Let's assume that most Americans actually liked eating fruits and vegetables (a BIG assumption since most of us don't even come close; only a quarter to a third get the full recommended daily servings of fruit and vegetables).
Would they even be able to afford it? Because as we showed a few weeks ago, just one individual's daily portion is A LOT of food. A lot of EXPENSIVE food.
There are many ways to get your fruits and vegetables, but few disagree that fresh is best. They taste better and hold on to the most nutrients. Yet, the produce aisle is one of the most expensive sections of the store. Many people I know say one of the biggest deterrents to eating their daily fruit and veggies is the high add-on to their weekly grocery bill. No wonder everyone flocks to the processed food and candy aisles instead!
Or ... do we only think it's more expensive? Has anyone actually stopped complaining long enough to figure this out? By eating more roughage, will we be able to reduce our intake of other not-so-good foods and cut costs there? And how hard is it really to eat the full recommended amounts of produce every day? Will we feel and look so much better that it's worth the extra price?
A full investigation was in order. I spent a week carefully tracking my fruit and veggie consumption, trying to eat the full amount of each every day. And then I wrote down exactly how much eat bite cost me.
The bottom line:
I consider myself a healthy eater, but I was still surprised to see how much more fruit and vegetables I should be eating: a third more vegetables and at least twice as much fruit as I usually eat! I haven't been in the habit of snacking on fruit. My produce grocery bill came to $31.02 -- just for me. Throw in produce for my husband and my 6-year-old son and that brings us up to $77.55 just on fruit and vegetables. My family spent about $12 more than usual on fruit and $15 more on vegetables for a total $27 increase on top of our typical $150 per week bill.
So was the extra $27 worth it? Absolutely. First, there's the investment in our health. According to a new documentary, Nourish, Americans spend less than 10 percent of our income on food; meanwhile we spend 16 percent of our income on health care. Of course there are many different factors going into the high cost of health care beyond the junk we eat, but our highly-processed, cheap diet is definitely making us sicker. Besides, which of these two would you rather pay more for, food or health care? I don't have a lot of money, so when I do part with my precious funds I'd rather it go to healthy (and delicious) food.
By eating more fruit and vegetables I ate fewer empty calories. This was probably the biggest surprise, but snacking on all that fruit made me lose my appetite for the cookies in my pantry. I found vegetables that pulled double-duty as sources of nutrients and belly-fillers, what would ordinarily be some side starch that adds calories and little more. All in all I felt fed down to my cells, not just "full."
And then there's the joy of eating. The proportions on my plate changed from the traditional meat-starch-veg to meat-veg-veg, from brown and beige to a more vibrant array of colors. We also experienced a greater variety in flavors and textures at each meal. It reminded me of the scene in The Wizard of Oz when Dorothy leaves gray Kansas and enters colorful Oz. Who wouldn't want to eat like this more often?
What I ate over 1 week:
1 1/2 cup grape tomatoes $2.75
1 cup fennel bulb $1.69
1 cup arugula $2.50 organic
4 cup carrots $1.11
1 cup peas, frozen $0.62
3 cup red potatoes $3
1 1/2 cauliflower $0.75
1/2 cup salsa $1.29
1 cup watercress $1
1/2 cup mushrooms$0.75
1 cup broccoli rabe $1.50
1/2 cup pureed tomato $0.30
1 cup green beans $1
1 cup romaine hearts $1 (same cost for bagged salad mix)
6 bananas $1.77
4 apples $2 for local
1/2 cup kiwi berries $4
1 cup pineapple $2.50 ea
1 cup grapes $1.50 for "Mars" grapes at farmer's market
Total: $31.02 (not including flavorings and garnishes like garlic and basil)
Calculate how much fruit and vegetables you should be eating at FruitsandVeggiesMatter.
See this nifty info-graphic that shows how much Americans spend on groceries and on eating out by city.
Are you willing to spend more to get more fruits and veggies into your diet?
Image via ariztravel/Flickr