OPINION: Eat healthy and stay on a budget

Writer Virginia Woolf said, "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well if one has not dined well."

While we often associate "dining well" with a high price tag, there are ways to make delicious and nutritious meals on a budget.

That may seem hard to believe when the average cost of eating food at home rose more than 11% between 2021 and 2022. For example, eggs became 70% more expensive. During this time, 35 states also lost some Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits.

But even if we wanted to blame the price hikes for our poor eating habits, the truth is we've been falling short on nutrition recommendations for a while. In fact, approximately 90% of adults fail to eat enough fruits and vegetables. And while a drive-through may seem convenient some nights, the costs of eating unhealthy foods can add up -- both for your body and your wallet.

Today, more than 70% of American adults are overweight, and more than half are obese. However, obesity doesn't only affect grownups. According to the National Survey of Children's Health, one in six American kids also suffer from obesity. This condition can lead to hypertension, high blood cholesterol, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.

Considering all this, how can you eat healthily without breaking the bank?

The first thing to do is to plan meals in advance. By knowing what you'll cook beforehand, you can make a grocery list and stick to it.

If you're afraid you'll go off-book when it comes to following the list, set a budget, too. For a family of four, the USDA suggests spending $241.70 per week if you're on a low-cost budget, $301.20 per week if you're on a moderate budget and $363.70 per week if you're on a liberal budget.

And don't forget to stretch that budget further by looking at your favorite store's app for digital coupons, buying grains and beans in bulk, shopping for sale items or sticking to seasonal fruits and veggies. (You might not know it, but seasonal produce is often less expensive and it tastes better).

Finally, consider cutting down on processed foods. While processed foods can be convenient and you may think they're much cheaper, that's not the case. According to one study, diets rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts only cost about $1.50 more per day than the least healthy diets.

We know eating healthily and affordably isn't always easy, but this is a good place to start.

If you are struggling with dietary choices or weight loss tips, your healthcare provider can help. If you're looking for a provider, find one near you by visiting https://bit.ly/PCP_Online today.