July 28, 2022
210: The Real Cost of Eating Healthy | Why Plant-Based Foods are More Affordable Than You Think

The Healthy Lifestyle Solutions Podcast with Maya Acosta uncovers the simple, everyday choices that improve our quality of life by exploring the cost, nutrition, and sustainability of a plant-based diet. In this episode, you ...

The Healthy Lifestyle Solutions Podcast with Maya Acosta uncovers the simple, everyday choices that improve our quality of life by exploring the cost, nutrition, and sustainability of a plant-based diet.

In this episode, you will learn the following:

  • The cost of eating healthy foods - Is it the number one reason people don't eat plant-based foods? 
  • The nutritional value of plant-based foods versus meat and dairy offers the best investment for dietary health
  • The standard American diet and the amount of processed foods Americans consume - Is this the real reason people choose not to eat healthily? 

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Rate Me: https://ratethispodcast.com/hls


[00:00:00] The cost of eating healthy foods is the number one reason why most people do not eat whole plant-based foods? Or is it? Stick around as we speak about the cost versus nutritional value of plant-based foods? This is the Healthy Lifestyle Solution podcast. And I'm your host, Maya Acosta. If you're willing to go with me, together we can discover how simple lifestyle choices can help improve our quality of life. 

[00:00:25] Let's get started. Hello, my friends. Welcome back to my podcast. I'm your host, Maya Acosta. If you're a new listener, welcome, and I'd like to invite you to listen to episode 155 to learn about my health story and why I rebranded my show. 

[00:00:42] All right, let's move on to today's topic. While I do not have a receipt for all of the items that I purchase when I do groceries, I will tell you that after six years of eating a whole food, plant-based diet and doing most of the groceries for my home, I have learned that the most expensive plant-based foods are the ones that are already prepared. These are the to-go meals and those that are already processed and stored in frozen food sections. So, these are the foods that you're going to just kind of toss in the microwave. We call these foods plant-based processed foods now traded. 

[00:01:171 Joules has quickly become my favorite grocery store, followed by Sprouts, Tom Thumb, and then Central Market, which is a local Texas chain. Now, I'm not being sponsored by any of these, but I do want to paint a picture for you of what it's like when I do groceries. So, when I go to Trader Joe's, the first thing I see is the refrigerator produce section. This is where you will see a lot of traffic because that's the first thing you see is everybody's trying to get through this one area. As a matter of fact, I have a strategy for this chaos. 

[00:01:50] I take my shopping cart and quickly move it off to the side at a distance, and then I go back to that produce section. I see an opening, and I grab whatever I can and take it to my car, drop it off, and then I come back. And to me, this creates less chaos and gets me moving around exercising a little bit more. So, people often crowd the area with their shopping carts, which causes such a great inconvenience for the rest of us. So, what do I grab from that refrigerated produce section? 

[00:02:22] Well, I grab romaine lettuce, spinach, arugula, kale, jicama, cilantro, cubed, squash, brussels sprouts, jalapenos, a bag of all the ingredients needed for making stir fry, and then I change it up. Sometimes I grab cucumbers and mushrooms. It just all really depends on what I'm cooking that week. Right across from that section, I find papayas, oranges, lemons, limes, apples, mangoes, and pomegranates. When they are in season, these are some of the favorite things that we like to snack on. 

[00:02:53] I walk a little ways away from that area to another section where I grab bananas, roma, tomatoes, grape tomatoes, avocados, red and yellow onions, garlic, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. And then another few steps, and I see the fruit that is in containers kind of almost pre-cut, pre-diced, and all of that. So that's watermelon, strawberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, and cherries. Close to the produce section, you find nuts and seeds. So, I usually buy pecans and walnuts for my salads and my oatmeal. 

[00:03:26] One isle over, I find quinoa and chia seeds. Sometimes I pick up pasta. I also find canned jackfruit artichoke hearts and hearts of palm. And from time to time, I may get, like, marinara sauce. But I'm very picky about the marinara because I try to avoid, like, too much sugar or added oil. 

[00:03:48] I pick up spices if needed, and vanilla for my oatmeal. Then I go over to the other aisle where I go through the frozen food section and I pick up a couple of bags of the frozen wild blueberries that I use for my oatmeal and for my smoothies. And sometimes I get frozen artichoke hearts, which are really cool to use in the baked goods section. I grab some corn tortillas and ciabatta bread for sandwiches, and that's pretty much it. Sometimes I go back and look at the vegan items. 

[00:04:21] But that area also, like, everything that's prepared to go and package can get crowded as well. So, I don't always have time to go and look at the section. But I do find premade lentil and vegetable soups and vegetable wraps. Sometimes cups, like fruit cups, are also something that you can pick up and other things, like a vegan pesto. Now, these are going to cost you a little bit more than if I make these items at home. 

[00:04:48] So, no matter how many times I shop at Trader Joe's, every single time I'm at the counter checking out, I'm always impressed at how much food I am taking home for the amount of money that I'm paying. And this is after having shopped at many places, I take my items home, and I make salads and bootables and oatmeal, and we love to snack on fruit, and this is pretty much what I do. I have my favorite staples at home. I buy my grains somewhere else. So, whatever I don't buy at Trader Joe's, I buy at other stores. 

[00:05:21] Now, researchers at Harvard University compared the cost of plant-based foods to meat and dairy. They concluded that if you want the most nutrition per dollar, you should buy more nuts, soy foods, beans, and whole foods and reduce your purchases of meat and dairy. They concluded that the purchase of plant-based foods may offer the best investment for dietary health. My main goal is to feed my body the healthiest foods on the planet. An average serving of vegetables can cost roughly four times more than the average serving of junk food, but those veggies have been calculated to average 24 times more nutrition. 

[00:06:01] So on the cost per nutrition basis, vegetables offer six times more nutrition per dollar compared to highly processed foods. Meat costs about three times more than vegetables, yet yields 16 times less nutrition based on an aggregate of nutrients. Because meat is less nutritious and costs more than vegetables, nets you 48 times more nutrition per dollar than meat. That comes from the How Not To Diet book by Dr. Michael Greger. 

[00:06:28] If your goal is to have as much nutrition in your diet for the least amount of money, you will want to head straight to the produce section, like I do at Trader Joe's. That's where I spend most of my time. Same thing with Sprouts. Sprouts has a beautiful collection of produce, and then Central Market is one of my favorite stores. But yes, some of the produce can be expensive. 

[00:06:51] Going back to the question of whether eating healthy is expensive or not, I would say that dining at a restaurant or eating processed plant-based foods will cost you more than if you simply make your salads at home and use fresh ingredients. Have you ever seen the cost of salads in restaurants? I mean, you can have a bootable for $15 at a restaurant where you can simply take those few ingredients and probably make a bootable for $6. I've never calculated the cost, but I know how much I use at home and how much it cost me. I recall many years ago watching a couple of my friends not associated and are related to separate locations. 

[00:07:32] They did groceries, and I watched the majority of the food. It went straight into the pantry. These were packaged foods like cereals and chips and cookies and popcorn. And some of the other food went straight into the freezer, like the frozen meats and frozen packaged foods. Very little was produced, unprocessed beans or whole grains. 

[00:07:54] These are the foods that I mainly eat right, like fruits and vegetables. And then the other foods that I put in the pantry are the variety of beans, legumes, whole grains and pasta, oats, and barley. So, what do we mean by unprocessed? So think, for example, strawberries. I love to just snack on strawberries. 

[00:08:16] They are delicious just as they are. You can top your oatmeal or your salads with strawberries for that added antioxidant power. But I also saw a video where this individual took all these beautiful strawberries, put them in boiling water, added tons of sugar, and preservatives to make a jam. Those beautiful strawberries suddenly became processed. Unprocessed plant foods tend to have more protective nutrients and fewer disease-promoting factors. 

[00:08:47] So, if you don't process them, you don't destroy all those nutrients and antioxidants that they have to offer. In episodes 151 and 153, I talk about the state of our health and the role the standard American diet plays in promoting disease. For example, when we look at processed foods, the standard American diet consists of 63% processed foods. 25% are animal foods. A small 12% of that diet is plant-based, with only 6% of that 12% being unprocessed. 

[00:09:24] Plant-based foods reduce your risk for heart disease, lower your cholesterol and blood pressure levels, they balance your blood sugars, and they lower the risk for cancer. A 2010 report from the National Cancer Institute stated that three out of four Americans don't eat a single piece of fruit on a given day. Nine out of ten don't reach the minimum recommended daily intake of vegetables on a weekly basis. 96% of Americans don't reach the minimum of greens. That's just three servings a week. 

[00:09:58] 98% don't reach the minimum for orange vegetables, that's two servings a week. 99% don't even reach the minimum of whole grains. That's two to 3oz a day. So, we're not getting enough healthy foods. So is the cost of plant-based foods the real reason that many people are choosing not to eat plant-based foods? 

[00:10:18] I don't know. I would say that then the number two reason not eating healthy is that people do not know where to start. There is so much misinformation about mainly focusing on your protein intake and avoiding carbs, which I have already addressed in episode 156, I talked about the protein myth. I also address in another episode that really, you are a starch of war. You can find an adequate amount of protein in most plant-based foods, and in general, people are getting too much protein, which can be harmful to the kidneys. 

[00:10:54] So, what do you eat as a starchy war? Well, you have 70% of your diet should come from starchy foods, 20% comes from vegetables, and 10% comes from fruit. Again, it's mainly the aisles that I've been visiting at Trader Joe's. In episode 160, I talked about trying a seven-day challenge with me that included eating lots of greens and starchy foods, vegetables, and fruit, and avoiding all animal foods, added oils, added salt, and sugars for just seven days just for you to see how you feel. But you don't have to do an all-or-nothing approach. 

[00:11:33] As a matter of fact, trying to do it overnight without having a system in place can just be unsustainable, and you'll just completely give up. So, I'm giving you another tool this week. We often encourage people to take a three three three approach, and this is based on the idea that, in general, most family meals consist of eight to nine common dishes that are rotated every few days or every other week. I ask you right now just to write down what you typically eat. If you want to jot it down and track your meals for a week, two weeks, a month, you're probably going to see that you're a creature of habit. 

[00:12:14] Most of us enjoy the same meals on a consistent basis, and every once in a while we try something new, but we're creatures of habit. So, I invite you to jot down your meals just to see what you actually eat. Now, with this three three three approach, you want to start with three meals that you already enjoy that are plant-based, such as pasta marinara. That was one of the things that we enjoyed early on. We did have a lot more pasta than we have today, but that's just because we were learning how to eat. 

[00:12:43] You may enjoy black beans and rice, like black beans and rice burrito, like something you can find in Chipotle. I know that till this day I enjoy a black bean burrito. So think of three meals that you already like that are already plant-based and write them down on the list. As you begin to plan for a more sustainable transition, then think of three other meals that you enjoy. How can you improve the nutritional value of those three meals? 

[00:13:12] I give the example, for example, of my husband who once enjoyed a baked potato with chili on top from his favorite restaurant. At the time, before we cooked as much as we do, he would go to Wendy's and grab a baked potato with chili on top. He now loves a baked potato top with lentils. It's just a healthier alternative. And then finally, you can add three more plant-based meals slowly as you become adjusted to the flavors of the foods. 

[00:13:41] So, it could be like brown rice with roasted vegetables as a meal. Last week I gave you two websites where you can grab recipes, and Forks Over Knives is one of them. I'm just going to stick with that one this week just because I think it has such a variety of recipes. But like I said, try not to do too much at the beginning because it can be overwhelming. So, today I'm also going to give you another tool. 

[00:14:08] This comes from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. They offer a 21-day Kickstart program. So, the Vegan Kickstart will help you take control of your health with a plant-based diet. So, you join the Physicians Committee's Vegan Kickstart to receive meal plans, recipes, and advice from nutrition experts. The Vegan Kickstarter is supported by decades of research showing that a plant-based 

diet can help you reach a healthy weight and lower your risk for heart disease, type two diabetes, and other chronic diseases. 

[00:14:42] So, they have low-fat plant-based recipes developed by chefs, dietitians, and experts in vegan cuisine. And they provide nutritious meals that are both healthy and delicious. And the website for that is pcrm.org Vegan Kickstart. So, make sure that you visit that if you want to join that program. It's free. 

[00:15:06] There's no obligation. No one is bothering you. You're just receiving emails with tools. Okay, my friend. So, those are my tips for this week. 

[00:15:15] And as a matter of fact, I'm headed to Midland on August 5. That'll be the following weekend, and my husband and I are driving to Midland, Texas for the Food Is Medicine Conference. This week's guest expert was Valerie Acosta. She is the Executive Director for the Healthy City nonprofit who puts this conference on every year. And she joined me on Tuesday to give us highlights about the conference and five reasons why we should attend. 

[00:15:47] And I had such a wonderful conversation with her that I'm super excited to attend. I'm going to put a link in the show notes if you're interested in purchasing a ticket to go to the conference. But if you see me, please stop by and say hello. I will be with my husband, Dr. Riz. 

[00:16:03] We always enjoy going to social events well, really to learn, but also to connect with all of you. Next week, I have two great episodes for you. My guest expert is John Massingale. He is a registered dietitian and diabetes specialist, and he's going to talk to us about all things diabetes. I think it's going to be really beneficial. 

[00:16:26] And then I will be giving you another health tip that will help you with diabetes. My friends, I hope to see you soon. Make sure that you follow me on social media Instagram at maya hlspodcast. Thanks for being a listener. You've been listening to the Healthy Lifestyle Solutions Podcasts with your host, Maya Acosta. 

[00:16:48] If you've enjoyed this podcast, do us a favor and share with one friend who can benefit from this episode. Feel free to leave an honest review as well at ratespot at CAS. Comhls. This helps us to spread our message. And as always, thank you for being a listener.