college · Health And Nutrition · My Life · wellness

Does Eating A Healthy Diet Cost More?

A few days ago my mother shared an article with me by the Harvard Gazette titled “Pinpointing the higher cost of a healthy diet.” 

In this news article posted earlier this month, the researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health examined the difference in cost between eating a nutritious diet and eating an unhealthy diet. Summarizing their results, they reported that “On average, a day’s worth of the healthiest diet patterns cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones. … Over the course of a year, $1.50/day more for eating a healthy diet would increase food costs for one person by about $550 per year.”

$550 per person per year is a lot of money. That extra cost could be really hard for some families.


I even witness this when I go out to eat at restaurants. The more healthful dishes at restaurants tend to be more expensive than the alternatives. This does not help invite families to adopt healthful lifestyles.

Not only does a healthy diet cost more, it can also require more time and effort to prepare. I find this up at college as well. When life gets hectic and stressful, it can be hard to find time for preparing healthful foods. However, these times are some of the most important times for me to eat healthfully so my body can run and heal efficiently.

Even though eating a nutritious diet can cost more, I believe the costs are worth it in the long run. As the researchers from Harvard discovered, the price difference “is very small in comparison to the economic costs of diet-related chronic diseases, which would be dramatically reduced by healthy diets.”

A healthier diet helps promote better sleep, more sustained energy throughout the day, higher levels of immunity, faster healing, and more strength. In addition, this can lead to fewer sick days, taken from work, fewer doctor visits, and fewer medical bills and pricey medications. These benefits can help offset the higher cost of healthier food. As Benjamin Franklin once related: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

Nonetheless, are there ways we can cut down on the costs of healthful foods?

Here are my tips on saving money and time for buying and preparing healthful foods.

1. Keep it simple.

When you’re in a rush, you don’t have to spend hours preparing a four-course meal. I love meals that can be quickly thrown together based on what I have on hand. When throwing together a meal, I try to have: a vegetable(s), a fruit, whole grain/starchy veg, protein (usually beans since they’re cheaper than meat), and a source of healthful fat in every meal. Lentils, whole grain pasta, mixed vegetables, and marinara sauce. Lentil soup, spinach, orange. Soymilk, apple, kale, ground flaxseed, oatmeal, etc. It doesn’t have to be fancy.

2. Prepare foods ahead of time.

If weekends are the time you have to make some things, prepare your meals a week ahead to help with the craziness later in the week. This is one reasons why I love my crock pot and Rubbermaid containers. I can prepare a meal earlier in the day and have dinner cooking for me while I’m at class. I can also prepare my own beans instead of buying the canned beans. One bag of dry beans gets me over eight cans worth of beans for a mere fraction of the cost.

3. Have easy and healthy snacks on hand and available.

I always have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. I also like to keep some Progresso Lentil Soup on hand, as well as homemade hummus. If I want a quick meal/snack, I grab my container of hummus and Ziploc bags of veggies and dig in while reading or working on a school assignment.

4. Cut, prepare, and cook things yourself at home.

Instead of spending the extra money on pre-cut vegetables and fruit, you can cut your own baby carrots, celery sticks, cauliflower florets, apple slices, etc. A head of lettuce only takes a couple minutes to be chopped at home instead of spending twice as much on a pre-chopped bag. Carrots can be sliced into sticks, as well as celery into celery sticks. Beans can be prepared in a slow cooker or on the stove. (One bag of dry beans can make multiple cans worth of beans for a fraction of the cost.)

5. Eat at home. Make your own version of “fast food” meals.

Sadly, the more healthful dishes at the restaurants cost more than preparing the food at home. One thing I love to do is make “copycats” at home of certain foods I love from stores and restaurants. (For example, my Panera Inspired Black Bean Soup, my Great Harvest Inspired Honey Whole Wheat Bread, Great Harvest Inspired Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bread, homemade soft serve, granola bars, etc.)

6. Check the sales at the grocery store!

If one of your staples goes on sale, stock up on it (if you know you’ll use it and it can store well)! Check the sales, compare to generic versions, and purchase produce closer in season.

7. Go to the store with a list.

This helps me stay focused while I’m walking the aisles of the stores and helps me get in, get out, and have a few moments at home to chop, bag, and put things away. This also helps when I’m planning my meals for the week.

8. Use coupons smartly.

Coupons are great for products you already use, but sometimes coupons aren’t worth it. Sometimes the coupons would just make your bill larger without buying you the things you really need. Sometimes the generic version is still cheaper than the name brand with a coupon.

9. If you buy frozen vegetables, buy the LARGE bags.

Typically these are cheaper, and you can use Ziploc bags to divide the large bag into smaller and easier to use servings.

10. Don’t buy things you won’t use.

This last semester I bought a jar of salsa that I figured I’d use some time or another, but I NEVER used it. I didn’t even want it. If you won’t use a large bag of something before it goes bad, don’t buy it. Buy what you know you will use and pass the rest.

11. Make large batches.

If I’m going to spend time preparing a meal, I like to prepare certain foods in large batches (like lentils, black beans, chickpeas, grains, soups, etc.) and store the extras in the fridge for the next few days. This helps when life gets hectic. I can grab a container of this and a container of that, throw in a vegetable or fruit and call it a meal.

12. Use smart tools.

With a little creativity you can make meals cheaper at home instead of spending a fortune at the store.

  1. I love using a misting spray bottle to make my own homemade non-stick cooking spray. Pour the oil into the spray bottle along with some water, shake, and mist over the skillet. Much cheaper and environmentally friendly than the alternative, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to put together or use.
  2. In addition to my crock pot and blender, I love my microwave steamer – While my pasta is cooking on the stove, I can steam my vegetables in the microwave. Much more compact than taking out a large steamer. It’s also faster, cooking my vegetables in half the time.

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What are your thoughts on the higher costs of eating healthy diets?

Is the extra $1.50 per person per day worth it?

What are ways you save money while eating healthfully?

What is one of your goals for this coming new year? (Happy 2014!)

with lots of hugs,

Kathleen

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college · Goodies · vegan · vegetarian

{Panera Inspired} Black Bean Soup

I love black bean soup. 

Ever since I visited Panera for the first time with my dear friend, I fell in love with their black bean soup. However, my college-sized budget can’t bend to eat out every weekend. Therefore, these past few weeks I decided to create my own recipe inspired by Panera’s black bean soup.

After weeks of trial and error, trial and win, and trial and almost, I finally nailed it.

My family agrees – this is amazing.

If you’ve made my Split Pea Soup before, you know it’s deadly. Now, my black bean soup is her fraternal twin, a sister who is just as amazing in her own way.


Not only was it important to me that it tasted like Panera’s soup, but I also wanted it to look a lot like it. Check.

Super simple ingredients. Delightfully deadly results. All around deliciousness.


Kathleen’s {Panera Inspired} Black Bean Soup!

Here’s how I make it!


Chop up onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and red bell pepper.


Heat a skillet to medium-low heat. Add a spoonful of coconut oil, followed by the chopped vegetables.

Top with lid, and sauté over medium heat (stirring vegetables every 5 minutes) for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.


Carefully scoop the vegetables into a powerful blender or food processor.


Add the broth and tomato paste,


And blend on high until smooth.


Pour veggie purée into crock-pot; add black beans, salt, cumin, and chili powder.


Stir all together, and let simmer on low heat in the crock pot for 2-4 hours.


Serves 8 bowls. It tastes even better as leftovers! One night in the fridge escalates the yumminess!!!


Kathleen’s {Panera Inspired} Black Bean Soup

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced in coin medallions
  • ½ large red bell pepper, finely chopped
  • Spoonful of coconut oil
  • 1 (15 oz.) can low sodium vegetable broth (1¾ cup total )
  • 1 tbsp all natural tomato paste
  • 4 (15 oz.) cans no-salt added black beans, liquid reserved* (see note)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and pepper to taste* (see note)

Directions:

  1. Chop up onion, garlic, celery, carrots, and red bell pepper. Heat a skillet to medium-low heat. Add a spoonful of coconut oil, followed by the chopped vegetables. Top with lid, and sauté over medium heat (stirring vegetables every 5 minutes) for 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Carefully scoop the vegetables into a powerful blender or food processor, add the broth and tomato paste, and blend on high until smooth.
  2. Pour veggie purée into crock-pot; add black beans, salt, cumin, and chili powder. Stir all together, and let simmer on low heat in the crock pot for 2-4 hours. Serves 8. It tastes even better as leftovers! One night in the fridge escalates the yumminess!!!

Notes: If using home cooked beans, use 7 cups black beans and add 2 cups of liquid (broth or water) in place of the reserved liquid from the four cans. I like using the water in the cans for the dark color. Since the broth, tomato paste, and beans could have varying levels of salt in them, add the salt to taste. I used unsalted tomato paste and unsalted beans, with the broth at 50% less salt; therefore, I use about 2 tbsp of salt total. Nevertheless, start with less salt and add more as needed.

Print This Recipe

(Cooking the black beans yourself instead of using the cans would lower the overall cost of this soup even more. Cook them the day before, and then follow the note and steps as described above and cook soup as usual.) 

A perfect way to sneak more vegetables into your lifestyle. 🙂

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Are you a Panera fan?

I’ve only had their black bean soup, but next time I’ll try another soup (if they have another that is dairy-free).

Are you a twin? Do you know a twin?

I’ve always wondered what it’s like to be a twin… My family is grateful there aren’t two of me though. Apparently I’m enough to handle on my own. 😉

EDITED to add: What are you favorite Nut Butter Recipes?! I’m going to do a roundup post on some holiday favorites in a few days and I’d love your input!

With lots of joyful Christmas wishes to you and your family,

 Kathleen

My Life · vegan · vegetarian

Healthy Vegetable Stir-Fry Over Rice.

I love vegetables.

Seriously. Vegetables are amazing.

I love them in soups, salads, smoothies, pasta dishes, side dishes, scrambles, “pizzas,” etc.

But my favorite way is in stir-fries.


Here’s the way I make my stir fries!


Prepare the rice. I cook my rice in three ways:

  1. Rice cooker – super easy! Just add the ingredients and press cook!
  2. Slow cooker – cook rice in broth on high for 1-2 hours or low for 3-4 hours, or until the rice is tender.
  3. Large saucepan on the stove top. Add rice, broth, and salt, bring to a boil, stir once, put a lid on, and cook it for 50-60 minutes.

The rice is cooked when it is tender and has absorbed all the water. Bite a few grains to check whether it’s done.


Heat coconut oil in a frying pan or large skillet.


Chop up the onion, carrots, green beans, and bell pepper. Add them along with the crushed garlic to the pan, sautéing for 5-7 minutes.


Slice the zucchini, mushrooms, and cabbage.


Add these vegetables to the pan and stir them over medium heat until just tender.


(I also like to top the pan with the lid to “steam” a little as well.) Add salt and pepper to taste.


Spread some rice in the bottom of a serving dish. Arrange the stir-fried vegetables on top and serve the meal at once while hot. Serves 4.


Healthy Vegetable Stir-Fry over Rice

  • 2 tbsp coconut oil, or other oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped (or ½ large)
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 carrots, sliced into medallions
  • 1 cup green beans, trimmed and halved
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced into strips
  • 2 zucchini or other summer squash
  • 2 cups sliced mushrooms
  • ½ head cabbage, small
  • 2-3 cups cooked brown rice – I like to cook mine in broth (vegetable or chicken) for added flavor
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Directions

  1. Prepare the rice. (The rice is cooked when it is tender and has absorbed all the water. Bite a few grains to check whether it’s done.) I cook my rice in one of three ways:
    • Rice cooker – super easy! Just add the ingredients and press cook!
    • Slow cooker – cook rice in broth on high for 1-2 hours or low for 3-4 hours, or until the rice is tender.
    • Large saucepan on the stove top. Add rice, broth, and salt, bring to a boil, stir once, put a lid on, and cook it for 50-60 minutes.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan or large skillet. Chop up the onion, carrots, green beans, and bell pepper. Add them along with the crushed garlic to the pan, sautéing for 5-7 minutes. Slice the zucchini, mushrooms, and cabbage. Add these vegetables to the pan and stir them over medium heat until just tender. (I also like to top the pan with the lid to “steam” a little as well.) Add salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Spread some rice in the bottom of a serving dish. Arrange the stir-fried vegetables on top and serve the meal at once while hot. Serves 4.

Variations: Use quinoa in place of the rice! (Just make sure to really rinse the quinoa so it’s not bitter. The quinoa is cooked when the tails have appeared and has fluffed up and plump.) You can mix up the different kinds of vegetables you use depending on what you have on hand. Broccoli or cauliflower would be delicious. Add a sauce if you like! My mom and I like it just like this without anything else on it, but my dad and sister like a little soy sauce on top. Get creative! I’d love to hear any of the ideas you come up with. 

Printable Version of Recipe

Sometimes I get lazy and just make the stir fry vegetables without the rice. It’s super easy and delicious on its own! Veggies, veggies, veggies! ❤

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What’s your favorite vegetable? How do you like to prepare it? 

I love mushrooms, especially when they’re sautéed!

With lots of hugs,

Kathleen