Eating well has never been so expensive. Over the past two years, the cost of vegetables, meat, fruit, and other high-nutrition, low-calorie foods has increased by an average of 19.5 percent. But junk foods? Their prices have actually decreased slightly, by 1.8 percent. Our economic outlook isn’t only making it harder to make ends meet—it’s making it harder to make the two ends of our belts meet. In fact, researchers recently estimated the cost of a diet based on high-calorie foods versus one based on healthy, low-calorie foods. The high-calorie diet you could eat for $3.52 a day. The low-cal diet? A whopping $36.32 per diem.
That sounds pretty bad—unless you factor in the long-term costs of bad eating habits. Overweight people are 25 percent more likely to be hospitalized for heart disease than slim people. Their hospital stays are 16 percent longer. Their risk of high blood pressure is 44 percent higher; the risk of developing kidney cancer is 42 percent higher; the risk of high cholesterol, 33 percent higher. And those numbers only get worse if you’re obese.
In the end, your best bet is to eat the healthiest, most nutrition-packed food your money can buy. Fortunately, Eat This, Not That! 2010, serves up an indispensable list of smart, healthy swaps that you can buy for less than their equally healthy, more expensive equivalents. So instead of saving money buying junk food, you can save money buying healthy food. Now that’s a deal.
BEST BREAKFAST FOOD
The best breakfasts for all-day productivity are high in protein and low in refined carbohydrates, so even if there were no price difference, eggs would be a much better choice over a bowl of cereal (especially if it’s one of the sickly sweet varieties). That said, there is a substantial price difference. Say you can scrounge five bowls from one box–that’s 90 cents a meal (without the milk). A dozen eggs, though, makes six meals–each for an average of 27 cents. When you think of it that way–by eating cereal over eggs, you’re spending three times the amount of money on a meal–the choice is that much easier. Plus, all cereals aren’t created equal anyway; find out how they compare in this slideshow of The Best and Worst Cereals.
BONUS TIP: Eggs should be an essential inclusion in your daily diet. Discover The New American Diet and see how everything you know about food and dieting is likely to be wrong!
BEST COOKING OIL
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Save the pricey olive oil for dressing salads or drizzling lightly over grilled vegetables. Canola’s neutral flavor is great for cooking, and it happens to have an even better ratio of monounsaturated to saturated fat than the vaunted extra virgin. Olive can cost as much as a dollar per ounce, while high-end canola costs about 25 cents. Or, if you buy an average of each, you’ll save over $5 a pound on canola.
Learn thousands more useful cooking tips like this with the all-new kitchen survival guide: Cook This, Not That!
BEST BROWN-BAGGED FRUIT
Red Delicious Apple
If you bring your lunch to work every day, it’s smart to toss a fruit in the lunch sack. But which one’s most worthy of your hard-earned money? An apple will give you 14 percent of your day’s Vitamin C and 4 grams of fiber, but a banana, at half the price per pound, offers more Vitamin C and just 1 less gram of fiber. To instantly improve your diet with more tips like these, memorize this list of The Best Healthy Foods in America
The price of fresh fruits out of season is significantly higher than when they’re in season, due to transportation costs. And if you want to get your money’s worth, you’ll need to eat them within three days of buying, so they don’t spoil. One cup of frozen blueberries gives you just as much fiber as the raw variety, and a handful fewer calories. While fresh blueberries offer 18 percent more Vitamin C, that difference isn’t worth the extra cost.
BEST SNACK VEGGIE
If you’re looking for a super healthy, low-calorie snack, you’ll get more of a nutritional punch from carrots than celery, at practically the same cost per pound. One serving of carrots has twice as much fiber as celery–and 43 times as much Vitamin A!
Eat This, Not That!
developed a matrix where we compare all major cuts of beef, pork, poultry and alternative meats through a rigorous equation to assess their core nutritional value. The criteria? High protein-to-fat ratio; density of 10 essential nutrients commonly found in proteins; and low saturated fat
concentrations and cholesterol levels. Light chicken meat won out handily over all other cuts, with chicken breast being the best you could buy. But for an almost equally healthy chicken alternative, a dark chicken leg will save you 89 cents a pound—and it scored higher in nutritional value than all cuts of beef except for kidney and liver.
One more thought: You can also opt for a frozen chicken breast, which contains almost identical nutrients at half the price as the fresh breast. In our Eat This, Not That! taste tests, we found it nearly impossible to tell the difference between fresh and frozen.
It’s a little strange to us that ham is one of the least nutritious types of pork you can eat, but it’s a little more expensive than chops–the second most nutritious. While you’re only saving pennies per pound by opting for loin chops over ham, you’ll benefit hugely from the extra nutrients, and more healthful protein-to-fat ratio.
When it comes to protein-to-fat ratio and density of 10 essential nutrients commonly found in protein, Eat This, Not That! found that round roast scores slightly better than sirloin. The prices, however, differ significantly: choose the round, and save nearly a dollar a pound.
You know you should be eating more fish, but do you know which kind is healthiest? Eat This, Not That! also analyzed a dozen of the most popular fish choices and ranked them from first to worst. Our favorite sea creatures are rich in omega-3s; relatively low in mercury, PCBs, and dioxins; have decently high protein content; and are ecologically sustainable. With these qualifications in mind, both the Pacific Halibut and Farmed Catfish rank well. But opt for the Catfish, and you’ll save an average of $1.50 a pound.
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