The Cost of Healthy Eating

By Charlyn Fargo

News flash: You don’t need special, expensive foods to build a healthy diet. Surprised?

Most of us buy into the myth that eating healthy costs more. But the United States Department of Agriculture has a plan to help you eat healthy — at an affordable rate. It involves choosing healthier foods such as carrots and pinto beans over ice cream and cakes — and spending less to do that. Here are a few practical tips to do that.

No. 1: Plan ahead, and cook from scratch. Planning ahead allows you to only buy what you need, take advantage of sales and avoid using fast food for lunches. The cheapest meal you will fix is the one already in your freezer. Check your pantry, fridge and freezer to build meals around things you’ve already purchased. Cut down on food waste by repurposing leftovers and freezing extras for another meal. You can save money buy purchasing frozen fruits and vegetables and making meat an accent rather than the main event.

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No. 2: Skip more expensive organically grown plants. All fruits and vegetables (fresh or frozen, cooked or raw, or organic or conventional) are healthy choices. The important thing is to include lots of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. Buy what’s in season, whether that’s at the grocery store, farmers market or grown in your own garden.

No. 3: Skip gluten-free unless you have been diagnosed with celiac disease. For most people, there is no research that gluten-free foods are healthier than foods containing gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, which is a valuable contributor to dietary fiber intake in our diets. It is more important to opt for whole grains rather than refined products, whether wheat or gluten-free.

No. 4: Buying in bulk can save money — if you have a plan to use the food rather than let it go to waste. Bulk items work best if they have shelf life, such as canned beans or lower-sodium canned tomatoes or lower-sodium chicken broth. Bulk frozen items (packaged individually) can also be money savers.

No. 5: Cook it yourself. If you cook a meal yourself, you can save the extra expense of buying more expensive already-prepared meals in the freezer case or deli counter. And you have more control over the foods you eat. Studies show meals at home are healthier than those purchased in a restaurant because they often include fruits and vegetables.

Q and A

Q: I read that drinking a glass of wine can lower your risk for cataract surgery. Is that really true?

A: Apparently, it is. Researchers at the University of Cambridge found out drinking low to moderate amounts of alcohol, particularly wine, may actually reduce your risk for cataract surgery. The study, published in the February Journal of Ophthalmology, included two groups totaling nearly 493,000 participants. The participants, whose average ages were 56 and 59, were followed for eight and 16 years, respectively. One group drank alcohol; the other group did not. Researchers found the strongest protective association was with wine drinkers. Wine drinkers’ risk for needing cataract surgery was 23% lower in the first group and 14% lower in the second group.


Blueberries rank among the foods with the highest amount of antioxidants. They are bursting with nutrition: For 84 calories, a cup packs 36% of the daily value of vitamin K, 24% of vitamin C, 4 grams of fiber and plenty of other phytochemicals. Eating just one-third of a cup per day is associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and improved weight management. Here’s a recipe from Environmental Nutrition to add to your table.


Servings: 4

1/3 cup feta cheese, cubed
1/3 cup red onion, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Pinch of red pepper flakes
2 cups seedless watermelon, cubed
1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup cucumber, chopped
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, thinly sliced

Toss together feta, red onion, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice and red pepper flakes. Let stand for 10 minutes. Toss together watermelon, blueberries, cucumber and basil. Transfer to a small serving platter. Top with feta marinade.

Per serving: 150 calories; 3 grams protein; 15 grams carbohydrates; 10 grams fat (3 grams saturated); 2 grams fiber; 10 grams sugar (0 added); 115 milligram sodium.

Charlyn Fargo is a registered dietitian with SIU Med School in Springfield, Illinois. For comments or questions, contact her at or follow her on Twitter @NutritionRD. To find out more about Charlyn Fargo and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at


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