Smart choices make healthy food affordable
Many Canadian Muslims worry that eating healthy is too expensive. In fact, this worry is so widespread that many families assume healthier grocery choices will be detrimental to their family budget and are not practical. When making major family decisions – such as the quality of food that we choose to feed our children and ourselves on a daily basis – it is important to educate ourselves on how to make a healthy lifestyle work for our unique family situations.
Yes, many organic and health food stores do feature higher-priced items. However, instead of worrying about the expensive items that we can’t include in our lifestyles, we should focus on the affordable healthy changes that we CAN make in our families, right now!
Many families argue that healthy food is expensive, while they add white bread, white potatoes, vegetable oil and other items into the shopping cart. When it comes to choosing better grocery choices, realize that choice is FREE… but COSTS willpower.
A perfect example is our choice of oils and cooking practices. Vegetable oil is cheap — so many people buy a big case because they love to fry their foods. However, if you spend the same amount of money towards buying a SMALLER container of olive oil or coconut oil, you may get LESS oil for your dollar, but it’s then up to you to use LESS oil in your cooking, choose baking over frying and other healthier practices to stretch the higher quality oils you have purchased as much as possible.
Another example is choosing a loaf of whole wheat bread over white bread. Although whole wheat bread can cost a few dollars more, this can be made up by removing a bag of chips or cookies from the shopping cart. The same applies for other grain choices, such as crackers, pita bread and rice. Whole grains have more fibre than more processed grains and will keep you feeling full longer, so you will be less likely to feel starved for a junk food snack between meals. Many do not realize that we can cut down on our spending on junk food by choosing healthier foods in our main meals.
Of course, there is an issue of taste that many struggle with, especially when dealing with younger children. Many friends complain that they “just don’t like the taste of brown bread.” It takes effort and willpower to retrain your family’s eating preferences but picky eaters or taste preferences should be considered something to improve within our families — and secondary to the need for healthier options.
Peanut butter is another great example. We often buy peanut butter just because the container has a picture of a cute bear on it and we are used to the taste, rather than picking another brand of a comparable price that has no sugar or unnatural ingredients added. The same applies to jams – why buy regular jam when we can find unsweetened natural jams for the same price? And, while discussing condiments, we can pick mustard (low calorie and naturally sugar free) over ketchup for our sandwiches. Many families buy processed foods and sliced meats for school lunches, when research shows that processed meat increases your risk of cancer (International Agency for Research on Cancer). Instead, we can choose canned tuna for lunch, another affordable alternative. But, many of us are addicted to our baloney and don’t want to make the change.
We must be willing to try new foods and let go of old practices and unhealthy habits. We have to be willing to prioritize where we are spending our family food budget!
As a final note on prioritization, many of the same adults who complain about higher healthy grocery bills can be found stopping at a coffee shop on the way to work and purchasing a daily sugary snack. This all adds up, every week! These small purchases are not only detracting from a potential healthier choice on your family’s grocery bill, but can also be easily made at home for a fraction of the cost!
If we are serious about the health of our families, we must be willing to look at our own spending habits and identify areas for improvement. This may require getting a reliable travel mug to carry our morning coffee and waking up a few minutes earlier to prepare breakfast or lunch. These small changes improve our own health long-term and also also result in more flexibility in the family food budget.
Remember: small, consistent changes on behalf of both parents result in a positive impact on the quality of food we are able to provide to our children and families.
The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him said):
“The most beloved of deeds to God are the ones that are performed consistently, even if they are small.”