THE PRICE (or lack of) OF EATING HEALTHY
For years and years, I was the queen of excuses. I wanted to live my life worry-free and do whatever I wanted. What I wanted, though, was to eat whatever I wanted whenever I wanted, not care about physical activity, and tell myself I was going to be okay. BIG MISTAKE. After years of this mentality, I found myself hating my body and really not liking myself as a person anymore. I was constantly disappointed in my choices, I always felt sluggish, and my lack of energy was constant. It took me a while to realize that I was feeling this way because of how I was treating my body.
I decided I wanted to make a change, but it was so hard for me to commit and find consistent motivation. I would do so well for weeks at a time, and then screw up one day, and that was it…I was back to my old habits. I would constantly make up excuses in my head of why I was going to choose fast food or unhealthy meals over healthy, fresh, prepared meals. I would say my 2 biggest excuses within myself were that it took too much time to cook multiple meals every day, and eating healthy was significantly more expensive than some tacos at Taco Bell or a quick frozen pizza. I was wrong on both occasions. As you can tell from this blog, I learned the advantages of weekly meal prepping. I meal prep my breakfasts and lunches for a week at a time. This stops me from making any excuses as to why I am not eating the way I should be. I have been doing this for a few months now, and it has honestly changed my life. All it takes is a few hours one day a week, and you’re good to go.
As for my other popular excuse, a.k.a., healthy food being too expensive, well that is just the dumbest thing I may have ever thought. I know a lot of people have this same thought, though, and I don’t blame them. It can be somewhat challenging to shift your grocery habits, but it can very well be done. Something that I do every single week is make a grocery list. I have 5 grocery stores near me that I shop at, depending on what they have for sale that week, so I make a list after looking at the weekly grocery ads and decide what I want to make that week AFTER my list is complete. I am not that person to only shop at one store because of the convenience. I am very frugal. If there are things I need/want from each of my 5 grocery stores, I will be going to 5 different grocery stores that week. Some people may think that the extra gas I use driving to multiple stores makes up for the sale prices of food, but for me, it doesn’t. All of my stores are in a 5 mile radius, and I plan accordingly on where I go first, next, and last. It may take a little extra time, but it’s not really a big deal to me.
I make my list store by store, and if I see something cheaper at one store, I’ll cross it off the list if I had it down at a previous store (e.g. I have blueberries on my Sprouts list for 88 cents, but Albertsons has them for 77 cents, so I cross them off my Sprouts list). This is the best way to go about saving money and sticking to a budget. Some weeks cost more than others, but I guarantee you can eat healthier for the same amount or less money than if you chose to eat junk food. I wanted to share my grocery list from this past meal prep and share exactly how much I spent on making 10 meals for the week. I also want to compare what it would cost to buy 10 unhealthy meals.
I want you to know that it doesn’t have to be expensive to eat healthy!
This past weekend, I made a loaded up vegetable soup. It was full of many different vegetables and spices and was so cheap to make!
Besides the spices that I already have in my kitchen, I spent a total of $21.34 on all the ingredients I used for my meal prep. Yes, you read that right…$21.34….for 10 meals…actually it made more like 13 meals because there was a bit extra. However, if I evenly distributed what I cooked into 10 meals, lunch everyday would cost a grand total of $2.14.
Think about your microwave meals or fast food or pre-packaged meals that you’re eating for lunch every day. I know that you can obviously get very inexpensive microwave meals (I’ve seen some in the $1.00 range) but one, they are usually on the smaller-side, and two, they are packed full of calories and sodium. Even if they were one dollar cheaper every day, the lack of nutrition is just not worth it.
Now, they do have frozen, microwaveable meals that are a good size, enough to fill you up, that are fairly inexpensive. But again, the lack of nutrition and high calorie counts are unnecessary when you could cook a healthier option for the same amount of money.
We’ll look at a popular brand—Lean Cuisine. From looking at a few different stores, each meal came in around $2.70-$3.00. $3.00 per meal for 5 days a week comes in at $15.00 a week plus tax. In my case, since I need 10 meals a week (5 for me, 5 for my boyfriend) that would ring in over $30.00 a week for lunch. Now in my experience, those meals are not very filling, and I always end up still hungry right then or very soon after. With my meal prep, I ensure that I provide enough food to leave me feeling satisfied until my next meal which again, saves money.
Fast food/takeout is also usually much more expensive than homemade meals. Yes, you can go to McDonalds and get a couple burgers for a couple dollars which would come out to around the same costs as a homemade meal, but again, those calories and lack of nutritional value. But, let’s say you like to spice it up a little and get different take out every day. That can come in extremely pricey. One day you can get a couple roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s for five dollars and some change. Another day, you can go to Chipotle and spend a minimum of about seven dollars. Those two days are already at a higher cost than 5 homemade meals.
In addition to meals, snacking can be so affordable when eating healthy as well. You can get a pound of carrots for a dollar or less, as opposed to a small bag of chips for over a dollar. You can buy a carton of 12 eggs for less than a dollar for hard boiled eggs instead of buying a box of cheez-its for almost three dollars. You can buy a protein bar for the same cost as a chocolate bar. Of course there are expensive healthier options, but you don’t always have to go that route. That is why planning ahead is so beneficial.
My point here is to make you aware that eating healthy does not have to cost an arm and a leg. It is very easy to eat healthy and on a budget. You have to plan, but it is worth it in the end. Like I said, I was the queen of excuses, until one day I decided that I was so sick and tired of feeling terrible because of my eating habits. Ever since I started meal prepping and eating much healthier, my body has thanked me. I feel a million times better.
You can too. You just have to make the choice.
Substitutions are a glorious thing. Recently, I have been trying to use as many healthier options of foods in my meals as I can. With this, not only do I get to save some calories and get better nutrients, I have also gotten to appreciate and explore different foods that I’ve never used or cooked before. It’s been a learning experience. I love finding new foods that taste great that I had no idea about. I also love being able to incorporate my own take on meals and play around and find things that work for me.
When you find healthier ingredients to substitute in meals, it makes living a healthier lifestyle so much easier. You don’t have to feel like you’re always restricting yourself. All you have to do is make the choice to try your favorite recipes with ingredients that are better for you! I have been able to make many of my beloved meals (i.e. pizza, pasta, tacos, you get the picture) with ‘better for you’ ingredients and they still taste great. I’ll be honest here, don’t expect them to taste EXACTLY the same. Obviously that would be wishful thinking. It might take some getting used to, maybe a few failed attempts, but in the end, it’s worth it when your body is getting better calories and better nutrients.
One of my most used and loved substitute food has been zucchini noodles in the place of any type of pasta noodle. I have made spaghetti, pasta salad, spicy noodles, chicken parmesan..the list goes on. Zucchini is such a great substitute noodle, and half the time, you can’t even tell that you’re not eating real pasta. Of course, zucchini noodles are a little crunchier than cooked pasta, but they still taste great. You can use them raw, cook them in a frying pan, or boil them for a few minutes to give them a softer texture. They’re tasty either way.
Pasta is extremely high in calories and pretty carb heavy…zucchini, on the other hand, is neither. After comparing on MyFitnessPal, you can really see the benefits of using a vegetable in the place of pasta noodles. I decided to compare zucchini noodles to Barilla’s Rotini noodles (because those are the noodles I would use the most), and the difference is shocking. The rotini pasta contains 200 calories per every 2 ounces. The raw zucchini noodles contain 10 calories per every 2 ounces (MyFitnessPal). WHAT?! When I first learned that information, I about fell on the floor. It’s not even just the caloric difference in the two, it’s literally every nutritional aspect that is significantly better.
Zucchini has 0 grams of fat while rotini has 1 gram per every 2 ounces. Neither food carries any cholesterol, but rotini is higher in the sodium category with 10 milligrams per 2 ounces versus zucchini’s 5 milligrams per 2 ounces. Rotini does not offer any potassium while zucchini carries 148 milligrams per 2 ounces. Another huge difference in the two are the carbs. Zucchini has 2 grams of carbs compared to the 42 grams that is in the pasta. THAT’S CRAZY. Lastly, zucchini has 1 gram dietary fiber, sugar, and protein (per 2 ounce serving) and the rotini pasta has 2 grams dietary fiber, 2 grams sugar, and 7 grams protein (MyFitnessPal).
To me, the health benefits of this substitution is well worth the slightly different taste and texture of the zucchini noodles. Even if you make your meals the same and only switch out the noodles, you are saving so many calories and carbs. I love chicken parmesan, but it is a pretty heavy meal. Noodles, chicken, cheese, and pasta sauce will cost you a hefty chunk of your daily calories (if you are one that watches what and how much you eat), but, by only substituting pasta noodles for zucchini noodles, the meal will feel much lighter (even though it would still be somewhat of a heavier meal) and you are getting much better nutrition than if you stuck with the regular pasta noodles.
A few other substitutions I’ve been experimenting with and researching are spaghetti squash, sweet potatoes (see homepage for a delicious sweet potato recipe!), beans (to try and lessen the amount of meat I use), cauliflower, and broccoli. You’ve probably seen the cauliflower crust pizza fad around, and I was so intrigued that I decided to try it out myself. I’ll admit it was not my best, but I think after a few tries, I can get something down that I would actually enjoy eating. There are many different ways you can make the cauliflower crust (you can do a broccoli crust too—still have to try that out!) so I’m going to do a little more research on different recipes and hopefully something good will come out of it. If I love anything, it’s some good pizza.
Think about your favorite, not-so-healthy meals, and try making them healthier. There’s always a way. Use foods you like and know you can work with. I have so much more learning and research to do, but I’ll continue to do so on my journey to a healthier lifestyle. Cooking is such a creative process. There are endless possibilities.
N.A. (2017, March 23). MyFitnessPal. Retrieved from http://www.myfitnesspal.com/food/search