A recent study showed that Americans eat fast food on an average of twice a week. The study showed that adults are too busy, tired, or disorganized to plan and eat healthy, home-cooked meals. More than half of these adults were struggling with weight and health issues.
The cost of eating out doesn't just include the price of food (about $1200/year per person in the US).
With an increase in unhealthy food choices, the US is seeing an increase in the diagnoses of type 2 diabetes, arthritis, inflammation, and high blood pressure, and other serious lifestyle-related illnesses. The cost of those prescription and over the counter drugs tallies into the millions each year. Good news, though, the prices for fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats are decreasing.
If you're tired of the drive-through lifestyle, here are some simple tips to prepare healthier foods, visit fewer restaurants, save time, money and potentially decrease your need for expensive and dangerous medications.
What Can Be Done?
Cooking and eating at home is budget friendly, convenient and healthier than eating out. Cooking your own food gives you control over what’s in it, which is perfect if you’re a picky eater or have one in the family.
Embrace simple meals
Convenience foods normally cost more, so cut those out and have exploring the world of simple meals made from fresh real food. These can include roasted chicken with sweet potato and a salad, Baked spaghetti squash tossed with chopped tomatoes and fresh basil, or grilled green tomatoes on sourdough with provolone cheese and pesto.
2. Make a list
Make your list based on what you can find in the perimeter of the grocery or at the farmers market, this is where you find the fresh fruits and vegetables. Start with those and build from there, ideally your meals should be ½ of the plate be fruit and /or vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables in their whole form are less expensive and better for you than the precut, bagged or canned stuff. Try to stick with produce that is in season, it will be even more budget friendly and will help you adjust to the season changes.
3.Eat before you shop
Shopping hungry can lead to impulse buying and unhealthy food choices. They put those candy bars by the register for a reason.
4. Find a CSA, Farmers Market or Local Farmer
You can use websites such as Local Harvest, to find a farmer, CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or farmers market. We all know someone who always has the best looking lunch, or has that healthy glow about them. If you begin to ask around you will find where the best real food is. Many of them are taking SNAP and similar programs as well.
5. Stretch your meats
Grass finished, high quality meats and responsibly sourced seafood is much more expensive than the alternative. In this case take a cue from some other cultures, make those wonderful cuts of meat stretch by using them in curries and stirfryswith rice or make stews and soups. Don’t forget you can use any of the bones you have left over to make your own broths!
6. Find seasonal vegetables
Prices will vary depending on the time of year and where the vegetables are coming from. If you find the veggies that are in season, they are normally less expensive, plus by the time you may be getting bored with them it’s a new season. Vegetables like cabbage and sweet potatoes are inexpensive year round so these are great to use as fillers or as a main dish.
The benefits of eating healthier vary from reducing the amount of medication needed to control a chronic disease to preventing the diseases all together. The human body is fantastic at adapting in order to come as close as possible to homeostasis (or balance). This adaptability can lull us into a false sense of wellness, most us don’t listen to our bodies until our body is affecting our lifestyle somehow. By living a healthier lifestyle, this includes making healthier dietary choices. Once you begin to eat healthier you become more in tune with your body and the subtle signals it sends when it is not getting the nourishment it requires.
I hope you have some fun in exploring how to make simple meals with real ingredients. You will start feel better healthfully and financially, when you do find yourself at a farmers market and you’re not sure how to cook something don’t be afraid to ask the people who grow the food.
Jennifer Whirlow is a Holistic Life Coach who helps people with nontraditional schedules reclaim their health and vitality. A Master Nutrition Therapist (MNT), Professional Chef and Community Educator, Jennifer began her coaching service to help shift workers and those with demanding schedules who eat too much fast food and feel exhausted most of the time.
A former long-haul truck driver, bartender and prep chef, Jennifer understands the health challenges that are faced by those who work long and demanding hours. To learn more about individual and family coaching, cooking classes and community education, visit www.My-Holistic-Life.com.