As with most things today, the decision to eat healthier more comes down to cost. “It's expensive to eat healthy” is a phrase I have heard often. I do not debate that it's absolutely true that purchasing organic fruits and veggies costs a little more at the til than non-organic produce, the price of greek yogurt is a tad richer than regular and sprouted grain breads will run you over a dollar more than your run of the mill Wonder brand. However, the til tape at the grocery store should not be the only tool with which to measure true cost.
Most people that I have spoken to agree that issues surrounding food are creating a culture of poor health in first world countries. Over the last few decades we, as North Americans, have succeeded in becoming one of the unhealthiest nations on the planet. I'm not sure succeeded is the correct word.... In fact, this is the first time in history that our children's generation is predicted to live shorter lives than us, their parents. Not only that, but a recent study showed that if the growing overweight and obesity rates are not reversed, it is predicted that 50 percent of the world's population will be overweight and/or obese. Alarming to say the least!
With this population of overweight citizens comes the many diseases and conditions directly or indirectly associated with carrying extra weight; diabetes, blood pressure, cholesterol, cancer, hormonal issues, depression, heart disease, sleep disorders, hypertension, dementia, stroke, asthma, osteoarthritis... and this is not the complete list by a long shot. Let's take a look at what costs are associated with these conditions.
First, there is the extra cost on the healthcare system due to extra hospital visits, specialists and doctor appointments. Prescriptions are also big bucks. Factor a few of those into the budget equation and watch how quickly any extra cash gets used up. For example, any prescription written for conditions such as the ones listed are not a “take this for 10 days and stop” type of prescription. Rather, it becomes a “you have this condition and must continue taking this medication for the rest of your life.” Not something I want to thing about in my retirement. Missing work is also a very real consequence for people with conditions caused by being overweight. Imagine what kind of stress can develop when having a decrease in pay is combined with an increase in added costs. As a person continues further in this state of ill-health they may eventually lose the ability to take an active part in caring for their family or themselves, either for a short while, and in some cases, permanently. People with medical conditions pay higher premiums for health insurance, especially when travelling out of country. For some, the cost becomes so great they are unable to take that dream vacation upon retirement. In fact, weight and obesity-related costs range between 30 percent (moderately obese) and 80 percent (morbidly obese) higher than the average person of healthy weight. That kind of money can buy a lot of groceries!
So this weekend, as you make your lists and head out to stock your fridge for the week (and if you don't stock your fridge, you most definitely should!) I invite you to find some room in your budget in order to improve the quality of the foods you put in your cart. You may pay a little more at the checkout each week, but the savings you will get long term from investing in your health will last a lifetime. The bottom line is this: You can invest in your health today, or pay dearly to regain it later.
Tania Gustafson, Nutritionist & Fitness Coach (IBNFC)
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