The biggest challenge that people face when they want to eat healthier is having enough time to prepare healthy meals and snacks. If you’re already busy with work, family, or school, finding time to prepare healthy meals can be difficult. For example, you may have to choose between making dinner or a healthy snack, and spending time with your family. The good news is that if you have the right attitude, it doesn’t have to be difficult to eat healthy.

Why are eating healthy and living a healthy lifestyle hard? Is it because we don’t have the time to cook healthy meals? No. Is it because we don’t know where to start? No. It’s because healthy food tastes bad. And when you’re busy, you don’t have time to make it taste good. It’s simple: healthy food = food that tastes good. But wait, why does healthy food taste bad? Because our taste buds aren’t used to something that is good for us! They just don’t know what to make of it. When we eat a whole lot of junk food, we don’t like it. When we eat lots of healthy food, we don’t like it. Our senses are telling us that

Eating healthy shouldn’t be hard. (But it is.) So you’ve made a commitment to eating better. But what’s the first step? What do you need to do to make it easier? How can you make it so you’re eating healthier every day? For most people, starting a healthier diet is a new and scary thing.. Read more about struggling to eat healthy and let us know what you think.

Many individuals in the health and fitness industry scoff at the notion that eating healthily is difficult. The harsh truth they’re overlooking: For many people, time, money, transportation, and other factors make proper eating seem out of reach. Continue reading to learn the harsh reality about eating healthily.

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In journalism, “experiential” writing is extremely popular, especially in the health and fitness sector.

The film “Super Size Me” by Morgan Spurlock instantly came to mind. (Spoiler alert: He gained weight and damaged his health by consuming an excessive quantity of McDonald’s food.)

Ironically, John Cisna’s book, My McDonald’s Diet, works as well. (Another spoiler: He dropped weight and improved his health by eating a reasonable quantity of McDonald’s cuisine.)

I chose to add to the genre by participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. Wait…what?

I chose to add to the genre by participating in the Food Stamp Challenge. Wait…what?

Many individuals have now utilized the Food Stamp Challenge to either confirm or disprove the idea that eating healthily (on a budget) is difficult. Others have used it to raise awareness about food insecurity in particular, as well as about poverty in general.

Many individuals have now utilized the Food Stamp Challenge to either confirm or disprove the idea that eating healthily (on a budget) is difficult. Others have used it to raise awareness about food insecurity in particular, as well as about poverty in general.

My experiment’s ground rules were as follows:

Begin with a sum of money equivalent to a food stamp in the United States. What is the cost of that? Estimates vary from $29 per family per week to $4.80 per day to $2.38 per person each meal. With such a broad range in mind, I chose the middle ground: $4 per person per day. My weekly “food stamp” budget was $40 since my home had two individuals.

Begin with a sum of money equivalent to a food stamp in the United States. What is the cost of that? Estimates vary from $29 per family per week to $4.80 per day to $2.38 per person each meal. With such a broad range in mind, I chose the middle ground: $4 per person per day. My weekly “food stamp” budget was $40 since my home had two individuals.

Everything should be purchased in the lowest possible form. With a limited budget of only $40 for the week, it became crucial to find the best individual deals, within reason. There will be no organic nonsense or “purchase the first one because I’m bored” mentality permitted.

Everything should be purchased in the lowest possible form. With a limited budget of only $40 for the week, it became crucial to find the best individual deals, within reason. There will be no organic nonsense or “purchase the first one because I’m bored” mentality permitted.

My Challenge with Food Stamps

My Challenge with Food Stamps

My weekly budget is two crisp twenty-dollar notes.

My weekly budget is two crisp twenty-dollar notes.

Or would I look as ridiculous as Gwyneth Paltrow did when she attempted it?

Or would I look as ridiculous as Gwyneth Paltrow did when she attempted it?

For the time being, meet Haymarket in Boston.

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For the time being, meet Haymarket in Boston.

It’s an outdoor market where surplus food from business purchases is sold. It’s also easily the cheapest place in the city to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, which are a large part of my diet.

It’s an outdoor market where surplus food from business purchases is sold. It’s also easily the cheapest place in the city to buy fresh fruit and vegetables, which are a large part of my diet.

Everyone is rushing. They only accept cash.

In a word, it’s the ideal location for this task.

Let me introduce you to $40 worth of food.

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Let me introduce you to $40 worth of food.

I took home the following in an approximate clockface:

I took home the following in an approximate clockface: 2 peppers, yellow
2 peppers, yellow spinach, a bunch
spinach, a bunch 2 coriander bunches
2 coriander bunches 1 pound portobello mushrooms
1 pound portobello mushrooms 10 limes
a cabbage corn (four ears)
1 pound of new baby tomatoes 1 pound of new baby tomatoes
7 plums nectarines (nine)
4 peaches 5 pears
nectarines (nine) 1 pound of blueberries
1 pound of blueberries 4 pound broccoli
4 pound broccoli  

Now, if you’re thinking “Where’s all the normal food?” … Yes, you’d be correct.

Now, if you’re thinking “Where’s all the normal food?” … Yes, you’d be correct.

As a result, we consumed all of the food (which took a lot more than a week, actually). And then I went and did the Food Stamp Challenge again, but properly this time.

As a result, we consumed all of the food (which took a lot more than a week, actually). And then I went and did the Food Stamp Challenge again, but properly this time.

So, what occurred at the crucial moment?

So, what occurred at the crucial moment?

Rather than being arrogant about how simple it is to eat well on a budget, it’s essential to acknowledge that:

  1. Rather than being arrogant about how simple it is to eat well on a budget, it’s essential to acknowledge that:
  2. I’m fairly sure I was kicked out.

I’m fairly sure I was kicked out.

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There are six reasons why eating healthily is difficult.

There are six reasons why eating healthily is difficult.

When I say “market,” I’m referring to a location where you can purchase reasonably priced, fresh, natural foods. Of course, if you’re on a budget, this market, like Haymarket, would provide non-organic, non-special, non-biodynamic fresh produce.

There is a designated term for this market idea all over the globe, and several nations commemorate it: It’s called a ‘wochenmarkt’ in Germany, a ‘rynek’ in Poland, and a ‘talat’ in Thailand.

Of course, in the absence of such a market, you’d have to buy at a supermarket or a hypermarket (which offers conventional grocery store or market items as well as home goods) (which is a supermarket, plus a department store). You pay extra in both instances for the convenience of having everything you need in one place.

I have access to every kind of market since I reside in Boston. What if you didn’t have access to any of the above?

I have access to every kind of market since I reside in Boston. What if you didn’t have access to any of the above?

Food deserts are communities or local areas that combine a) economic disadvantage with b) a lack of frequent availability to reasonably priced fresh food. And there’s a lot of evidence to back this up: Obesity and overweight are linked to a lack of fresh meals.

Food deserts are communities or local areas that combine a) economic disadvantage with b) a lack of frequent availability to reasonably priced fresh food. And there’s a lot of evidence to back this up: Obesity and overweight are linked to a lack of fresh meals.

But that’s just one reason why eating healthy is hard. Even if you do have access…

Reason #2: You need shopping time.

I went shopping in the middle of the day on a Friday when I completed the Food Stamp Challenge.

I went shopping in the middle of the day on a Friday when I completed the Food Stamp Challenge.

Other people’s work is probably not like that.

  • Some people put in 50 hours a week at work and then hurry home to relieve the babysitter.
  • Some people put in 50 hours a week at work and then hurry home to relieve the babysitter.
  • Others are always torn between going grocery shopping and getting some exercise vs assisting their children with their schoolwork.
  • Others are always torn between going grocery shopping and getting some exercise vs assisting their children with their schoolwork.

So, when do you plan to go shopping?

So, when do you plan to go shopping?

In fact, when it comes to eating a balanced diet, time is just as important as money, according to consumer studies.

In fact, when it comes to eating a balanced diet, time is just as important as money, according to consumer studies.

Let’s pretend we have a market to visit and the time to do so. For the majority of the world’s population, these are big assumptions… But let us be kind and freely give them out.

Let’s pretend we have a market to visit and the time to do so. For the majority of the world’s population, these are big assumptions… But let us be kind and freely give them out.

So, let’s go to the market and bring all that fresh produce home. This necessitates the use of a vehicle or dependable public transportation. (This isn’t free.) You must also be able to transport the goods. (It takes a lot of power and energy to do it.)

Allow me to explain.

I have a decent chance of becoming larger than you. (I’m 6’3″ tall and weigh 255 pounds.)

Here’s what my fresh food for the week looks like next to me:

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I’m getting ready for a long, arduous trek home.

You know how folks have this fixation with bringing everything inside from the vehicle in one go? It’s adorable in every way. But what if you’re a weary working woman with a terrible back, or you’re out shopping with three young children, or you’re 5 feet 2?

The idea isn’t to get all hairy-chested about how I can carry more shopping bags than you (and I can carry more shopping bags than you).

The point is that fresh food takes a lot of work.

I purchased 10 pounds of potatoes and 5 pounds of onions for my second attempt at the Food Stamp Challenge. I went out and purchased some tomatoes. Plantains were purchased. I went out and purchased a melon.

My big shopping bag soon became overflowing. My fingers began to cut through the handle. There was eventually too much food to get past other people in the market. I pulled it to a neighboring alleyway, half-carrying, half-dragging it… I also requested an Uber.

We arrived home fifteen minutes later, and I dragged everything upstairs (four stories) before collapsing in a crumpled heap.

(I’m fairly sure hiring someone to transport you home from the Food Stamp Challenge disqualifies you.)

So, what if you don’t have access to a vehicle because you can’t afford one? Or because you live in a metropolis and can’t afford to pay for a parking spot? What if you have trouble getting up the bus stairs, much alone carrying goods up them? What if you’re above the age of 80?

It may seem like shopping for and transporting fresh food is more than you can handle at times. And it’s possible.

So maybe the convenience shop will suffice. Sure, there are just cinnamon buns and prepackaged meals available. However, the meals include frozen veggies, which are nutritious. Right?

Should you get fast food instead? Or do you prefer to order in? Is it only this time? You say you’ll cook tomorrow. That leads us to the next problem…

Reason #4: Cooking takes time.

I started the more difficult, tedious, and complicated process of converting those commodities into food after joyfully purchasing half the market and then enduring the humiliation of being unable to get home.

If everything is fresh, the majority of it must be prepared or preserved as soon as possible.

The tomatoes were delicious and ripe, so they needed to be roasted and kept in the oven. We had to boil the okra the first night since it didn’t like the sack it was in. And in the first few days, we ate a lot of fruit. Fruit that is ripe does not keep!

I prepared and froze layers of berries and pickled jalapeño chillies in vinegar. Ginger, by the way, keeps very well when peeled, sliced, and marinated in vodka. Plantains, it turns out, last indefinitely.

In other words, more time and effort. There isn’t much relief for the contemporary 50-hour-per-week worker. Another blemish on the record of time poor.

Reason #5: You’ll need utensils, spices, and other items.

Here’s an example of how I put my dirt-cheap veggies to good use. I’ve provided pricing and histories for the equipment in brackets. I’ve also included a list of the other items you’ll need.

CURRY WITH VEGETABLES THAT IS SIMPLE AND FAST

  • Sharpen knives using a Messermeister ceramic rod ($35), and keep your workstation clean.
  • Finely slice an onion [around $20 for a carbon steel knife from an unusual tool shop; $8 on a standard cutting board].
  • [Microplane, $25] Peel and grate 2 inch ginger root
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • In a pan [cast iron, approximately $200, purchased in Sydney about 10 years ago], heat cooking oil (1).
  • Simmer 12 tsp white sugar (2) until caramelized [$2, bamboo spoon], then add the onion and cook until tender.
  • Add a teaspoon of grated turmeric (3), a large amount of kashmiri chili (4), a few ripe tomatoes, and a splash of water.
  • Combine everything, reduce to a low heat, and add approximately 4 cups of whatever non-leafy veggies you want curried [vegetable peeler, $4].
  • To finish, season with salt (5), a tablespoon of cream (6), and plenty of garam masala (7).

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Some of the basic tools needed to make a simple curry.

I already had six pieces of equipment [$275] on hand. None of them are revolutionary, but they’re nearly all required if you want the cooking process to go well, swiftly, and without irritation or stress.

It’s also the seven additional components that enabled me to effectively ‘use’ my inexpensive consumables (i.e., make them taste very nice so I wouldn’t be tempted to eat something more appealing but also more expensive/unhealthy).

Sure, you could save a few bucks here and there, but certain things are unavoidable. Cutting veggies with a breadknife on a ceramic dish is difficult. It’s difficult to consume a curry without adding salt. Some kinds of rice are difficult to prepare without a rice cooker.

And before you say to yourself, “Dear me, it’s not a typical simple dish at all,” rest assured that this is a completely normal, easy, and modified-to-make-it-even-easier meal that any Indian aunty would reject as “not trying hard enough” — not sarcastically.

Which leads us to…

Reason #6: You’ll need to know how to cook.

Here’s a fun game for you to try. And by “fun,” I mean “very sad.”

Find a Millennial and take their phone away (don’t worry, it’ll just be for a short time). Ask them, now that they can’t Google the answer, “What is ‘home economics’?” They often have no idea.

If you’re unfamiliar with the term “home economics,” here’s what it means: It’s a class where you learn how to run a home that used to be taught in school. While you will learn to bag your trash and wash off a counter, the course is mostly about how to cook.

That was a genuine occurrence. But that is no longer the case.

We are now at least two generations away from individuals who grew up in homes where cooking was a common occurrence and where cooking was taught in schools.

These abilities are handed on and strengthened in a social setting. In other words, if you’re merely average at cooking, your kids are likely to be much worse.

There has recently been fairly compelling evidence that training individuals to cook improves ALL of the following:

  • The way you feel about food and cooking
  • Confidence
  • Consumption of fruits and vegetables
  • Purchasing patterns for food
  • Interaction with others at home

Finally, chopping up a variety of items and putting them together without them tasting bad requires some practice and expertise. This is especially true if you’re attempting to eat on a tight budget.

Without such ability, the notion that “eating healthy is simple” seems even more ridiculous.

My misfortune and the lessons I’ve learnt

I entered the Food Stamp Challenge and, in theory, won. At least, if winning entails spending the appropriate amount of money and eating well.

But, in terms of being practical, I failed miserably. Badly.

I was able to succeed because of some non-food advantages I already had. These variables, in many ways, influence how well someone will eat.

Everyone knows that fruits and vegetables are healthy. Everyone knows how simple it is to consume too much sugar and carbohydrates in one sitting. Portion control is a concept that everyone instinctively knows.

However, in today’s world, several stars must align in order for this to translate into “eating healthily.” Despite what rah-rah personal trainers and other fitness zealots may claim, this means:

It’s not always simple to eat healthily.

And maybe it’d be OK if we simply admitted it.

What to Do Next: Some Suggestions from the Experts

It’s good to stop pretending that eating properly is always a breeze, whether you’re trying to figure out how to eat in the context of your busy, stressful, time-strapped existence or you’re a fitness professional whose customers may be dealing with similar problems.

Consider these methods when limited finances make eating healthily a struggle.

Accept the fight.

Modern life may make it difficult to eat properly, unless you’re wealthy and/or your job requires you to be in shape for a living.

The first step is to accept it in a calm, rational manner. Then you may concentrate on devising ways to overcome the obstacles.

Make a toolbox for the kitchen.

Even if you don’t consider yourself a “chef,” you’ll be able to prepare most items with the right kitchen set-up. Shop around on Google and Ebay to get the greatest deal.

The fundamentals:

  • Recipe for a casserole (Pyrex is best)
  • Steel bowls in a small selection (scuffed and beat-up is fine)
  • Chef’s knife, stainless steel (get a good used one for $5-$10)
  • Sharpener for knives (ceramic rod or stone)
  • Cast iron pan (a good Lodge skillet may be purchased for $20; it must be seasoned)
  • A small collection of wooden and bamboo implements
  • Microplane (fine)
  • Cutting board made of wood
  • Peeler for vegetables

Plan your grocery shopping and meal preparation ahead of time.

So you’re not constantly rushing, schedule grocery shopping and meal prep ahead of time in your weekly calendar (and opting for less-nutritious convenience meals).

This also allows you to utilize fresh food before it spoils, saving you money.

Cooking should be made easier.

Meals don’t have to be complicated to be tasty. Cooking talents don’t develop overnight, but placing delicious food on a platter isn’t rocket science.

Here’s how to make simple, well-balanced meals with flavors you’re probably already familiar with.

Make stress reduction a top priority.

Consistently eating properly necessitates the expenditure of resources such as money, time, energy, and the acquisition of new skills. When you already have a lot on your plate, these criteria may be difficult to meet.

Reducing your overall stress load may free up more time in your life to devote to good eating (and allow your body to make better use of all those great nutrients).

Take a stroll, relax in the park, spend quality time with family and friends, practice yoga, play with your kids, read a book, or have your spouse massage you.

Be considerate.

Cut yourself some slack if you’re having trouble eating the way you want. It’s quite OK to seek assistance.

Stop and think if you’re a fitness or health professional who says things like “healthy eating is simple” or “people simply aren’t working hard enough.”

Healthy eating requires more work and planning than the majority of people believe. Make an effort to reach out. Volunteer. Learn about the individuals in your neighborhood who are suffering and may benefit from your help.

References

To see the information sources mentioned in this article, go here.

S Cummins, E Flint, and S Matthews. The opening of a new neighborhood grocery shop raised food availability knowledge, but had no effect on eating patterns or obesity. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2013.0512.

B. Elbel, A. Moran, L. B. Dixon, K. Kiszko, J. Cantor, C. Abrams, and T. Mijanovich. Household food availability and children’s dietary intakes were assessed in a government-subsidized store in a high-need neighborhood. doi:10.1017/S1368980015000282.

A. Flego, J. Herbert, E. Waters, L. Gibbs, B. Swinburn, J. Reynolds, and M. Moodie. Jamie’s Ministry of Food: A Quasi-Experimental Assessment of the Immediate and Long-Term Effects of an Australian Cooking Skills Program doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0114673

Healthy Eating Trends Around the World. In 2010, Neilsen conducted a survey.

J. Herbert, A. Flego, L. Gibbs, E. Waters, B. Swinburn, J. Reynolds, and M. Moodie. Jamie’s Ministry of Food in Australia reports on the broader effects of a 10-week community culinary skills program. doi:10.1186/1471-2458-14-1161

Supermarkets, Other Food Stores, and Obesity, by K. Morland, A. Roux, and S. Wing. The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities Study is a study that looks at the risk of atherosclerosis in communities. doi:10.1016/j.amepre.2005.11.003

Time and Money: A New Look at Poverty and Physical Activity Barriers in Canada, by J. Spinney and H. Millward. doi:10.1007/s11205-010-9585-8

If you’re a coach or wish to be one…

It’s both an art and a science to guide clients, patients, friends, or family members through healthy food and lifestyle adjustments in a manner that’s tailored to their individual body, tastes, and circumstances.

Consider the Level 1 Certification if you want to learn more about both.

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For many of us, the thought of eating healthy isn’t filling us with joy. It does feel hard (and we’re not talking about eating healthier–we’re talking about chowing down on wholesome organic foods and exercising daily). And the lack of “cheat meals” can make us feel deprived and, even though we know it’s good for us, it doesn’t seem like it’s worth it. But let’s look at the facts–eating healthy does fill us with health, and it fills us with happiness. It’s not hard–it just takes a little bit more work.. Read more about impossible to eat healthy and let us know what you think.

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