‘Pie hole’, colloquial for one’s mouth, is believed to have evolved in the USA in the 1980s from the British expression ‘cake hole’ (coined in the mid 20th century). Pie hole refers to a mouth, as in: Shut your pie hole or, in this case: Put less in your pie hole.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Healthy and Affordable: An Oxymoron?

Personally, when I hear "eating healthy is so expensive" or "I'm on a budget, I can't afford to eat healthy" or "multivitamins are expensive but necessary", I want to strangle the vocal cords responsible for vocalising those statements - but violence isn't the answer. People have such complicated ideas about eating healthy and so many ridiculous excuses for why they can't. One such reason, perpetuated by the media for its headlining ability is that it's cheaper to eat fast food. Is there some small print missing? Some bits of information deliberately withheld? But of course...

When the media reports that fast food is cheaper than healthy food, they are comparing the calories you get per dollar. With that knowledge, I pose this question: Will a combo meal of fried chicken, wedges and a 20 oz (600ml) Pepsi have more calories than a homemade chicken salad sandwich, an apple and glass of water?

This question of course, or at least, I hope, is rhetorical. The goal is, eat enough food to keep our bodies healthy and working optimally, not put in as many calories as we possibly can. Otherwise, why not chow down on a bucket of lard, cram some non-dairy creamer, or better yet, chug some clarified butter?

A recent study set out to identify which vegetables provide the most nutrients per unit cost. This was based on 9 beneficial nutrients (protein, fiber, vitamins A, C, E, calcium, iron, magnesium and potassium) and 3 nutrients to limit (saturated fat, added sugar and sodium). A little different than comparing foods based on their calorie content, right? Most vegetables are low in calories and high in nutrients, precisely the opposite of fast food.

The study assessed an assortment of vegetables including fresh, frozen and processed (canned vegetables/soups). Findings read something like this:
  • The most nutrient rich vegetables were:
    • Sweet potatoes
    • Tomato juice/tomato soup
    • Dark green leafy vegetables
    • Non leafy vegetables
    • Winter squash
    • Pumpkin
  • The most affordable vegetables with optimal nutrition were:
    • Sweet potato
    • Tomato juice/tomato soup
    • Pumpkin
    • Carrots
    • White potatoes (baked, boiled)
    • Dark green vegetables
  • Soups including tomato, beet, cabbage, bean soups and green vegetable soups were comparable to fresh/frozen vegetables in terms of nutrients and affordability
  • Dark green vegetables had the lowest calories/100g and the highest cost/100g
  • White potatoes had the highest calories/100g and lowest cost/100g
  • Lowest cost fiber sources were beans and legumes
For my own interest, I ran the nutrition numbers on the aforementioned KFC combo meal (2pcs original recipe dark meat chicken, wedges and a 20 oz Pepsi):
  • Total calories: 950 
    • About half of what a grown man's energy requirements are
  • Total fat calories: 390 
    • Of the 700 cal from the chicken and wedges, 55% are calories from fat
  • Total sodium: 2,095mg 
    • Recommendations are <2,500mg/d, this meal is 84% of that
  • Total fiber: 3grams 
    • Daily fiber is 25g for females and 38g for males - this meal provides a measly 12% or 8% respectively
All this costs about $US5. You'd have to put 2.9kg (6lbs) of spinach or 1.7kg (3.8lbs) of pumpkin in your pie hole to get that many calories... Now that would cost more than $5.

Tips and messages to write home about:
  • Frozen and canned vegetables/vegetable soups can be good alternatives to fresh veg
  • Buy vegetables that are in season and/or on sale to save money
  • Given that it's nutrients, not calories that are important, you get a lot more bang for your buck with vegetables
  • Vegetables are thrifty and nifty
With that, I leave you this image to meditate on:


  1. As a mother of two, I only serve healthy and nutritious food to my kids. Veggies are my main ingredients when I make them a finger food catering styled food. I do this to introduce my kids into a good eating routine.

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