Saturday, August 13, 2011

Good Health on a Budget

Low-carb and paleo/primal diets have a reputation for being expensive: meat and cheese (especially if you buy pastured, grass-fed animal products) are more expensive than bread, beans and potatoes. But as I posted last year, it doesn't always work out that way in real life. (Last year, I calculated that because of my low-carb diet, I was spending a few dollars more on groceries, but cut my medical spending to zero. I haven't recalculated my food bill this year, but I've spent nothing on doctors or prescriptions in eighteen months. And I'm still using minimal skin care products--yet my skin looks and feels the best it ever has.)

If your diet is causing health problems such as acid reflux, tooth decay, diabetes or hypoglycemia, stomach upset, low mood (in some cases), or weight gain, you have to consider doctor visits, dentist visits, counseling, bigger clothes, medicines and time lost from work as part of the cost of your diet. Do some figuring, and you might find that a cheap diet is a false economy.

Still, the money has to come from somewhere to pay for good quality food. Here are some ways to pull money out of the air.

  • Stop spending on junk food. By the pound, chips, cookies and sodas are much more expensive than real food like meat, eggs and vegetables. And that's before you consider what they do to your teeth, waistline, appetite and blood sugar.
  • Cook from scratch. It's cheaper, you'll leave out unhealthy ingredients, and you'll avoid mindless snacking if you have to prepare your food. The idea that fast food is cheaper than nutritious, home-cooked meals is bunk: I can make a quarter-pound burger with lettuce, tomato and mustard for a fraction of the cost of a Big Mac--so can anyone.
  • Buy low-cost cuts of meat. Liver in particular is inexpensive and highly nutritious. Remember, dietary fat is your substitute for sugar and starch. If you're adventurous, ask your butcher for other organ meats and marrow bones. If you aren't, buy fatty hamburger, chicken thighs, pork roasts, and canned fish on sale.
  • Avoid wheat--among other things, it's an appetite stimulant. Why else do you think it's in every pre-packaged food out there?
  • Forage for edible weeds. Just make sure they haven't been sprayed with anything but water.
  • See if your problems can be remedied with vitamins. Google Scholar and blood tests helped me figure out some of these issues for myself.
  • Revisit your need for medications or treatments. Within a few days of going low-carb, my GERD and need for acid blockers went away. Eventually, so did my neck and shoulder pain and need for a chiropractor. And I can't remember the last time I took Sudafed or Pepto-Bismol--this, from someone who used to have weekly allergy shots and constant stomach problems. In some cases, diabetics must reduce or quit their medications on a low-carb diet. Of course, use your judgment and continue your medicine or treatments if needed--the goal here is good health.
  • If you're in the U.S., consider ordering prescriptions from Canada.
  • Remember that lack of health insurance isn't the same as lack of health care. If you're a cash patient, just tell your health care provider--you might get a discount since they don't have to fool around with paperwork and insurance companies.
  • If you're thinking about Vibrams, ballet slippers and unisex jazz shoes are a fraction of the price, accomplish the same thing, and don't scream for attention.
  • Some inexpensive exercise options: dancing (avoid the studios!), weightlifting at home, walking and sprinting.

Other money saving ideas from readers are welcome.

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