"Healthy eating takes time, planning, and can cost a lot of money. With today’s busy lifestyles…it’s easy to miss out on the nutrients we need from fruits and vegetables."
I read these words on a website for a fruit and vegetable supplement that a patient of mine had mentioned to me. At first it’s easy to think “Yes! Healthy eating DOES take a lot of time, money, and effort! No wonder I can’t eat well - it’s not my fault!” But I venture to suggest that it’s statements like these that contribute to less-than-ideal eating habits. If we can convince ourselves that eating well is just too much time/effort/money, then we give ourselves an excuse for staying in our poor eating habits.
So let’s unpack the statement above and then allow me to put forth a different way of thinking about eating healthfully.
"Healthy eating takes time, planning, and can cost a lot of money." Yes, eating well requires effort - but anything worth having does! It takes time, energy, and planning to build a strong, happy marriage. It takes effort to create a home that’s full of love, joy, and laughter. It takes discipline to improve your financial situation. It requires money to take a course or work towards a degree that will help pave the way for your dream career. But all of these things are worth the time, effort, planning, energy, and money! So why would we not be willing to invest the time, planning, and money into eating well - something that has a HUGE impact on our physical and mental health and wellbeing?
Regarding the planning that healthy eating can require… I think we can often overcomplicate things. If you were plan out a week’s worth of meals, make a grocery list based on that meal plan, and them go grocery shopping to ensure you have the food you need for the week, you’d be looking at investing about 2-3 hours each week. It’s probably safe to say that we sometimes spend 2-3 hours watching TV just in one evening. So what if you took that time and invested it into planning out and shopping for a week’s worth of healthy meals?
What about the claim that eating well can cost a lot of money? There’s no doubt that certain fresh fruits and vegetables and skinless chicken breasts can be expensive. But there are lots of ways to shave dollars off of your grocery bill each week. Here are just a few:
- Choose frozen instead of fresh. Frozen fruits and veggies are just as nutritious as their fresh counterparts, but typically significantly cheaper (plus, you don’t have to worry about them going bad in the fridge!).
- Make things from scratch. It’s cheaper to buy a big bag of brown rice and then cook it and season it yourself than it is to buy a bag of flavoured instant rice. It’s way cheaper to bake a batch of healthy muffins at home than to buy storebought muffins. Or buy a brick of cheese and grate it yourself rather than buying a bag of shredded cheese. Also, you’ll save a ton of money by cutting up veggies yourself than buying pre-cut veg.
- Try more cost-effective sources of protein. Gram for gram, legumes (beans, lentils, chickpeas) are WAY less expensive than meat (not to mention super nutritious!). Or how about peanut butter or milk? Again, much more wallet-friendly than chicken breasts, ground turkey, or steak.
- Buy what’s in season. If you want pineapples or raspberries in November, you’re going to pay a huge premium. So take advantage of what’s in season: things like apples, pears, carrots, and potatoes in the fall, and apricots, strawberries, and tomatoes in the summer.
"With today’s busy lifestyles…it’s easy to miss out on the nutrients we need from fruits and vegetables." Yes, we’re busy. We’re ALL busy. But I strongly believe we make time for what’s important to us. If it’s important to you to follow the latest trends and dress well, I guarantee you’ll find time to go shopping even admist your busy schedule. If working out is a high priority to you, you’ll go to the gym at 6am in order to get in a workout before work, or you’ll use your lunch-hour to fit in a spin class. The point is, regardless of how busy we are, we tend to fit in the things that we value. So if healthy eating is important to you, you’ll figure out a way to meal plan, go grocery shopping, and prepare healthy meals. I’d also like to challenge you to take a good look of what you’re giving your time to. Are you "too busy" to make supper in the evening, yet not too busy to watch your favourite TV show after work? Ouch. Sometimes the truth hurts.
My goal in writing this is not to make you feel guilty or condemned, but rather to show you that the excuses we make for our behaviour are what’s holding us back from changing (not a lack of time or money). It comes back to the saying “If you want something you’ve never had, you must do something you’ve never done”. Just like your relationships, finances, and career, your health is worth it. It’s worth the effort, time, and resources. YOU are worth it!