The key to getting thinner, healthier: Put your money where your mouth is

I’m sure this news won’t come as a surprise to you, because I’ve been preaching about it for quite some time now. But a recent study confirms that when it comes to buying nutritious food, you get what you pay for.
In the 1960s, Americans spent about 24% of their income on food. Those were the good old days when people primarily ate fresh, locally sourced, seasonal foods, free from pesticides and additives.

But fast forward to present day, where Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food, with almost half of that amount (4.3%) going towards eating out. Which means a paltry 5.6% of their food budget goes toward foods they prepare at home.

At the same time, the price of vegetables has risen by 199% over the past 30 years, while the cost of ice cream has fallen by 50%.

And where have these crazy fluctuations taken us? Straight into the midst of a diabesity crisis.

So when I came across this new study in the British Journal of Nutrition confirming my “dollars out, nutrition in” theory, I had to share it with you.

Researchers from the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute (IMIM) in Spain, recruited over 2,000 adults aged 25-74 and monitored the amount of money they spent on food from 2000 to 2010. During this time, the researchers recorded the types of foods they purchased and ate, as well as their height, weight, BMI and activity level.

The results showed that people who spent the most money made healthier choices. For example, the people who spent about $3 more per day ate 1/3 cup more vegetables, and a 1/4 cup more fruit, compared to those who spent less. And as an added bonus, the people who spent more and chose healthier options also lost the most weight—about 10 oz. for every dollar spent. Over the course of a year, the healthy food eaters spent about $1,000 more, and lost about 7 lbs.

I realize $1,000 isn’t exactly pocket change. But it’s also not a “make or break” amount for the vast majority of people. Think of it this way: $1,000 is probably less than you pay for a year of cable TV.

The good news is, this is message is starting to sink in—at least with the younger generation. According to a USA Today survey that polled more than 30,000 consumers around the world, people age 20 and younger were the most health-conscious of all consumers, and were willing to pay more if a food was healthy.

Baby Boomers and other generations were more likely to view things like organic foods as too expensive. And, indeed, the Spanish study authors also noted that during the 10-year study period, the prices of healthy foods increased much faster than the prices of unhealthy foods. For instance, fruits increased by 50%, and processed foods rose 23%.

Which is exactly why studies like these are so important. They should be a wake-up call to all of us to push for policy changes that can impact how much healthy, organic foods cost—and make it more affordable for everyone. We should use studies like these to force the hands of policy makers to subsidize good food, instead of the toxic sugar, wheat, corn, and soy crops our tax dollars currently subsidize.

In the meantime, regardless of which generation you belong to, it’s time to put your money where your mouth is—literally.

Spending a little bit more on healthier food is an investment that pays huge dividends: keeping your weight at a healthy level, keeping your blood sugar stable, decreasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and even death.

Believe me, it’s worth it.