In these expensive times, many people are looking for ways to cut costs. One way to do this is to choose cheaper but often unhealthy food. Nevertheless, healthy eating really doesn’t have to be expensive, argues Liesbeth Velema, nutrition and behavioral expert at the Dutch Nutrition Centre.
“It may be a simple meal, but you can already make a tasty stew with carrots, potatoes and onions,” says Velema. We take her to the Amsterdam Dappermarkt to talk about the cost of healthy food. And that’s her first tip: “At the market you can find farm-fresh vegetables and often for next to nothing.”
Frozen vegetables and legumes
Other tips Velema has: “Make a list when you shop, so you buy less unnecessary things. Compare the prices in different supermarkets. Before you go shopping, check your pantry, fridge and freezer. You usually find that you still have some things at home or you come up with ideas. Also consider frozen vegetables, which are cheaper and actually just as healthy as fresh vegetables.”
The most expensive part of a meal is often the piece of meat or fish. But you can also choose a cheaper and healthy variant. “It immediately becomes cheaper if you replace fish or meat with legumes. They are just as healthy and much cheaper.”
“Cheap and healthy is possible, you just have to make a little effort”
Eating is a habit
Velema emphasizes that eating is also a matter of habit. We eat what we are used to eating and what we got from home. “We often think that we choose products on a rational basis, but research shows that we choose out of habit or are tempted by advertisements or by the place in the supermarket.”
Our brain wants candy
Our penchant for sweet, greasy bites is easy to explain, according to Velema. “Those dishes contain a lot of calories. In the past, in primitive times when people still lived by hunting, it was important to get as much fuel as possible. After all, you never knew if and when the next nutritious meal would be in In our time, where we have too much rather than too little food, that incentive has become frivolous, but the tendency to eat sweet and fatty foods has proven difficult to suppress and has resulted in more fat people than ever before So we become aware that we constantly being misled by our primal brain.”
Because we naturally succumb to fat sweets, we are easy prey for sellers and advertisers. “It’s easy to sell ready-made fatty, sweet or salty products,” continues the nutritionist. “Much easier than healthy products that have to be processed before they start to taste. A sausage roll, for example, is easier to sell than a carrot or a leek. Especially if we can stuff products directly from the packaging, success is guaranteed. And that’s exactly the kind of food we find in supermarkets and gas stations. Convenience foods scream for our attention from every shelf. Cheap and unhealthy, often too sweet, too salty and too fatty. Convenience foods are relatively cheap per calorie, but exactly the excess calories we haven’t needed in a long time.”
Focus on healthy eating
Research by NH Nieuws in collaboration with Kieskompas shows that around 90% of the North Dutch believe that healthy products should become cheaper, even if this means that unhealthy products become more expensive. Velema is also in favor of intervention: “If we want the Dutch to eat healthier, the government will have to intervene with regulations”. She is certain that control with tax and advertising regulations is the only way to help us resist our primal urges when it comes to food. “But it turns out to be very difficult to get that conviction between the ears of politicians and administrators.”
Healthy eating for little money is therefore certainly possible, but it requires more effort, creativity and knowledge. “It just requires a little more cooking skill,” says Velema. “It starts with shopping. If you know, for example, which vegetables belong to a season, you can answer that. Brussel sprouts are cheaper in winter than in summer. Of course, you need to know how to prepare the vegetables. We from the Dutch Nutrition Center trying to help people with healthy and cheap recipes on our website”.
State of NH
This article is part of our research project ‘State of NH’. To this end, NH Nieuws commissioned research by Kieskompas on topics that residents of North Holland consider the most important. We organize themed weeks around the four most frequently mentioned topics in the survey (housing crisis, affordable living conditions, healthcare and nature), where we discuss the topics in detail. For an explanation of survey accountability, see here fair.
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