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Can You Afford Not To Eat Healthy?

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Many of the posts I write on this web site are devoted to the subject of eating real food and eating healthy. But I feel like the point of moving from supporting a conventional farming system that pumps out massed produced, nutritionally empty foods to a healthy, more sustainable one simply cannot be pressed enough.

Not everyone can afford to eat organic food all of the time. In fact, when the word organic is mentioned, the factor of expense almost always comes up. People have a perception that they can’t possibly change their lifestyle and buying habits because organic food is too expensive.

On the surface, organic, sustainable, or even truly “natural” food is more expensive than conventional. But consider the “hidden” costs of eating conventional, industrial food. The food grown and raised by conventional means is procured in the cheapest way possible – that is, to minimize operating expenses and maximize profits.

Then there are business people, merchants, and farmers who do things the right way, taking care to produce a quality product and something safe. Business may be slow at times and downright challenging, but these businesses are able to continue their activities because of dedicated and informed consumers who understand the big difference between conventional, mass-produced food and something that has been raised with care and thought for health and the environment.

According to Sustainable Table, consolidation of the food production system has concentrated farming into the hands of a few large food corporations.  The emphasis has moved to production and profit, pushing regard for the environment and human health to the back of the list. Because food is produced as cheaply as possible, quality ingredients and farming and production methods suffer greatly. When food is produced in such a way, it’s not only quality that goes down – so does nutritional content and integrity.

So the emphasis should be on real, organic foods because when you eat healthy, you are avoiding problems down the road – problems that will cost you more money than you realize. The idea should be that prevention up front will save you misery, disease, and cost later on.

Smaller, sustainable farming ventures and efforts don’t make the huge profits that the large corporations bring in. For that reason, they are very concerned with quality and maintaining a good customer base of people who are happy with their products. Sustainable farmers are more mindful of the quality of what they are producing and the environment, so the end result is a product you can feel good about eating and production practices you can have a good conscience about supporting.

Processed foods = no nutrition for the money you spend

One of the most heavily consumed items in developed countries is carbonated soda pop, which has absolutely no nutritional value whatsoever. Soda pop is the number one source of calories in the United States! When consumed in such amounts, there is no one who can deny this definitely affects anyone’s budget. So why not trade your dollars spent on soda pops, juices, Kool Aid, Crystal Light, Hawaiian Punch, Sunny Delight, or other processed sugary drinks for a wholesome, organic apple, pear, or banana, or a good water-filtration system.

Another example is pre-made, frozen dinners or meals in a can. Just look at the average ingredient label on one of these products and the list is a mile long. Can you pronounce these ingredients and do you know what they are? How about the effect they have on your health? If you buy the raw ingredients and prepare from scratch, both the taste and the health benefits you will receive from eating this meal are ten-fold what you get out of the processed one. It will probably make you feel full longer and provide more food for your money as well. Processed foods seem cheaper, but when you consider the damage to the environment to produce them, what’s in them, and how well they satisfy your hunger, are they really more economical?

The cost of health care

Just stop to consider the large amounts of money we pay in taxes and other fees to support industrial agriculture – massive government subsidies to agribusiness (which drive smaller, sustainable farmers out of business), environmental damage as a result of toxins being dumped into the air, water, and land due to the operation methods of factory farms, the continual increase of health care costs, and untold damage to our health.

Also consider the amount of money put into the healthcare system by the average person or family. In 2008 the average worker payed out over $3K into health coverage for a family of 4.

The $3K paid is just the beginning of money spent; that doesn’t even begin to cover co-pay amounts. As health insurance costs rise, it is becoming necessary to for individuals and employers to select plans with the lowest annual premiums, which can only result in higher co-pay amounts. Then comes prescription drug costs (many of them unnecessary and over-prescribed), and over-the-counter drugs used by millions and millions. Health care costs are one of the leading causes of incurred debt amongst the population. Also, the amount of money going into the system to pay for the health of the average senior citizen, welfare recipient, or wards of the state is impossible to gauge, but you can bet it’s astronomical. Someone’s got to pay for it.

The food we eat from the industrial food system actually increases our dependence upon conventional medicine, drugs, and surgery. Still think conventional (reactive medicine) is cheaper than eating healthy and prevention? Read this post and see if you aren’t convinced!

The cost of factory farming on the environment and health

Most of our meat and dairy products come from conventional farming sources – also known as “factory farms” or CAFOs (confined animal feeding operations). The expense and damage of operating these facilities to human health, the environment, and economy are well-documented facts.  Factory farming uses management of what animals eat to promote growth and keep costs down. So the goal is to increase yield while decreasing production costs (Food Matters).

Here’s what you are supporting with your food dollars when you buy conventionally-raised meat and meat products:

  • The use of antibiotics – which increasingly creates resistant-bacteria
  • Hormones – to create a faster growth margin in animals for higher profits
  • Genetically-modified substances in the feed the animals eat
  • Pesticide spraying on crops to feed animals
  • Use of massive amounts of fossil fuels to transport feed, animals, and chemicals to ensure success of operation
  • Environmental contamination of soil, groundwater (and runoff goes into neighboring crops), and air from pathogenic waste that cannot be used for re-fertilization of healthy soil

So what’s going on here is that the health care companies are getting rich, the food industry is getting rich…but what’s to become of the consumer? Are we destined to remain in the stranglehold of these corporations who have absolutely no concern for our health or well-being, or are we going to do something about it?

We must take a stand, get proactive, support local and sustainable farming and food production, and stamp out these bloated, multi-billion dollar corporations who have taken for themselves all the power and profit – and all the while they are stealing our health and well-being.

Put the power, money, well-being, and health back in the hands of the people who can make a huge effect on our habits and future – the consumers! Do something ethical and moral, and healthy for yourself, your family, and the planet. Go organic and sustainable. Read labels. Be aware and educate yourself. Trade your junk food and industrial dollars for something more worthwhile and healthy – good, real, organic, sustainable food. Remember, each time you put food in your mouth, you are casting a vote for organic or not…and the consequences could be more serious than you think!

What you can do:

  • Learn about our food system and what goes into our food – be conscious of what you eat! Get to know the people who produce your food and ask about farming practices. There are many responsible farmers who want to produce clean, sustainable products for their community, and all you have to do is ask!
  • Grow your own vegetables and fruits – plant a garden! It doesn’t have to be large, start small and go from there.
  • Support local farming, CSAs, and your farmer’s market
  • Get involved on a local level to help educate those you know – talk about your experiences with people, start a blog, write a book, or become a chair on your children’s school lunch committee (I did!)

For more information about how the industrial food system affects our health and the environment, see these important films – Food, Inc., Fresh, and Food Matters

Want to protect family farms and our freedom to have access to safe, clean food? Join the Farm-to-Consumer Legal Defense Fund effort

Read more about the high price of cheap food – TIME article

For some ideas about how to eat healthy on a budget, read:

Food Budgets – Using Creativity and Prioritizing for Healthy Eating

Proof That Real Food Doesn’t Have to Cost A Bundle, Is Nourishing, And Satisfies!

Want to know more about eating healthy to help improve health and lose weight? It’s not all about exercise!

Are You Nutritionally Fit?

Learn about the different kinds of foods; the kind of food you eat really does matter!

How Well Do You Know Your Food? Find Out!

Green Living Healthy Living Kids & Family Real Food

Eating Healthy In A Time Of Recession

www.mypicshares.com

The name of the game in tough economic times is to save money. But don’t throw your money in the trash and spend it on processed foods with no nutritional value.

Consider just how expensive some of that cheaper food really is. On the surface, a six-pack of soda or juice can run anywhere from 2 to 3 dollars (and if you buy name brand, it could be higher). And what are you getting for your money? Sugar, chemicals, and toxins.  Does it satisfy your thirst? Do you have to keep drinking more to feel satiated? If so, chances are you’ll buy more.

Soda healthy?

Many people become addicted to sodas, juices, and other sugary drinks, so they buy more to feed their addiction. And in the process, they are harming their health by continuing to consume these beverages which contribute to obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, Diabetes, and cancer. Is this really a good definition of saving money?

Bottled water

Water may or may not be cheaper, but it depends on what type of water you are buying. Most bottled waters are of questionable quality, and can leach BPA and other toxic chemicals from the plastic bottle. Find a good source of water at your local health food store that you can buy in your own refillable bottles or invest in a good filtration system for your sink or home. This will ensure you are getting better quality water and you are saving money from continually purchasing expensive bottled water that may or may not be good quality.

Your tap water is dangerous to drink and should be avoided. According to the Ralph Nader Research Institute, tap water contains over 2100 toxic chemicals.  Some of those are heavy metals like cadmium, iron, mercury, and lead. It also contains arsenic, fluoride and chlorine, proven in studies to be harmful to the human body. Finally, tap water that is filtered out by water reclamation sites does not get filtered for all the other substances that go down the drain – prescription medications that people take, pesticides, and many other toxic chemicals.

Boxed cereal

What about a box of processed cereal? A box of Cheerios will probably cost around $3, less if you buy the generic. If you buy whole, organic grains from the bulk section of your store, you will spend anywhere from around .75 to just over $2.00 a pound. But the whole grain cereal will last you longer because it is a real food and will deliver nutritional value to your body that the boxed doesn’t. Processed cereals contain extruded grains that the human body cannot absorb, and the nutrients are all stripped away during processing and then synthetic nutrients are added back in. Because this is not a real food, it is not useful to your body.

Commercial meat

The cost of buying commercial, industrial meat may be less on the package, but what are you getting for your money? Meat that is loaded with hormones, antibiotics, too many Omega 6s from the animals eating the wrong types of feed (corn, soy, grain), high in calories, fat, and carbohydrates, and low in protein. Nutritional content in this type of meat is not only poor, but the chemicals contained in the meat help deplete your body of nutrients as well. Locally-raised, grass-fed meat, on the other hand, is high in protein, low in fat, calories, and carbohydrates, and is an excellent source of Omega 3 EFAs and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) which is extremely beneficial to the human body. Grass-fed meats generally cost more, but they are nutritionally good for your body and can help prevent heart disease, Diabetes, and cancer.

What’s the cost of eating processed foods?

Then there’s the long-term effects and deferred costs of eating nutritionally-bankrupt foods. Weakened immune system. Frequent colds and flus. Headaches. Sore throats. Allergies. Asthma. Chronic fatigue. Depression. Insomnia. Anxiety attacks. Fluctuating blood sugar which leads to insulin resistance and Diabetes. Weight gain. Irritability. Heart disease. High blood pressure. Cancer. The list goes on.

So then: if you are buying cheaper foods, but they are not delivering nutritional quality to your body, is that a waste of money, or do you still persist in thinking you are saving yourself money by eating this way? Investing in your health and well-being doesn’t have to go beyond your budget, it just has to be planned out and managed well.

Here are some ideas for saving money on healthy food during a recession:

  1. Eat all or most of your meals at home. Food costs less and tastes better when you make it at home, and you have control over every single ingredient you use.
  2. Take small steps: if you can’t do it all at once, do one thing at a time. For example, eliminating vegetable oils from your pantry is a great first start. Replace those with real butter, olive oil, and coconut oil. Here’s a great guest post by Marilyn Moll from The Urban Homemaker about how to replace unhealthy ingredients for healthy ones.
  3. If you do shop at the store, buy the most minimally processed and whole foods only. Avoid purchasing foods in packages, cans, and boxes.
  4. Eat some meals meatless and/or spread your meat out amongst several meals. Use foods like cheese, milk, eggs, butter, broth, lard and tallow from healthy animals on pasture as your main source of fat in some meals.
  5. Learn to make food from scratch rather than buying convenience foods: salad dressings, marinades, beans, soups, etc. A great place to start is Sally Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, which has a huge variety of recipes for preparing foods traditionally and healthfully, as many of our ancestors did.
  6. Buy from farmer’s markets and local food growers. You will be supporting your local economy and you can often get foods for reasonable prices because you are not paying for packaging, marketing, processing, and transportation of your food.
  7. Become interested in and learn to grow, can, jar, cook, freeze, and sprout, soak, culture and prepare foods at home. The more you do these types of things, the further your food will stretch. You will save money and your health.
  8. Be willing to do without extras and make healthy eating a priority. Instead of going to the movies, invite friends over to watch something at your house and make home-made organic popcorn with butter or ghee and coconut oil.  Instead of going out to dinner, prepare a special meal at home for a loved one or friend.
  9. Use up all your food at home before buying more. If you plan meals and ingredients, you can make food last longer.
  10. Plan shopping and pick-up trips. Make a list before you go, and stick to it.  If you are buying foods from the store, use your trips wisely. If you are buying from farmers, see if you can find others who also want to buy food from the same source such as a CSA (community supported agriculture share) and take turns delivering/picking up food.
  11. Use networking in your area to find new resources for healthy food. Talk to neighbors and folks at the farmer’s markets and local health food stores. Attend events where local, sustainable food is being served. Look in your local paper and also do an Internet search for a list of resources and activities centered around local food and food growers. Check this list to find a local Weston A. Price chapter in your area – WAPF is dedicated to helping people learn about sustainable farming and food, and the value of nutrient-dense diets.
  12. Take time out to grow food in your own yard or space. Be sure to use organic fertilizers when you plant so that the nutritional content and disease resistance of the food you plant is higher.

Want more information on eating healthy for less?

Is cheap food really cheap? The hidden costs of cheap food

1 in 4 meat packages tainted with pathogenic bacteria

Proof that real food doesn’t have to cost a bundle, is nourishing, and satisfies!

This post is part of Food Renegade’s Fight Back Fridays Carnival. Please visit this site and read the other real food posts there.