There’s a good amount of talk out there about how eating “healthy” is so expensive. With all the marketing nowadays, there’s always a hot new item that we just have to have in order to be healthy + it just happens to be the most expensive option on the shelf.
The thing is, we do not have to buy all the latest and greatest health foods to be “healthy.” If we can block out the marketing noise, purchasing a variety of quality foods becomes much more budget-friendly.
Today, I’m sharing some of the “health foods” that marketing may have you believe are a requirement to be healthy. My goal is to help you get rid of any obligations to overspend on groceries or feel defeated by the price tags.
I’m not saying these products are bad [because, hey, no foods are good or bad!] but they aren’t necessarily a requirement for nourishing your body. However, if your taste buds prefer these items [often mine do too!] — then go for it! 🙂
Kale, quinoa, chia, flaxseed, acai, maca powder, etc. There’s always a new up and coming star in the superfood world that promises to fix all our problems. Typically, these foods may be totally fine + nutritious, however, they also usually overhyped.
If brown rice is a cheaper whole grain option than quinoa, go for it. If you prefer spinach over kale for a leafy green — that’s great! The word “superfood” has no standardized definition + there’s simply no such thing as a superfood. Sure, some foods have more of certain nutrients than others, but we still need variety to make up a well-rounded diet. No one food cures all.
Sprouted grain bread
In standard bread, grains are milled prior to allowing them to sprout or germinate [aka start growing a new plant]. However, if left in an environment with the appropriate temperature + moisture, these grains can sprout prior to being used to make our products. Some research shows that sprouted grains may be easier to digest if you have GI issues and there may be an increased bioavailability of some of the nutrients.
But research is still ongoing, and whole wheat breads are typically significantly cheaper. Both sprouted + whole wheat options have high fiber and B-vitamin content making each of them an appropriate choice! Sometimes I prefer that heartier texture of sprouted grains for toast whereas I like an ole fashioned PB&J on soft whole wheat bread!
Almond, cashew, walnut, coconut, soy, etc. There’s so many varieties out there today! Often, non-dairy milks are twice as much as dairy milk. For those of us without a dairy allergy or lactose intolerance, you do not have to choose one of these. Both dairy milks + non-dairy milks contain calcium + vitamin D — the major 2 nutrients we associate with milk.
In fact, dairy milk tends to have significantly more protein than many others, excluding soy milk. This really comes down to taste preference. I’ve truthfully never been a fan of the taste of dairy milk, so I like to experiment with the others + that’s okay!
The FDA [Food + Drug Administration] states that the term “Natural” currently is not defined, meaning, you can put it on almost anything. The FDA does state that they assume natural products to not contain artificial ingredients or dyes, however, they do not address the manufacturing processes.
The USDA’s NOP [National Organic Program] regulates the use of the word organic on products + they have very specific guidelines for what types of pesticides, farming processes, etc. may be used. It is important to note that organic produce is not pesticide-free, however, they are limited on the types of pesticides. Also, research does not support claims that organic produce vs. conventional produce as being significantly higher in nutrients.
Nowadays, we’re slathering nut butters all over our toast, but it’s not always peanuts. The most popular lately has been almond butter, but there’s also sunflower butter, cashew butter, etc. The issue is these are significantly more expensive that the old standby PB.
Doing a quick side-by-side nutrition comparison, almond butter + peanut butter are very similar overall except a few areas. Almond butter has slightly less saturated fat + more calcium, magnesium, + omega 3s. On the flip side, peanut butter has more protein, niacin, + vitamin B6. These really aren’t major nutritional differences that warrant saying one is superior over the other — they are just different. If you like the taste (+ the price tag) of peanut butter over almond butter — no shame!
I touched a bit on the carbohydrate vs. sugars issue in this post. Basically, you’re not drastically improving the nutritional value of a baked good by using coconut sugar / agave / honey over regular cane sugar. Sugar is sugar. Save some money + use whichever sugar makes your baked good taste its best!
Gluten is a protein found in products derived from wheat, barley, + rye. Those diagnosed by a medical professional to have Celiac Disease or gluten sensitivity need to avoid gluten to manage their condition. However, for the rest of us, it’s unnecessary to eliminate gluten from our diets. Gluten-free products are often very expensive as they have to use unique combinations of alternative grains to mimic gluten-containing items.
So, if you don’t have a condition that requires purchasing gluten-free alternatives, why waste the money? Also, beware, with the rise of the gluten-free fad, many brands have added the “gluten-free” label to items that never even had gluten in them to begin with — all to sucker us in to buying what we think might be a “healthier” product.
“Healthified” packaged foods
Just because they label says “All Natural” or “Made Without ‘x’ ” typically doesn’t make the product all that much different than its conventional counterpart. For example, just because chips, cookies, candy, or items we typically refer to as “junk foods” are made with organic potatoes or non-dairy chocolate, doesn’t make it nutritionally much different than others. At the end of the day, a cookie is pretty much still a cookie. And let’s be real, sometimes an original oreo cookie is just better than the “healthified” / “natural” version.
I can never get over how some of these bottles are $10 a pop! YIKES! Juicing may taste yummy + you do get plenty of nutrients from the fruit + veggies in them, however, you’re also removing the fiber as you squeeze the juice out. So having a bottle of fresh juice is not nutritionally better than simply eating the apples and spinach in their whole form. There’s also not research to support drinking juice as a “cleanse” or “detox” because that’s just not how our body works! Your liver + kidneys take care of all that for you without having to deprive yourself of solid food.
Probiotics are the major selling point of kombucha, a fermented tea. I’ll be honest, each time I’ve had it, I couldn’t stand it. I’m not into the vinegar-y taste, but some people truly love it. More power to you. There’s lots of promising research on probiotics + our gut health. But if the taste or price tag of kombucha isn’t for you, other items such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, pickles, tempeh, miso, etc. also provide probiotics to do the trick!
What products do you find not to be worth the price?