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The Top Reasons We Eat Unhealthy Food

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Picture this. It's 9:30 p.m. and you're laying on the couch with a dish of ice cream. You mentally scan over the day's food intake. Morning: bagel and cream cheese. Lunch: fast food chicken burger (that's healthier, right?) and fries. Dinner: frozen pizza picked up on sale on the way home.

Grade: C-. And I'm being generous. OK, its more of a D. I'm sorry! It's true. You almost failed. You did eat three meals, but really, D is the best I can give you here.

Why? You're a healthy, smart and savvy woman. Why do you find yourself at the end of the day regretting that day's choices? Or, worse, find yourself a few pounds heavier and regretting a month's choices?

A national poll this summer by ShopSmart magazine surveyed more than 1,000 women about their eating habits and feelings vis-à-vis healthy eating. The top excuse: healthy food is too expensive.

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Here are the top reasons women gave for not eating healthfully, and my strategies for dealing with them:

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57 per cent: Eating healthful foods is too expensive.

47 per cent: Social settings are too tempting.

39 per cent: Life is too short; I want to enjoy what I eat.

33 per cent: It's hard to find healthy options when eating out.

29 per cent: I don't have time to prepare healthy meals.

25 per cent: My family prefers less healthy meals.

20 per cent: Unhealthy habits are too hard to change.

18 per cent: Healthy foods don't satisfy my appetite.

13 per cent: I'm not sure which foods are healthy.

Let's just focus first on the number one reason for eating unhealthfully: "Eating Healthy Is Too Expensive." Is healthy food really expensive? Sure, if you do all your shopping at Whole Foods or order from chi-chi online suppliers. If money is really an issue, though, you are likely shopping in the local grocery or even nearest bargain department store, as Walmart and its competitors expand into the grocery market. *sigh*

So...For real? Are we really still talking about how "expensive" healthy foods are? Talk about kicking a dead horse.

It has been proven -- repeatedly, people -- that healthy, whole foods are less expensive than unhealthy foods. Even the economists at the USDA have studied this and they found that, when considering portion size, the ranking from least to most expensive is: grains, dairy, vegetables, fruit, and, tied for most expensive: protein sources and less healthy foods. Note, of course, that there are lower cost protein sources such as eggs, dairy, soy and grains -- the ranking refers to meat sources.

Let's also draw a line between healthy whole foods and "healthy" prepared food products, which are ridiculously expensive given their nutritional value.

And if you like fancy pictures, here's a cost-comparison for a McDonald's meal for four versus a homemade meal for four .

I am just going to say it: If you feel healthy foods are too expensive, might I suggest you learn how to cook?

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Now, here are a few of my suggestions to make more healthful eating choices, no matter your excuse:

When eating out...

  • Avoid attending parties and dinners out when you're starving and apt to make greedier choices.
  • When eating out, have a salad or broth-based soup to start and choose your entree afterward.
  • Eat before you have more than one glass of wine since alcohol lowers your inhibitions and skews your priorities.
  • Ask the kitchen to modify menu items for you and substitute vegetables where you can for fatty, starchy sides.
  • If you really do eat out very frequently, ensure your other daily meals are lean, light on calories and full of produce

When eating at home...

  • Offer a variety of vegetables at home to ensure there is something for everyone and plenty to fill you up.
  • Include protein at every meal so you will remain full for at least a few hours after eating and be less apt to snack.
  • Try to stick to 3-4 meals per day and avoid the "grazing" mentality which can lead you to eat -- and spend -- more.
  • Take pleasure in the homemade comfort foods you and your family love once or twice per week and look forward to them.
  • Include healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and even some butter to enhance food texture and help you feel more satisfied.

What is the number one reason you make poor food choices, when you do?

Or, what is your number one tip to make GREAT food choices?

Written By: Dara Duff-Bergeron, Yummy Mummy Club

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