is okay to buy inorganic produce that is still concentrated with valuable vitamins, minerals, and fiber which are crucial to health. Even buying frozen produce which is often cheaper than fresh still hold the same amount of nutrients and are frozen right after they are harvested.
By focusing on purchasing whole, unprocessed foods and whole grains, avoiding wild terms that draw up prices, the receipt at the cash register should be a positive surprise.
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