“Eating healthy is expensive.”
“It is easier and cheaper to choose less healthy foods.”
“I can’t afford to eat well.”
As a college educator and health coach, these are the types of remarks my students and clients share with me as we discuss the barriers to achieving a healthy lifestyle and establishing healthier practices. Simply put, the perception is this: food that is good for you is expensive.
On one hand, I cannot entirely disagree. First, Wyoming has a shorter growing season than other more temperate environments, which can negatively impact consistent access to quality produce and fresh food items. Second, some organic products carry a higher price tag. Fresh salads at sit-down restaurants tend to exceed the “dollar menu” value at the local drive-through.
But, what if we shift our perspective and examine this “problem” through a different lens? True — wellness is not a “money maker”; it’s a money saver. By that I mean this — we can either invest in good health now or pay for poor health later. Personal health is an investment and while the ROI may not be that of liquid assets, it’s hard to dispute the significant payoffs we receive in other forms. A reduction in overall disease risk, improvement in sleep, cognitive function and focus, enhanced quality of life, increased productivity and reduced absenteeism. These are just a handful of the “intangible” benefits we reap by investing in health.
Let’s examine this in terms of dollar amounts.
• Obese adults spend 42 percent more money on direct health care costs than those of normal weight/healthy individuals.
• Estimates for the annual costs related to obesity and its related comorbidities is between $147 billion and $210 billion.
• The cost to employers is roughly $4.3 billion ($506 per obese employee) annually.
(Source: State of Obesity)
Compare those figures to these average costs of selected food items.
• A 3-pound bag of Fuji apples — $2.99 ($4.14 for organic)
• A 5-pound bag of red grapefruit — $3.22 ($7.20 for organic)
• 1 pound of asparagus — $2.41 ($4.49 for organic)
• 1 pound of cauliflower — $1.10 ($1.49 for organic)
• 1 pound of green leaf lettuce — $1.19 (organic price per pound not listed)
Simple math tells us that buying a 3-pound bag of Fuji apples each week for 52 weeks (assuming 1 pound of apples/week for each employee) results in an annual cost of $155.48 (or $215.28 for the organic variety) per employee. At that price, employers might even be able to foot the bill to save on the cost of lost productivity, absenteeism and insurance premiums associated with unhealthy employees (at the tune of $506 per obese employee). It’s certainly something to contemplate.
Sometimes a perceived barrier is just that, perceived. All things considered, the question may not be “Can you afford to buy the healthier options”? The more accurate question, in fact, may just be “Can you afford not to?”
Erin Nitschke is a health and human performance educator, NSCA Certified Personal Trainer, and ACE Health Coach & Fitness Nutrition Specialist. To contact her, email firstname.lastname@example.org.