The importance of health and wellness cannot be over-emphasized. However, you may be tired of constantly hearing about all the virtues of eating a low-fat diet and exercising at least five times a week. But what if you were to discover the real financial benefits to leading a healthy lifestyle?
Many of the positive aspects of health-and-fitness fanatics also have the added bonus of saving you money. So perhaps now would be the perfect time to work on improving your diet and exercise routines. The good news is you can also start pocketing more of your hard-earned money.
The following are some habits which can greatly improve your quality of life as well as your bottom line.
Healthy Habits That Save Money
- Eat more grains, vegetables, and legumes. Many Americans consume too much protein than is needed. They also tend to eat foods containing a lot of saturated fat. Both of these factors are associated with poorer health which then can lead to serious medical issues such as heart disease and obesity. Most of the saturated fat in the American Diet comes from meat. No one is suggesting you need to become a vegetarian. But increasing the amount of vegetables and legumes (especially fresh) you consume and decreasing the amount of meat in your diet can have a very positive effect on your overall health. Choosing whole-grains is also a good option. Meat is generally more expensive than vegetables, grains, dried beans or rice. Incorporating more meatless meals into your weekly menus can result in significant savings in your food budget.
- Say no to tobacco. Anyone who is a smoker has probably heard this a million times but it bears repeating. According to the Center for Disease Control, nearly 44 million adults were smokers as of 2011. The CDC also reported that tobacco use is the single-largest preventable cause of death and disease in the U.S. Quitting smoking certainly is not easy. If you've tried unsuccessfully in the past, talk with a health professional about the various options available to help people break the habit. Financially, if you smoke a pack a day, you could save over $2000 a year if you no longer bought cigarettes. It's hard to put a dollar value on the health benefits of kicking the tobacco habit. They're enormous.
- Walk more and/or ride a bike. Americans love their cars. We use them to go anywhere and everywhere without giving it a second thought. For many people, it is logistically impossible to walk or bike to work. But what about getting around your own neighborhood? Can you walk to the grocery store? Or to a nearby restaurant? Every time you choose not to use your car for an errand you are saving wear and tear on your vehicle as well as gas. You are also getting the health benefits of outdoor exercise which has been shown to improve mental sharpness, increase lean muscle mass, decrease body fat, and result in better-quality sleep. Plus there's no gym membership involved (again, money saved). No matter what types of activities you choose, more exercise is always a good thing.
- Drink Water. Most soft drinks contain sugar and the typical 12-ounce serving delivers about 150 calories. Drink two sodas a day? You would have to hike around three miles just to burn off your drink calories. Diet sodas aren't much better. Studies have linked artificially sweetened drinks to weight gain so while they don't contain as many calories, their nutritional value is basically zero. Water is the perfect drink. It's not necessary to buy fancy bottled water. If you don't want to use regular tap water, simply install an inexpensive faucet filter system which will deliver great-tasting water for very little cost. There are also many pitcher/filter products available which do the same thing. You will enjoy savings by not having to buy bottled water plus help the environment by reducing the amount of plastic you use. Drinking plenty of water throughout the day improves your health and also can help with weight loss/maintenance.
- Prepare your own meals. Bringing your lunch from home is not only better for you but it can save you big bucks. Eating out every day at $10 per meal is a quick $50 spent per week. You can buy a lot of healthy, delicious food for that same amount and it will probably last you longer than a week. Eating at home is almost always less expensive than going to a restaurant. And hitting your favorite fast-food place 3 or 4 times a week isn't good for your waistline or your wallet.
- Reduce your alcohol consumption. Moderation is always best when it comes to alcohol. Many people don't realize what that translates to in terms of an actual drink. Nutritionists consider a serving as 5 ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or one shot glass of hard liquor. Moderate drinking is classified as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men. Alcohol is expensive. Drinks at a restaurant or bar cost even more. Depending on how much you consume, alcohol could be draining your budget as well as your health. Heavy drinking is associated with a host of ills including high blood pressure and high triglycerides (fat in the blood). Medical studies have also shown that calories from alcohol tend to be stored more quickly as fat.
Many insurance carriers now offer substantial incentives to their customers who participate in wellness programs and maintain healthy numbers as far as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar. Considering the skyrocketing costs of medical care and insurance coverage in America, anything you can do to lower what you have to spend makes sense. By incorporating healthy habits into your daily life, you can ultimately reap great personal and financial rewards.
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