Great Savings 12: Eating For Health And Wealth

Great Savings Tip #12 - Eating Smarter For Health and Wealth


In our original Great Savings Tip 12, we suggested you can stop drinking soda and save almost $200 a year. It’s actually much more than that and we’ll break the numbers down for you in a moment. However, the real issue here goes far beyond saving a few hundred bucks on pop. As we recently learned in Rules For Healthy Eating: Cutting Added Sugars Americans diets contain far too much added sugar. It’s not just in soda, either. Added sugar comes in many forms including candy bars, sugary snacks, desserts, breakfast cereal and many so-called “healthy” or “natural” foods like granola bars and low-fat yogurts.


Granola bars aren't always as healthy as we think they are.

Think “All Natural” is good for you? Before saying yes check out the added sugar. This protein bar has 25 grams of sugar. That’s a lot.

Here’s the kicker: Cut out some of this added sugar and not only do we save a few bucks this year, but we’ll save thousands over the long-term. Even better, we’re bound to gain far less weight over the years, and that means less medical care and all the anguish associated with being overweight.


Great savings tip #12: Eating smart.

The statistics on soft drinks are appalling. According to the USDA, “The average teen consumes 15 teaspoons of sugar or 11% of their calories per day from soft drinks.” To be fair the USDA includes fruit-flavored part-juice drinks and sports drinks in their definition of soft drinks, so we’re not just talking about soda. Yet put them all together and the situation is really much worse than most people realize. Here are some additional facts as reported by the USDA:


♦ School children who drink an average of 9 ounces or more of soft drinks a day consume 188 more calories than those drinking no soft drinks.

♦ Teenage boys and girls drink twice as much soda as milk.

♦ For a 120-pound adolescent who has a healthy diet and exercises regularly, it would take two hours of moderate walking to burn off a 20-ounce soda.


And per the Surgeon General’s Call to Action to Prevent and Decrease Obesity:


♦ In 1999, 13% of children aged 6 to 11 years and 14% of adolescents aged 12 to 19 years in the United States were overweight. This prevalence has nearly tripled for adolescents in the past 2 decades.

♦ Risk factors for heart disease, such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure, occur with increased frequency in overweight children and adolescents compared to children with a healthy weight.

♦ Type 2 diabetes, previously considered an adult disease, has increased dramatically in children and adolescents. Overweight and obesity are closely linked to type 2 diabetes.

♦ Overweight adolescents have a 70% chance of becoming overweight or obese adults. This increases to 80% if one or more parent is overweight or obese. Overweight or obese adults are at risk for a number of health problems including heart disease, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and some forms of cancer.

♦ The most immediate consequence of overweight as perceived by the children themselves is social discrimination. This is associated with poor self-esteem and depression.


What’s that? You you don’t drink pop, sport or juice drinks? Well, what about that morning latte? Doesn’t it contain added sugar and/or syrup flavoring? The truth is sugar is added into many of the foods and drinks we consume, and that means we end up eating far more sugar than is good for us.


What's your favorite coffee shop?

Even if you aren’t drinking soda, you may still support a sugar habit.

Expecting to find a breakdown on calories and sugar from the Starbuck’s website, we were disappointed to learn their nutritional information is only available at their local outlets. Not giving up so easily, we found a website called They list a number of a fast food restaurant menu items and total calories so they’re worth checking out if you’re serious about watching your weight.


Dietbites reports a Starbucks Coffee Latte (not to suggest the company’s latte is unique) contains 260 calories and 19 grams of sugar. However, if your tastes run a bit richer, that delicious Starbuck’s Caffè Vanilla Frappuccino® Blended Coffee Plus Whip contains a whopping 470 calories and 65 grams of sugar! To put this in perspective, the Mayo Clinic recommends that American women should consume no more than 100 calories per day from added sugars (about 6 teaspoons or 25 grams per day) and for men it’s no more than 150 calories per day (about 9 teaspoons or 38 grams per day).



The Costs Add Up


Since our Great Savings Tips are really about saving money and building long-term wealth, let’s go back to soda and see how cutting it out of our diet can really add up.


How much does a soda cost?

This vending machine charges $1 per soda, but I’ve seen others more expensive.

Assume we feed our daily soda habit by regularly buying a 6-pack of a generic cola for $2.99 at the grocery store. Also assume we only drink one can per day. Our total cost per year breaks down as follows: $2.99 / 6 cans per pack x 365 days or $181.89. Think about that a minute: Even when we buy pop at the best possible price we’ll still end up spending nearly $200 a year. But how realistic is that number? For example, say we buy that same quantity of soda from a vending machine, a soda fountain or a café. If the machine charges $1.00 for a can, our cost balloons to $1 x 365 days or $365 per year. Or say we drink two cans from the vending machine. Then our cost doubles and we pay out $2 x 365 or $730 per year.


People drink far too much pop.

What does your cola cost?

As we learned from Great Savings 10: Spending Consciously, when we calculate the long-term costs of any habit we have the real information we need to see if the habit is really worth keeping. Is drinking soda worth it to you? Why not do the math and find out? A 10 year supply of soda at $1.00 per can costs $3,650 and that means a 30 year supply costs $10,950! Imagine all that money in your savings account instead.


Let’s not forget, a 12 oz can of Coke®  contains 140 calories so that means a can a day works out to about 51,110 calories per year or over 30 years 1,533,000 calories! That’s 1.5 million empty calories in case you missed it, or enough to represent about 438 extra pounds.


Sugar comes in all shapes and sizes.

Oatmeal is good for you. It provides great fiber. But not all oatmeal is the same. Each serving in this box contains 13 grams of added sugar.

Calories To Pounds


Wait, how do we relate calories to pounds? According to the Center For Disease Control each pound of fat our bodies store represents 3500 unused calories—to be clear that’s calories we don’t burn off. Now, unless we burn off those extra calories in our pop the math works out as follows: 1,533,000 calories / 3500 calories per pound = 438 pounds. In all fairness, most of us will work off at least some of those calories, but the point remains the same: Lots of extra empty calories create the perfect conditions for gaining a significant amount of weight over the long-term.


It’s Not Only About Money


Being heavy or obese also presents certain health risks and that can mean more trips to the doctor. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, being overweight or obese puts us at risk for: “Type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease and stroke, metabolic syndrome, certain types of cancer, sleep apnea, osteoarthritis, gallbladder disease, fatty liver disease, and pregnancy complications.” More important, depending on a patient’s insurance or lack thereof the treatment costs associated with many of these diseases can be astronomical.


Finally, the costs to being overweight continue to add up as we look to our ability to earn a decent living. According to Forbes, “In 2004, Charles Baum, of Middle Tennessee State University…reported…obesity could lower a woman’s annual earnings by as much as 6.2% and a man’s by as much as 2.3%.” Thus, any long-term habit like drinking soda that adds extra sugar to the diet not only costs us in out-of-pocket dollars to support the habit and pay for additional medical care, but it may result in a significant loss of lifetime income, too. That’s bound to impact wealth and certainly worth thinking about as you go to plan a brighter future.


Action Item: Pick an item you eat or drink that contains a lot of added sugar. Now calculate how much you’d save in money and empty calories by cutting it out of your diet. Is it worth doing? Not every habit is a bad one, especially if you gain some added benefit like peace of mind. Only you can decide.


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