Is healthy eating a luxury for the rich? If the advice found in pages of glossy health magazines is to believed then healthy eating and living could well cost us an extra couple of thousand rand a month.
Honestly, who can afford to eat salmon twice a week to ensure you get your Omega 3s and nibble on handfuls of expensive goji berries and mixed nuts?
Could you be blamed for avoiding the fresh produce aisle and filling your trolley with cheap and easy white bread, two-minute noodles and baked beans; effectively capping your grocery spend at a few hundred, rather than a few thousand rand.
The reality is that your health is an investment too, eating cheap today could well cost you a fortune in health costs further down the line.
Fortunately healthy eating does not have to cost the earth. There is a happy medium between spending your retirement savings on health eating and living on two-minute noodles and potato chips.
Being overweight is a dangerous health risk – you don’t have to be grossly obese to have increased risk of diabetes, stroke, heart disease and even cancer.
Poor diet and lack of exercise are undoubtedly the number one reason behind the rise in these so-called lifestyle diseases, which according to the World Health Organisation, are killing around 36 million people a year.
There may be some disagreement in the health community about how best to lose weight, but the one thing they all agree on is that processed foods high in sugar and refined carbohydrates are to blame. White bread, junk food, donuts, cake, chips and the list goes on.
A diet of highly refined processed foods probably is the cheapest diet in the short run – in the long run however it will mean all the extra pennies you are putting away to enjoy your old age, buy a house or send your children to university, will probably be spent on chronic medication, medical aids, doctors fees and surgery.
There are some things in life you simply should not cut cost corners on, and your health is one of them.
Having said that, this does not mean you have to treble your grocery bill to ensure good health.
Healthy eating can be affordable and here is how:
Cut the junk.
Before we start talking about what you should buy lets first address what you should not waste any money on. Junk take-outs, sweets, chips, fizzy drinks and pastries. The first few days or even weeks without these may be tough but your body will adjust. These foods offer no nutritional value, but they cost money and do untold harm to your health.
Buy local and seasonal.
You don’t need to shop only at Woolworths organic section. Hunt around for local farmers markets, fruit and veg grocers or get a vegetable box delivered from a local producer. Supermarkets are convenient but they definitely do not offer the cheapest, nor the freshest when it comes to fruit and veg.
Cut the meat.
You don’t have to become a vegetarian, but meat is expensive and should also be eaten in moderation. Try eating meat once or twice a week only, and for the rest of the time experiment with vegetable proteins like beans, lentils and chickpeas. There are so many great recipes out there.
Cook for yourself.
Wherever you can, whenever you can. Reject pre-made ready foods in favour of home cooking. Your heart, bank balance and your waistline will thank you.
The adjustment from a convenience diet high in processed foods to a healthy diet of nutritious home made meals will probably not be an easy one, but it will be one of the greatest investments you can make.
The cost of disease is high, both financially and emotionally. Giving up the two-minute noodle dinners for a homemade veggie stir-fry may feel like more work and more money at first – but in the long run, it is definitely cheaper and well worth it.