• Katie Chaplin

Great body on a budget

It is well established that the perceived costs of healthier food is a huge barrier for a lot of people, (1), but is it really that expensive? Are there ways round it?

The Super Foods trap

If you take anything away from this blog let it be this- food industry’s primary objective is to MAKE MONEY and not to make you healthy.

The EU has gone to the lengths of banning companies from listing health benefits on foods, unless this is scientifically proven, and luckily things are continuing to tighten up from this perspective (2)

Often trendy ‘super foods’- avocados, chia seeds, Matcha for example- are high in one nutrient and, whilst that is not to say they are not great additions to the diet if you have the means, often these nutrients are present in similar and cheaper foods. It is always important to think why you are purchasing it, rather than trusting someone’s anecdotal evidence that it works. It can also be pretty unhealthy to jump on the Health or super food bandwagon, as you end up focusing on eating a couple of ‘super foods’ and can end up disregarding the rest of your food intake, leading to an imbalanced diet.

Frozen food

Fruit, vegetables, and certain seafoods are good examples of foods that are considered expensive but are often a fraction of the price if the frozen versions are bought. The quality is as good, if not better, as the foods are picked in their ‘prime’ and immediately frozen, rather than hanging about in delivery and on the shelves, as the nutrient content starts to drop from when it is picked.

Expensive Protein

Protein element tends to be the most expensive/biggest difference in price in healthy versus non healthy eating (3). Beans and lentils are a great, cheap addition to the diet, especially for a vegan or vegetarian whose diets tend to be more expensive, and hitting an optimum protein intake is often more difficult (this is discussed in my Vegan and Vegetarian blog). They are also high in fibre, which is often a welcome asset for a fat loss client.

Cheaper cuts of meat, for example chicken thighs, taste great if they are cooked in certain ways e.g. in the oven or a slow cooker.

Shop online

This is a great call from a fat loss and general health perspective, as it prevents you from getting distracted by the food aisles around you- again heavy marketing comes into play- they want you to buy food!- and can make it very difficult to resist the junk food impulse buys in particular (4).

As those that use this option know , there is a small fee – Sainsburys for example charges £20.00 for 3 months ‘Anytime Pass’ ( delivery anytime Monday – Sunday) or £10.00 for midweek pass ( Tuesday- Thursday ). The Anytime pass equates to £1.67 per month, and the Midweek to £0.83- that bag of crisps ( about £0.85) or tub of brownie bites (£1.60) you pick up purely because it was ‘there’ in front of you and heavily promoted, it’s easy to get your money back and lose the inches.

Herbs and Spices

Some health food shops and websites stock sauces, syrups and seasonings that can set you back between £3.50 and £7.00.

Herbs and spices tend to be a lot cheaper at around a £1.00 a pot, all of which last ages because you only need a small amount per meal. I will expand on my favourite seasonings in a later blog, but some excellent additions include cinnamon, paprika (I personally prefer smoked), chilli flakes and basil. Of note the sweetener Stevia is a useful addition- much sweeter than sugar (5), so you need less, so a pot of it will last a while!

Buy own brand

There are things that you will always be ‘you get what you pay for’ but many own-label buys are of equivalent quality, or at least extremely close to, that of the branded label equivalents. In a market where people are value, rather than brand loyal (6), this can save you a small fortune, as can going to markets and butchers (mid-late afternoon is best for deals).

How expensive are healthy meals?

The chicken stew I personally use for my lunches works out at £6.85 which covers 4 lunches- or £1.71 each- compare this to a common lunch that a lot of people don’t think twice about purchasing- a salad or wrap from Pret a Manger , which costs approximately £3.99 and £3,75 respectively, you can see that a healthy lifestyle doesn’t eat into your income in the way you may think.

You Decide

As one of my final points it is worth remembering that when making a decision such as moving onto a healthy eating regime, on a psychological level you will always weigh up the pros and cons of the potential change (7). The more cons on your ‘list’ the less likely you are to go ahead with and make the change- these cons are obviously going to hold you back so always be aware of what cons (regardless of how positive the change is, there will always be some), which are often just excuses, you are making for yourself .

Get help

If you are overwhelmed, hiring an expert often saves you money in long run - the ‘must have’ supplements your mate told you about/company persuaded you to buy but weren’t quite what you were hoping for, could have paid for you to see someone who could work out what you really need to do to achieve your goals. For coaching on this area, just click the ‘Contact Me’ option on this blog.


1. Lo et al (2009). Health and nutrition economics: diet costs are associated with diet quality. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr, 18 (4) 598-604

2. Roller S, Pippins R (2010). Marketing nutrition & health-related benefits of food & beverage products: enforcement, litigation & liability issues. Food Drug Law J, 65 (3): 447-69

3. Rao et al (2014). Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ Open, 3 (12) e004277 doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004277

4. Chandon P, Wansink B (2012). Does food marketing need to make us fat? A review and solutions. Nutr Rev, 70 (10) 571-593 doi: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2012.00518.x

5. Prakash et al (2014). Development of Next Generation Stevia Sweetner: Rebaudioside M. Foods, 3(1) 162-175 doi 10.3390/foods3010162


7. Janis IL , Mann L (1977) Decision Making: A psychological analysis of conflict,choice and commitment. New York: The Free Press


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