Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Dieting and Saving Money don’t often mix

If there are two things that we Americans are good at, it’s spending money and eating. Unfortunately, whenever we try to lighten up on one, the other seems to suffer accordingly. Spending less on groceries in order to save money often results in eating cheap, processed foods with more fat content than nutrition. By the same token, foods that are better for us tend to be much more expensive than their less healthy counterparts due to the lack of processing, cheap additives, and relatively short shelf life. 

It’s unfortunate that our society doesn’t really allow for much wiggle room when it comes to striking a compromise between these two things. It often feels as though we can have one or the other, but not both. While I’d like to be able to tell you that there’s a magical cure-all you’ve never heard of that will cover both bases, the truth of the matter is that there are very, very few ways to do that, and for most people, those ways just aren’t that palatable. Actually, it can be said that it’s one of the worst diet plans on the planet, even though it isn’t a fad, and doesn’t require much, if any, actual work on the part of the person doing the dieting.

The short answer is to simply eat less. While we have come to think of that as an almost unthinkable thing in our society, it isn’t particularly far-fetched, and is far more achievable than many diets today, as well as being more affordable than every diet plan on the market today. Just eat less. Sounds simple, right? It requires a shift in our pattern of eating and thinking that we just aren’t used to in this society. We live in the land of plenty, after all, right? So, we load up our shopping carts with processed junk food in pretty packaging, buy the big steaks and the heat-and-eat meals, sprinkling in a dash of greenery now and then to make us feel like we’re eating something healthy along the way and better about ourselves.

The USDA recommends that the average American eat somewhere between 2400 and 3200 calories per day, depending on activity levels. (Obviously, greater caloric needs are for those with a robust, non-sedentary lifestyle) There are allowances in place for sugars and oils, but for the most part, those calories should be made up of lean meats, vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Basically all the good stuff, skipping the doughnuts and burgers. 

If there were an easy, cheap way to get hold of those high-quality calories, then no one would be obese in our country today. Unfortunately, that simply isn’t the case. You have to make careful buying decisions, and think carefully about how you purchase groceries in order to get the best bang for your buck. For instance, you may be used to shopping for groceries just once or twice a month, relying on shelf stable products to round out your diet. Your meal plan could be a 30-day affair comprised of a regular routine of go-to dishes that your family loves and asks for all the time, and that are cheap and quick to put together. Sounds like the ideal situation, right? Well, how healthy are those meals when you really get down to the brass tacks? They probably rely on lots of carbs, sugars and fats to get those great tastes. Eating salads, unfortunately, requires you to make somewhat more regular trips to the grocery store, but the tradeoff is that you’ll be eating much healthier, and when you get the hang of it, you’ll notice that eating fresh fruits and vegetables really doesn’t impact your wallet as much as you thought it would. After all, you won’t be eating quite as much as you were before, so you’ll save money on the volume of food you eat.

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