With major supermarkets and food manufacturers bombarding us with their clever marketing tactics and weekly specials on processed, pre-packaged groceries parading as healthy options, it’s easy to get sucked into these gimmicks and declare the true meaning of healthy eating unaffordable.

But experts say we are being duped by misleading claims and supermarket product placement, and that if we just familiarised ourselves with the basics of good nutrition, we’d benefit our budgets as much as our waistlines.

In fact, the latest research shows that a diet that follows the Australian Dietary Guidelines would actually cost less than the typical Australian diet, which tends to contain more than half “discretionary” foods, such as takeaway, alcohol and sugary drinks.

The “health halo” effect

Food marketers are very clever at appealing to our vulnerabilities, with front-of-packet slogans and promises often making it difficult to determine what’s the healthiest choice.

Products with such persuasive “health” labels are often referred to as having a “health halo”, even if they’re not actually the healthiest thing to eat.

Research shows that when foods are labelled with words like “100% natural” or “made with real fruit” we often think they are healthier and are willing to spend more money on them.

Another example is breakfast biscuits often labelled as “high fibre” or “high protein”, which tend to have more calories and less fibre than a standard bowl of wheat biscuits with milk — yet cost as much as 18 times more.

Even money itself has a health halo. One study found people assume an $8.95 chicken wrap is healthier than an identical $6.95 one.

The time-poor factor

Experts say that many Australians feel so time poor that they prioritise quicker, more convenient options rather than spend time cooking.

“Why would people want to spend an extra 20 minutes in the kitchen each night to make food that the family won’t eat, when they know they could serve up convenience food and they’d go back for seconds?” says dietitian Professor Claire Collins.

But Collins believes the best gift we can give ourselves and our families is to learn some basic cooking skills.

“If you really love someone, buy, shop and cook more veggies and help them learn to love it,” she says.

“If we could replace discretionary foods with vegetables they like and enjoy, it would help people feel better, boost their fibre intakes (which would reduce the incidence of bowel cancer) and lead to weight loss (which would reduce the prevalence of obesity).”

Take some time to learn

The best way to see through health halos, and get healthier meals on the table quicker, is to get curious about food and nutrition.

“If people understood how to read a nutrition panel, they may not fall for the marketing jargon,” says accredited practising dietitian Joel Feren, who is a spokesperson for the Dietitian’s Association of Australia.

Trying a new recipe each week using different fresh ingredients is Feren’s top tip for building a healthier repertoire.

“We need to have the know-how to create no-fuss, minimal ingredient meals that are not only cost-effective but extremely nutritious,”

“It’s always going to be healthier if you prepare it yourself. It might only take five more minutes of preparation to make a pizza on pitta bread with fresh vegetables and quality cheeses, rather than a packaged oven-bake pizza from the supermarket freezer aisle.”

Feren says that while we might have an abundance of convenience foods on offer these days, we also have the luxury of affordable healthy ingredients at our fingertips.

“Stock up on things like tinned legumes – they can cost as little as $0.80 a can and are incredibly versatile. You can add them to soups, salads, curries and stir-fries, which will boost the fibre and protein content, plus provide B vitamins, folate and iron,” he says.

“Buy fresh fruit and vegetables from Your Local Greengrocer when they are in season. You’ll find they’re much cheaper – not to mention they’re locally grown!”

And an economical home cook always makes use of condiments, herbs and spices to inject healthful flavour into meals and snacks.

“Tofu is a good example – it’s about half the price of meat or fish and is delicious marinated Asian or Mexican-style,” Feren says.

“Get adventurous with making home-made sauces, as well as using fresh herbs and spices to turn your cooking into something really tasty.”

When you shop at Your Local Greengrocer, you know that you’re buying the best quality ingredients for cooking at home. From fresh fruit & vegetables to gourmet grocery lines, deli items and dairy products, you’ll find everything you need to create delicious yet healthy food for you and your family.

However, for those of you who are time poor, you’ll find many pre-made meal options available at Your Local Greengrocer – many of which have been personally prepared with quality ingredients and made fresh daily.

Original article by Nine Coach


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