Do you need to be wealthy to get healthy?

These days we are easily lured into the grips of an unhealthy lifestyle. Our bad eating habits can lead to chronic diseases such as diabetes or cardiovascular problems later in life. It’s therefore important to manage our diets in such a manner that we eat as healthy as we can, but does it cost us more? In this article we’ll answer that one for you. Health insurance or a medical aid may help you out in an emergency but what you eat can significantly affect your long term health.

Do you need to be wealthy to get healthy

Most people will automatically say that eating healthy is expensive and although this is true, in some cases, for the most part it depends on how you measure the cost. First one has to compare the difference between how much you spend on your monthly or weekly groceries. Putting food on the table is our number one priority and yet we often struggle in a tug of war deciding whether or not its worth putting in the additional time to prepare a home cooked meal. But this is where the problem comes in, many individuals go shopping directly after they’ve been paid and can tend to be a little elaborate with their spending. How many times have you gone shopping when you were hungry? Compare your groceries purchased while hungry to those at a time you were not and you’re likely to see a big difference. People may not have a lot of money in their bank account and usually buy cheaply but on account of it being payday they could potentially be buying all those additional but unhealthy treats. Soft drinks, sweets, pies, and microwave dinners may not always prove to be expensive but in the long run, they will start taking a toll on your pocket and your health.

Our second issue is the fact that many South Africans are working longer and harder than ever before, thus the idea of getting home late and preparing a home cooked meal from scratch is hardly welcoming to a busy mom or dad. The fact of the matter remains however; home cooked meals are healthier than takeaways.

Takeaways are a catch twenty two because where you save on time, you pay in terms of long term financial planning and your health.  Food scientists also agree that takeaways trap you because they stimulate your brain just enough to want you craving more but not enough to fully stimulate your brain into telling you that you no longer enjoy eating the specific takeaway. It’s a very habit inducing science that has made CEO’s billionaires in their pockets as well as their obese and addicted followers.

In 2012, the figures of obese or overweight children under the age of five were estimated to be more than 40 million in their global number. Takeaway foods, being a major contributing factor to this statistic. Health insurance companies also look at one’s weight, which can often affect an individual’s premium.

Developing children who become overweight are also subject to a host of diseases and health problems like asthma, gallstones, blood pressure problems and obstructive sleep apnea to name a few.  The University of California has also gone on record to show that 25-40% of all overweight children will go on to develop Metabolic syndrome which causes additional health concerns such as insulin resistance and eventual obesity.

There is also research to prove that individuals who suffer from being overweight live closer to several leading takeaway chains than their skinnier counterparts who are not living as nearby.

Although we all love to indulge in that delicious and oh so convenient takeaway meal, we are actually shooting ourselves in the foot, figuratively and financially. Not only do takeaway meals become detrimental to our health over a long term of regular eating but it also works out to be more expensive in the long run.

In an article by Nestle, it was found that South African families of four could save up to an average of R117,25 per meal that was home cooked and consisted of a roast chicken with sauce and pap – including a healthy side dish vs. an average takeaway meal costing more than double to feed a family of four. A vegetarian meal could have saved that family of four even more and they could easily get away with a basic meal at an average cost of R72,54.

So, although the prospect of paying R24 for a sweet smelling chicken burger from your nearest takeaway chain, you could be paying R24 per kilogram for an entire chicken!

Until this moment we haven’t taken our veggies and greens into account but when you look at convenience foods or low cost foods, vegetables do not really feature as much as the poor substitute their greens for other.

By buying cheaper products, vegetables and fruit are often overlooked and not enough emphasis is put on this block on the food pyramid. It’s the lack of eating one’s veggies that causes an imbalance in your diet and encourages health problems. Groceries may be expensive but in the long term it could save you hundreds, if not thousands of rands.

By eating correctly, you will be able to manage your weight better, improve the condition of your heart and cardiovascular system, prevent diabetes and even help improve your brain function. High health and energy can also mean achieving that promotion at work faster leading to a higher income. You may even be able to save on that health insurance premium we mentioned earlier.

Irrespective of price, the amount of time sacrificed in cooking yourself and doing so with healthier foods that do not solely contain artificial ingredients will eventually pay off, when looking at the bigger picture.

Unfortunately our biggest threat to our health is not necessarily our wallets but our knowledge of healthy eating. We’ve all made a silly mistake like eating pasta on toast without realising that we’re actually eating starch on starch. It’s little mistakes like these that negatively affect our health in the long term.

For instance, you get many individuals who cannot seem to lose wait, they’re still eating healthy but they’re unaware that their portions are simply too big. When it comes to a balanced diet it is not the price of eating healthy that costs us the most but our lack of knowledge when it comes to portion sizes, nutrition and even exercise.

One could also consider growing a vegetable garden which could save you loads of money in the long run.

It takes a lot of self-discipline but good habits should be encouraged. If you cannot seem to buy healthier foods in the supermarket and feel that the best you can do does not fit a balanced diet, it may be worth your while to check out some local farmers’ markets or butchers, as you may be surprised at the savings. Smaller businesses often have more competitive prices and by befriending a local business, one could easily get a better idea of where you food is coming from.

So remember, think smart, eat smart and spend wisely. Slow and steady wins the race.

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