It's no secret that the economy stinks these days. According to a survey by a Chicago-based research firm, people are passing on the healthier options offered at fast food and casual dining restaurants in favor of a super-sized serving of comfort. Eighty-two percent of respondents say their better-for-you items are selling 'lousy. Customers are citing economic factors for their preferences.
More than half of consumers say they are more concerned about their eating habits than they were a year ago... yet:
- 70% say that healthful foods are harder to afford
- 53% say they buy less-healthful items because those items are cheaper (not necessarily, as I wrote about the price of salmon vs. hotdogs)
- 44% say their budget prevents them from eating healthful foods
- 34% of respondents say that they are choosing cheaper fast food over more-healthful options
- 9% are skipping breakfast and 3% are skipping lunch
To that, I say, this is totally unnecessary. People may think they are saving, but trust me, they are paying for it in their health. They'll pay even more later whether it's in some combination of weight gain, lower energy levels or poorer quality of life.
Instead, here are some tips to maximize your comfort with minimal strain on your pocketbook.
- Don't skip meals, especially breakfast - have oatmeal, store-brand low sugar cereal or eggs and toast for breakfast at home. No matter what kind of deal you'd get in a drive-thru, it's still cheaper to eat at home. All these options are under a dollar per serving.
- Have a healthier shopping trip - If you missed my blog and video onhealthy grocery shopping, check it out here. The bottom line is you can save money by purchasing healthy canned foods like beans, tuna, and salmon or frozen veggies and fruits. Make your own pot of comfort chili with beans, crushed tomato, and spices. Compare prices and consider the store brands. Don't snub coupons either. You could save some serious cash.
- Go for healthier comforts - There's nothing wrong with wanting a little comfort food, be it the winter blues or the impact of the economy. But there's a healthy way to do it. First, remember this: if the food did not cause the problem it won't solve it either. Second, find balance in your comfort choices: If you're eating out at fast food, just order the sandwich. If you are at casual dining, choose a healthy side dish to accompany the comfort main course. Make grilled cheese at home with low-fat cheese and reduced-sodium tomato soup.
You can save money and still eat healthy. Maybe you need to take some nutrition short-cuts. But don't just trash eating healthy without first looking at smart ways to save your money. It might take more time planning and budgeting, but it's worth it.