Please forgive us if you’re tired of hearing about the importance of health and wellness. It’s no secret that we all should say no to those super-jumbo fries and yes to the treadmill. But even if the idea of physical well-being isn’t enough incentive to join the yoga-pants-clad masses, what if we told you there are financial benefits as well?
Many of the virtues often extolled by health-and-fitness fanatics come with the added bonus of keeping money in your pocket. So subscribing to these money-saving healthy habits is like killing two boneless, skinless birds with one stone.
1) Drink alcohol in moderation. “The problem with alcohol is that most people don’t know what a serving is,” says Sonya Angelone, a registered dietician nutritionist and a spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. A serving is five ounces of wine (enough to fill half a wineglass), 12 ounces of beer (a regular can or bottle) or a shot glass full of hard liquor. The definition of “moderate” drinking is just one serving per day for women and two for men.
July 2013 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics put the average cost of a malt beverage consumed at home at $1.24 per 16 ounces; wine is $9.90 per liter. That’s $0.93 and $1.46 per serving, respectively. For a woman who drinks more than moderately -- let’s say two drinks per day -- that’s $678.90 annually for beer and $1,065.80 for wine. The cost is double that ($1,357.80 and $2,131.60) for a man. And that’s without accounting for the extra costs of consuming alcohol at bars and restaurants.
Higher-than-moderate drinking essentially pickles the liver and can contribute to other ills, such as high blood pressure and high triglycerides (a type of fat in the blood). “A beer belly really is a beer belly,” Angelone says. “Calories from alcohol tend to be stored more quickly as fat.”
2) Eat your veggies … and grains and legumes. Most Americans get too much protein and saturated fat, both of which are associated with poorer health, says Angelone. Meat is usually the biggest contributor to saturated fat intake, which increases the risk of heart disease, the number-one cause of death in the U.S. (That’s 597,689 deaths in 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.)
Now, we’re not suggesting you switch to a vegetarian diet. Making a healthful change is as easy as bulking up on beans, legumes, grains and eggs, while making meat a condiment, rather than the focus of the meal. “It’s like having tomato sauce with ground turkey over spaghetti, instead of a big hunk of meat,” Angelone suggests.
The changes will be evident in your grocery bill. In July 2013, the BLS quoted the price of uncooked ground beef at $3.79 per pound; uncooked beef roasts at $4.87 per pound; uncooked beef steaks at $6.43 per pound; pork chops at $3.51 per pound; and fresh, whole chicken at $1.48 per pound. Compare that with eggs at $1.83 a dozen; dried beans at $1.42 per pound; peanut butter at $2.74 per pound; white rice at 72 cents per pound; and spaghetti at $1.31 per pound.
Meanwhile, in the produce section, apples were just $1.41 per pound; bananas were 60 cents per pound; tomatoes were $1.43 per pound; white potatoes were 70 cents per pound; and iceberg lettuce was 93 cents per pound.
So, for the amount of money it would cost to buy a pound of ground beef to make four hamburgers, you could instead get one pound of spaghetti, one pound of tomatoes and one-quarter pound of ground beef to make a pasta dish. Put more simply, that’s 2.25 pounds of food for the price of one pound of beef.
3) Say no to tobacco. Most smokers have heard this so many times they could scream, and still the CDC reports that 19% of American adults (or 43.8 million people) were smokers as of 2011. We won’t go through the well-known list of cancers and other maladies associated with smoking. But did you know that the 2010 Surgeon General’s report put the number of cigarette-related deaths in the U.S. at 443,000 annually? What’s more, the CDC reported last year that tobacco use is the single largest preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S.