The Right Diet is Your Best Health Insurance

Science by Temple Stewart, RD

With the US inflation rate at a 40-year high of 7.5%, it’s impossible not to consider the financial implications of a poor diet. In a study, researchers from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Tufts University in Massachusetts estimated the cost of eating poorly at $50 billion dollars per year. Let’s take a second to break down healthcare costs of eating a poor diet, and finish up with budget-friendly shopping tips so you can save money and take care of your health.

It’s no secret that a poor diet can lead to suboptimal health outcomes, but one may not often consider the financial ramifications of long-term substandard food choices. In a study conducted by researchers at the George Washington School of Public Health and Health Services, it is estimated that the average annual cost of being overweight in the United States is $524 for women and $432 for men, but those costs skyrocket when an individual’s BMI puts them in the category of obese, with a total annual cost of $4,879 for women and $2,646 annually for men [1]. For persons with a chronic disease, such as hypertension, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes or kidney disease, annual costs can be higher than $6,200 annually, compared to their counterparts without a chronic diagnosis [2].

The Harvard T.C. Chan School of Public Health defines direct costs as medical bills (including inpatient and outpatient services as well as testing and drug therapy), and indirect costs as value of lost work, insurance costs, and potential lower wages and household income. Over the course of a lifetime, a person with a BMI within the obese range or a long-term chronic diease diagnosis can expect to incur more than $100,000 in direct and indirect costs as a result of obesity or obesity-related conditions [3].

A chronically poor diet also bears societal costs. A study from the Brookings Institute found that the societal costs can be $92,000 more for an obese person versus their normal-weight counterpart over the course of a lifetime. More shocking, they found that if the more than 13 million obese youth (number based on 2013 survey) became obese adults, the societal cost would be more than $1 trillion dollars annually! In 2018, the CDC reported that between heart disease and stroke (which kills 877,500 people per year) and diabetes (with more than 34.2 million people diagnosed country-wide), the estimated costs to the health care system and loss of workforce productivity is more than $690 billion per year [4,5].

Now that we know the statistics, let’s talk about practical application! How do we keep up the motivation to take care of our health long-term, not only for financial reasons, but also for quality of life?

      • Long-Term Goals: Think about where you want to see yourself in the next year or so. These can be bigger goals that really stretch you. Write down 2-3 health related goals. (ex. I’d like to see myself 100 lbs down by next April, I want to be completely off my blood pressure medication in 2023)
      • Short-Term Goals: You need to have some very defined, practical short-term goals that are going to help you achieve your long-term goals. Think ahead about what you’d like to achieve in the next couple of weeks and then write them down! (ex. I want to lose 2 pounds in the next week, I want my fasted blood sugar to be closer to 90 mg/dL in the next three weeks, I’d like to lower my insulin dosage in the next month)
      • Action-Steps: Take a look at your short-term goals, and create action steps for them. For example, let’s say your short term goal is “I want to lower my fasted blood glucose closer to 90 mg/dL in the next three weeks,” you could use the action step “I will stop snacking on candy in the evening.” It’s important to have action steps for EVERY short-term goal. Eventually all of your action steps will lead to you reaching your long-term goals.
      • Create Healthy Routines: Goals are achieved in daily habits. The most important routines are morning, evening, and initiating the day. Using your time wisely, and planning what your weekly/weekend routine will look like will help you make healthier decisions.

      • Review Goals Daily: Write both your short-term/long-term goals down and put them somewhere you’ll see them daily. They could go on your refrigerator, bathroom mirror, planner, etc. You want to keep your goals at the forefront of your mind.
      • Get Support: It’s much easier to find health when you have support. Talk to a loved one or a spouse. Get an accountability partner, or someone to walk this journey with you. Join our online getHLTH Community!
      • Reward Yourself: Plan a weekend vacation, or maybe go get your nails done. Find something that is a “treat” for you, but also a non-food reward. Giving yourself rewards for reaching milestones helps keep you motivated.
      • Don’t Give Up: Perfection is not required when it comes to health. Don’t throw in the towel if you have a slip-up or bad day. Take a look at what happened, and learn from it. Keep your head up and get right back on track for the next meal.



  1. Dor, A., Ferguson, C., Landwith, C., & Tan, E. (2010, September 21). A Heavy Burden: The Individual Costs of Being Overweight and Obese in the United States. Retrieved from
  2. Hayes, T. O. N., Tara O’Neill HayesFormer Director of Human Welfare PolicyTara O’Neill Hayes is the former Director of Human Welfare Policy at the American Action Forum., The Total Cost of U.S. TariffsTom Lee, Lee, T., Hayes, A. A. D. T. O. N., The Economic Costs of Poor NutritionTara O’Neill Hayes, “Year One”: Assessing the Biden Regulatory Record Against Recent AdministrationsDan Goldbeck, & Goldbeck, D. (2020, November 24). Chronic disease in the United States: A worsening health and economic crisis. AAF. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from
  3. Economic costs. Obesity Prevention Source. (2016, April 8). Retrieved April 4, 2022, from
  4. An in-depth look at the lifetime economic cost of obesity. (n.d.). Retrieved April 4, 2022, from
  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022, March 29). Health and economic costs of chronic diseases. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved April 4, 2022, from


This article is for informational and educational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice.