So, I spend a lot of time talking to my patients about their diets and lifestyle choices. We talk about ways to get more exercise here and there: take the stairs, park farther away, take a lap around the parking lot at lunch time, etc.
We talk about food choices: cutting out sweets and sugary drinks, eating smaller portions and getting more vegetables and fruits.
Throughout my career, I've heard lots of reasons why people don't buy vegetables and fruits:
-They go bad before I can eat them (so buy fewer at a time?)
-It's hard to get fresh fruits or vegetables out of season (so buy frozen? or try something different?)
-I was told I can't have fruit because I'm diabetic (that's not true, you probably should eat more than just fruit 24/7, but it's not forbidden.)
-It's so expensive(let's talk about that . . .)
-I do not like vegetables and you will never change my mind, so I'm not going to eat them (uh, well, other than telling you that I didn't let my toddler get away with that excuse, I got nothing)
So, to sum up, we buy a lot of foods that aren't good for us, and we like to eat out. Here's a table because data is cooler when you can display it graphically:
The problem isn't cost. It's perceived cost. And behavioral patterns. We like to eat out. We like to buy things that are tasty (which are often high in fat, salt and sugar).
Here's another cool thing that September study showed, though: it doesn't take too much effort to both save money AND eat better.
That's right, if you just replace one fast food meal with store bought food, not only is it cheaper, it's more healthy. The numbers are similar if you stop going out to a non-fast food restaurant (here's a shocker: when we eat out, we don't make good food choices, regardless of whether it's a drive through or a sit down meal).
The onus, then, comes back to us. Yes, if you keep shopping like you normally do, then fruits and vegetables are obviously going to make your grocery bill go up. But it comes down to not only getting more of the good stuff, but also cutting out the bad stuff. Take the money normally spent on crackers and chips and spend them on apples and carrots. I get it, it's a challenge. Crackers and chips keep longer and don't go bad in the fridge while everyone refuses to eat them. Hungry kids don't beg for apple slices as snacks when they can have cookies. But it takes commitment to simple adjustments, which can lead to big changes.
The good news is that every time you make a decision about food (which is about 200 times a day, according to researchers at Cornell), you have another chance both to save money and make good choices. The first step is to admit that it's not about the expense.