We all know that eating well gives us better health outcomes, but could it also lead to having more money?
Full disclosure, I am NOT a financial expert. I am, however, a Naturopath and part of my job is to design healthy eating plans for clients. It’s true that there are some diets out there which can be more expensive; as an example, the Paleo diet, which includes nut-flours, alternative ‘milks’ and high protein intake can certainly increase your shopping bill. But for the majority of us, healthy eating might not break the bank, as often our recommendations come down to a few key factors:
- Include more vegetables and fruit
- Eat more wholegrains (avoid processed foods)
- Eat less… well, just eat a bit less.
Journalist Michael Pollan has also found this through his research into food. He is the man behind the book and documentary ‘In Defence of Food’ (currently on Netflix if you’re interested). Although not a health practitioner, he has become a keen researcher into food-production and consumption, and almost by default, has now been able to highlight some characteristics for healthy eating. Pollan’s mantra “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” has been evident in those who have a reduced risk for heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers (Pollan, 2008 and 2015).
When we say ‘eat food’, we don’t just mean anything which is edible. It refers to real, unprocessed food that your great-grandmother would recognise, not the packaged, long-shelf-life meals or snacks that have become such a big feature of our daily diets.
Eating less is also worth thinking about. If you’re under 25 or training for a marathon, you can probably skip this paragraph. But for the rest of us, it might be worth discussing with your local health professional to see if it’s right for you and your life-stage. There is some research that suggests reducing your kilojoule intake by 10-20%, you might see positive effects on weight, blood pressure and even insulin response (Minor, 2010; Wolf, 2006).
Now, what does ‘mostly plants’ look like day-to-day?
The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating (2013) suggests that we should eat 5- serves of vegetables a day. A serve might be ½ cup of cooked vegetables or 1 cup of salad. This means that each day, we need 3 cups of cooked vegetables, of 6 cups of salad. Be honest with yourself right now… do you do that EVERY day? If you don’t get in some vegetables at breakfast or lunch, then it’s going to be really difficult to fit all that it at dinner time.
Perhaps a visual would make it easier too. If you need another reason to love Canada, then have a look at their latest (2019) Food Guide. Doesn’t it look delicious? This latest version shows exactly the things we’re talking about – more vegetables, fruit, wholegrains (no refined grains in sight) and less meat. This plate – with half your day consisting of vegetables and fruit, and a third each for protein and wholegrains – is not only exceedingly good for you, but shouldn’t cost the earth. Wholegrains, nuts, seeds and legumes are especially cheap if you can source them in bulk.
So where is the financial benefit in all this healthy eating?
Well, for starters, veggies are usually cheaper than meat. Of course, it’s more expensive to buy bulk vegetables when you’re only cooking for one, but this might be easily remedied by freezing meals for a later time. Freezing also saves you money when you’re home late or are too tired to cook – you can avoid the expensive (and nutrient-poor) takeaway options in favour of a pre-prepared freezer meal.
The next dollar-saver comes from eating less. Save money, eat less! I’m not sure if that will catch on, but in our developed world, we often have health issues associated with eating too much, rather than not enough. If it’s safe for you to consume fewer kilojoules for some parts of your day or week, then this can save some cash, and be good for your health as well. Several animal studies suggest that safe kilojoule restriction might even have anti-aging benefits (Mattison et al, 2017).
Try to think of ‘less food’ in terms of smaller portions and more nutritionally dense options. You can still have a nourishing day of vegetables, salads, lean protein and consume fewer kilojoules. This is a much better option that only drinking black coffee all day and being unpleasant to be around. Make sure you talk to your friendly Nutritionist, Naturopath, Dietician or GP before you try any kilojoule-restriction options.
One more tip for healthy eating whilst saving money. It comes down to something that doesn’t necessarily sound that exciting… Food Prep. “Snore!” I hear you cry. But before you dismiss it, have a think about how much money you could save my preparing a few meals for the week. An hour on Sunday preparing a few lunches and dinners might save you some good coin. If lunch at work costs an average of $15-$20, but prepping a healthy brown rice salad or wholegrain sandwich only costs you a few dollars, then you might have yourself an extra $30-$40 at the end of the week. Think of the ice cream you can buy! Wait, scrap that last part.
Good health often comes down to good planning. And good planning is the basis of any good savings plan too. If you don’t want to do it for your health, do it for your wallet! Swap out some meat, some take-away or some bought lunches this week in favour of veggies, pulses, wholegrains or just some smaller portion sizes and see how much you can save. You may find you not only save some money, but you might also see some health benefits as well. You’re looking younger already!
Want to keep reading?
Want more information on healthy aging? We talk about it A LOT in Human Nutrition 2 and Lifespan Nutrition; subjects which are part of the Torrens Bachelor of Nutrition. For more information on courses, click here.
Esther Parker, GCert HumNut, GCert L&T, BHSc (Naturopathy), Adv Dip Naturopathy
ACNT and Torrens University (Bowen Campus), Learning Facilitator for Nutrition
Esther is a Lecturer in the Nutrition team at ACNT and Torrens University. She is a Bachelor-trained Naturopath and has been working in the natural health industry for over 10 years. Through clinical practice and education, Esther shares her passion for natural medicine and continues to help others reach their health and education goals.
As a keen student herself, Esther has also completed a Graduate Certificate in Human Nutrition, a Graduate Certificate in Learning and Teaching for Higher Education and looks forward to completing a Masters in Human Nutrition.
You can find her on our Brisbane campus (Bowen Terrace, Fortitude Valley), or via firstname.lastname@example.org.
Government of Canada. (2019). Canada’s Food Guide. Retrieved March 19, 2019, from https://food-guide.canada.ca/en/
Mattison, J. A., Colman, R. J., Beasley, T. M., Allison, D. B., Kemnitz, J. W., Roth, G. S., … Anderson, R. M. (2017). Caloric restriction improves health and survival of rhesus monkeys. Nature Communications, 8, 14063. https://doi.org/10.1038/ncomms14063
Minor, R. K., Allard, J. S., Younts, C. M., Ward, T. M., & de Cabo, R. (2010). Dietary Interventions to Extend Life Span and Health Span Based on Calorie Restriction. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 65A(7), 695–703. https://doi.org/10.1093/gerona/glq042
National Health and Medical Research Council. Australian Guide to Healthy Eating. Canberra: NHMRC; 2013 Jan 13 Available from: http://www.nhmrc.gov.au/_files_nhmrc/publications/attachments/n55i_australian_guide_to_healthy_eating.pdf
Pollan, M. (2015). In Defense of Food | Netflix. Netflix. Retrieved from https://www.netflix.com/au/title/80097071
Pollan, Michael. (2008). In defense of food: an eater’s manifesto. New York: Penguin Press
Wolf, G. (2006). Calorie Restriction Increases Life Span: A Molecular Mechanism. Nutrition Reviews, 64(2), 89–92. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1753-4887.2006.tb00192.x
Find a course