Simple changes can cut the cost of healthy eating

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC 4 Utah) - We all would like to eat healthier, but sometimes those good for you foods don't quite fit into the budget. According to a Reuters study, eating healthy costs about $1.50 more per day, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case.

We sent two moms to the grocery store with a dietitian to show you how you can clean up your cart and save money doing it.

We went to Harmon’s, City Creek with Jenny Bradley, her daughter Beatrix and Tara Marty. Before we started, we wanted to know each mom's goal when they enter the grocery store.

"I try to find things that everyone will like in my family. She's a picky eater," Bradley said.

She admitted time and budget are also big factors.

"Yeah of course, time is always a big deal, I work part time so the days when I work it's especially hard to get her ready and get dinner ready," she said.

Marty deals with the exact same problem when it comes to making meals.

"Time is a huge issue, there are nights that I have really good intentions and I want to make a really healthy dinner then we end up heating something up in the microwave," she said.

Harmon's dietitian, Kayla Leitzke says these are common responses from busy moms.

"You know, it seems like a lot of moms are pressed for time so they're looking for things that are fast and that most of the people in the family are going to like," Leitzke said.

So we sent the moms shopping. Jenny shopped healthfully, while Tara shopped to fit her budget and time constraints.

Once the ladies were finished, Leitzke began to pick apart the carts. We started with Tara Marty’s more processed picks. The first suggestion she made was to switch out white rice for brown.

"The thing is, sometimes brown rice maybe takes a little bit longer to cook than the white rice, but you can make it ahead and freeze it," Leitzke said.

She told us that will save time, and brown rice is healthier and costs the same as white. She also pulled out Marty’s frozen pizza. She said instead, go with whole grain pasta and sauce. It’s just as inexpensive and fast, but much healthier.

And when it comes to granola bars Leitzke says check the ingredients. We looked at a box of Nutri-Grain bars in Marty’s basket.

"It’s kinda fruit flavored sugar. There are some better options that aren't going to cost any more. Kashi makes some good ones. Things that are made with real fruit and whole grains. This is not that bad, there are just some that are going to be better," Leitzke said.

Next, we moved to Jenny Bradley’s "healthier" basket.

"I think she did a great job. These are things that are generally going to be healthy. There are a lot of things that are great, lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, but there are also things that maybe have room for improvement," Leitzke said.

Most of the changes would make these healthy choices cheaper like starting with the pre-cut fruits and veggies.

"This is great, but from a budget perspective these are not going to be as great for stretching your dollar. They're convenient, so you're going to be paying for that convenience," Leitzke said.

Instead of buying the pre-washed or pre-sliced items get them whole and cut them yourself. That will save dollars on each item.

Then there are the items that "appear" to be healthy but they're really not.

"We’ve got some bread here and it's called health nut" "so that means it's healthy right? Ugh, I wish I could say that but this is one of those clever, tricky marketing tactics,” Leitzke said.

The first ingredient in health nut bread is unbleached enriched flour, which is a fancy way of saying all-purpose flour. Leitzke says you want whole grain.

"It’s another area where getting the healthier option is not going to be any more expensive," she said.

After going through the carts, we noticed there was about twice as much food in Marty’s processed cart as Bradley’s healthy choices, but we took the items to the check out counter to see the price difference anyway.

In the end, Marty’s less healthy groceries were only $10 more, even though she had more items. But, Leitzke said if jenny would have made less of those pre-cut choices she would have saved big time.

"The truth is that it really doesn't need to be more expensive it doesn't so it's kind of a misconception that eating healthy is more expensive when really, it doesn't have to be," Leitzke said.

Another tip from Leitzke: when you're buying something, look at the cost per serving. Also, when you're buying produce, go for the less expensive options like apples oranges and bananas instead of berries and exotic choices. They're just as healthy, but cheaper.

For more tips on eating healthy for less money, click here

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