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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Healthy Economics

Daily news stories would have us believe that we are in perilous economic times on par with the Great Depression. This may be the way to build television ratings or sell magazines but the fear mongering doesn’t always play out in real life. For example it has long been assumed that eating healthy is expensive even in a bustling economy but is it really true?
            Bluntly put the answer is no eating healthy foods is no more costly than eating regular foods. In fact it usually cost less to eat healthy foods prepared at home than it does to eat out at restaurants. To analyze and prove this hypothesis some parameters need to be set.
            First maintaining a healthy diet usually means preparing more foods at home from scratch and dining out less at restaurants. Next healthy foods must be examined in light of established standards. For example you may order a burger at a restaurant large enough to cover a trash can lid but a healthier portion of meat is much less. A standard serving of meat is 3-4 ounces which is usually half of what restaurants offer. Finally we should compare the cost of home prepared meals with prices charged in restaurants. With these guidelines let’s take a look at the cost per individual serving.
            Our menu for this exercise will be roast chicken, herbed rice and wilted spinach. Let’s say that we found boneless and skinless chicken for sale at the local market for $4 per pound, one pound of rice for $.78 and a 10 ounce bag of washed baby spinach for $2.99. The chicken purchased at $4 per pound will cost $1 per four ounce portion; the rice will cost roughly $.20 per half cup serving and the spinach about $.50 per 4 ounce serving. We will add to this meal a wheat roll with butter at a cost of $.15 and add in an extra $.25 for seasonings and other items used in the cooking process. The total for this meal then comes to $2.10 which is probably about a penny per calorie.
            Take this example and begin to plug in other items you like. For example if fresh tuna were purchased for $6 per pound the total meal cost would only increase by $.50 to $2.60 per portion. If a medium sized baked potato were put in place of the rice the difference in cost would likely be less than what could be found in an old pair of trousers. Even if the vegetable portion was increased to one whole cup or eight ounces the cost would only increase by 2 Pac Man games. All of this without mentioning the lower fat healthier meal that you get by cooking at home.
            To be sure I am not against eating out in restaurants. Our area has many great eateries to choose from and I can be found in one most nights of the week. I am however against misinformation and the notion that eating healthy is expensive is simply not accurate. It may absolve one of guilt to say that when they are choking down an entire cheese and sausage pizza but even most of those cost at least $2 per slice. Do the math, when is the last time a family of four ate in a restaurant for less than $10?

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