It’s all about value! For most people, a trip to the grocery store means getting the most bang for your buck. From a consumer perspective this makes perfect sense. Grocery budgets call for coupon use and weekly product deals beckon from the shelves with bright yellow signs. Customers are drawn to the center aisles of the grocery store where dollars per calorie are at an all time low.

The result of the seemingly value driven perspective is highly caloric, low nutrient foods packaged foods in your cart. You leave the store thinking, what a great deal? But the cost becomes much more than the money you’ve just handed to the cashier.

In this dollars per calorie model, supermarkets appeal to our cash-saving desires, all the while getting us to nosh on foods that are only leaving us addicted and undernourished. The issue with this model is that calories aren’t the entire story. As is with the world of nutrition, we need to think deeper.

Food is sold as a product, however, unlike most other products we buy on the market, this one is necessary for life and survival. In nature, this model makes perfect sense, finding a juciy, dense mango is highly rewarding for someone hunting and gathering their own food source. But when the highly rewarding fruit becomes highly processed and nutrient poor, the reward is no longer as valuable.

So we call for a change in perspective: dollar value vs. health value. If we actually look past the volume of the food that you’re buying and look into the nutrients coming from those “2 for 1” bags of potato chips versus a hearty and nutritious dish made at home, there is no comparison.

The next time you find yourself drawn to a good deal lit up by a yellow sign, ask yourself the following questions before tossing that deal into your cart:

1. What is the nutrient value of this beyond the nutrition facts label?
2. How do I feel physically after eating this food?
3. What other, more nutrient dense food could I buy for the same price?

By taking the time to assess the true value and true cost of this food, you can slowly start to open your eyes to the flaws in solely placing a dollar value on what you ingest. This doesn’t mean that you will never again indulge in a 50% off pastry beckoning for you from the bakery section, but it does mean that you’ve taken the time to make an educated and informed decision about where your dollars are going and what that means for your physical and mental health.