The True Cost Of Food: Health

Last time we talked about the true cost of food in terms of money.  Money is easy – it’s easy to see how eating out is more expensive than dining in, and the results of cooking more impact your wallet almost instantly.

But now we get to the hard part:  Health.

Now, I’m certainly no doctor, nutritionist, scientist, or the healthiest person on the planet.  I don’t think you have to be any of those things to understand how the food you eat directly impacts the way your body functions.  The hard part is taking this information and having the motivation to apply it.  The changes in health you might feel from eating better are a lot slower than the benefits to your wallet.

The Health Cons Of Eating Out

In terms of health, the number one strike against eating out is that you can’t know exactly what your eating.  

Many restaurants have calorie counts and may even have an ingredient list readily available.  But how detailed is that ingredient list?  Unless you’re looking at the actual nutritional guide, which breaks down all the sub-ingredients (for example, mayo might seem like an ingredient, but it’s actually a combination of several different ingredients), you’re not getting the full picture.

When you buy your food whole, you can know EXACTLY what’s in it.

In short, consider the questions you might ask yourself as you’re picking out items at the grocery store.

  • What are the ingredients?
  • How much sugar is in it, and what types of sugar?
  • Are there any refined, processed, or artificial ingredients?
  • How many calories/carbs/vitamins/grams of fat, saturated fats, trans fats does it contain?

These are all easy questions to answer in a supermarket and nearly impossible to answer in a restaurant (at the very least it will take a lot more time).

The second health strike against eating out comes is how we physically eat out.  

Think for a minute.  When you eat out, what do you do?  You drive to a restaurant and sit – while you wait for a table, at the table, in the car on the way home, and on the couch after to digest.  Or if it’s your morning coffee or fast food, do you use the drive thru?  Or do you order delivery and not move a muscle?

You’ve probably heard that you should walk at least 10,000 steps a day.  In reality, the average American does about half that.  Why?  Probably because we’re sitting so much.

On average, we sit for about 13 hours a day – including work, commuting, eating, and unwinding.  Add in time sleeping, and at least 75% of our time is sedentary.

And while exercising regularly is a lot better than doing nothing, it may not be enough to completely negate the effects of sitting that much every day.

The effects of a sedentary lifestyle are well documented.  It’s basically an early death, due to an increased risk for diabetes, cardiovascular and heart disease, and yes, even cancer.

Consider the following scenerio:

Your lunch break at work is only 45 minutes.  Usually you get in your car, go through the drive thru, and get back with 10 minutes to eat at your desk.  You logged a couple hundred steps walking to and from your car and are having fast food for lunch.

And the alternative:

Your lunch break at work is only 45 minutes.  You made your lunch at home, and decide to eat outside because it’s sunny.  It takes 15 minutes to eat your lunch, and then you take a 20 minute walk and listen to a podcast.

In the alternative, we’re saving money (on both gas/car wear and tear and more expensive food), reducing the effects of sitting all day, and eating food with more known ingredients.  We’d also probably be more relaxed, more refreshed, and less stressed for time.

I know it’s a little silly, but think about this scenario playing out every day for months, years, decades?

What about cooking at home?  Imagine it takes you a half hour to prepare dinner – that’s a few hundred steps around the kitchen and a half hour of standing.  Over the course of the week, that’s thousands of extra steps and a half days worth of not sitting.

Add in your weekly trip to the grocery store, where it’s easy to log a mile.  The activity of loading and unloading groceries, prepping meals, doing dishes and cleaning up:  It’s all good for your health.

That extra hour or so a day of swapping sitting for standing and moving adds up to thousands of hours over the course of your life – thousands of hours spent increasing bloodflow, working your muscles, burning energy – tell me how that’s not good for you?

So yeah, the Health part is pretty simple too.  The daily habits and lifestyle changes can be daunting at first, but it’s necessary to see how little changes add up to big differences.

Remember what we defined as “food”?

Food is what you make it and what it’s made of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *