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Eating Healthy vs Fast Food

Fast food diets are on the rise, and so are our waistlines… and the hole in the bank account. They may be convenient, but fast foods aren’t the money savers people make them out to be. Here are 6 alternatives that are good for your health – and your wallet!

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The statistics are alarming. Over 60 percent of American adults, as well as 27 percent of young Canadians aged between 2 and 17, meet the criteria for being overweight or obese. It’s no mystery that one of the major factors behind these numbers is the ever-increasing presence of fast-food diets among North American families. On-the-go parents feel they can save precious time at the drive-through while lower-income families believe that super-sized trios and deep-dish pizzas are saving them money. While the former might be true, the latter is an illusion.

A $20.99 bucket of chicken to feed four people may seem like a bargain at first glance, but when you consider the fact that junk food may be highly addictive and perpetuate a vicious cycle of unhealthy eating habits, $20 suddenly turns into $150 billion worth of health-care bills, the amount Americans pay each year as a result of obesity-related diseases. The truth is, not only is eating healthy cheaper in the long run, but it’s often cheaper than fast food on a meal-to-meal basis.

The following is a breakdown of what a fast food breakfast, lunch and dinner typically costs. We will then show you the actual cost for these meals, if the ingredients were bought fresh and prepared at home. Finally, we’ll offer you healthy alternatives to these meals, food that both your body and your bank account will thank you for.   


The first mistake many people make is to skip breakfast completely. This causes people to overeat later in the day and sustain this cycle of eating.

A Typical Fast Food Breakfast:

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The McDonald's Egg McMuffin

The McDonald’s Egg McMuffin


The Egg McMuffin is actually one of the better fast-food breakfasts available, containing 290 calories and 12g of fat at a low price of $2.69. Now, what if you were to make your own Egg McMuffin at home? You would need a pack of English muffins, a carton of six eggs, cheese and bacon (ham or sausage if you prefer). The total for these ingredients would be approximately $14. Split these ingredients into six individual sandwiches, and each will cost you $2.33. The total difference of $2.16 may not seem significant, but it when you factor in the hash browns and coffee or juice that most people order to the equation, your Egg McMuffin trio comes to $4.99. Skip the hash browns and make coffee at home too and you’re looking at a daily savings of about $2.50 – $9 over six days.

One of the keys to eating a healthy breakfast is to choose a variety of foods that will give you energy. The complex carbohydrates found in high-fibre cereal, bran, oatmeal and whole-wheat bread, the simple carbohydrates and fibre found in fresh fruits, the protein found in eggs, turkey and dairy products, as well as healthy fats like olive oil, avocado and nuts, are all great ideas in the morning.

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Vanilla Peanut-Butter Banana Smoothie

Vanilla Peanut-Butter Banana Smoothie

To make your own Vanilla Peanut-Butter Banana Smoothie, blend together 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 banana, some ice and 12 oz (350 mL) vanilla soy milk. This delicious and filling drink contains 370 calories and will cost you about a dollar to make. Smoothies are a great way to start the day. They are quick to make and, best of all for people looking for a nutritious breakfast-on-the-go, they are portable

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Low-Fat Bran Blueberry Muffin

Low-Fat Bran Blueberry Muffin

Muffins are simple to make and if you prepare a batch for the week you have a convenient snack to help kick-start your day. One low-fat bran blueberry muffin contains 123 calories and 0.9g of fat. To buy all the ingredients you would need to make a dozen muffins from scratch would cost about $20, so one muffin would set you back about $1.60.

Total cost of this healthy breakfast: $2.60

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Whopper Value Meal

Whopper Value Meal

A Whopper Value Meal from Burger King contains 1,250 calories and 57 g of fat and costs a little over $6. If you were to make your own combo at home you would need the beef, the bun, the veggies, and the pop. The cost for 1 lb of ground beef, a pack of six burger buns, a sack of potatoes, 1 tomato, 1 onion, 1 head of lettuce, and 1 litre of pop is approximately $12. The cost for an individual portion (burger, 1 serving of fries and drink) is only… wait for it, $2! The savings here are huge.

A Healthy Lunch Alternative:

For lunch, it’s important to include at least three of the four food groups to keep you going, including protein and fruits and vegetables.

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Turkey Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread

Turkey Sandwich on Whole Grain Bread

Turkey meat tastes great in sandwiches. A typical basic turkey sandwich contains approximately 230 calories and 3.5 g of fat and only costs about $1.50 to make. Add to the deliciousness with ingredients like avocado, cheese and tomato with some spicy honey-Dijon mustard.

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Fruit Parfait

Fruit Parfait

Indulge in a mouth-watering simple dessert like a fruit parfait after your dinner. This pineapple-raspberry version contains 109 calories and costs about $2.50. Make your own recipe with seasonal or on-sale fruits and you’ll easily lower the cost.

Total cost of eating a healthy dinner: $4

So at the end of a healthy day you’ve consumed approximately 1,300 calories, which is about two-thirds of the 2,000 calories you’d consume the fast-food way (while still eating cookies!). As for the daily cost, eating healthy rings in at a grand total of about $10. A full day of fast food will cost you closer to $20, so please don’t ever fool yourself into thinking that fast food is a wise financial decision for your family.

As you can see, replacing those greasy fast foods with home-cooked, fresh ingredients is not only easy and fast, but can also go a long way in helping you stretch your dollar and your life expectancy, without stretching your pants.