Save Money and Calories at the Same Time!

05/19/2014 05:32 pm ET | Updated Jul 18, 2014

Have you ever overheard someone say they are trying to eat clean? Don't take the phrase literally. They are not trying to remove foods containing more dirt from their diet. Eating clean is actually a popular saying that refers to "eating as many foods in their 'natural' state as possible, foods that have not been processed or contain lots of artificial ingredients" according to Pamela Gray-Ennis, owner of YLive Juice Bar in Houston, Texas. Following this one simple rule has proved an easy guide for many people looking to lead healthier lives.

To eat a cleaner diet, wellness expert Tara Milhem, owner of SkinnybyTara, advises:

Clean out your kitchen. If you have junk food around, you are most likely going to end up eating it. Fill your fridge up with fresh greens, veggies, fruits, nuts, seeds, and healthy snacks so when you need a quick bite you'll skip the snickers and make better choices.

A common misconception and frequent rebuttal from those reluctant converts to the world of clean eating is that it's too expensive. The belief that it costs more money to eat fruits and vegetables over processed goods that contain more ingredients is far from the truth.

In order to expose this myth, let's examine the category of snacks. This is an easy area of eating to overlook, usually a quick and thoughtless decision made on the run or between meals. The initial inclination for many is to reach for a bag of chips, cookies, hot pockets, or something of the like. These everyday American cost-effective snacks are torturous for health and weight management purposes. However seemingly inexpensive and convenient they may be, an unprocessed (or minimally processed) food item can be just as easy on both you and your wallet.

Standard Snack
Oreos -- $.75 per serving -- 270 calories per serving
Doritos -- $.50 per serving -- 150 calories per serving
Hot Pocket -- $2.00 per serving -- 300 calories per serving
Cheeze-Its -- $.82 per serving -- 150 calories per serving

Clean Diet Snack
Apple -- $.75 -- 95 calories per apple
Banana -- $.17 -- 105 calories per banana
Granola -- $.59 -- 230 calories per serving
Peanuts -- $.27 -- 170 calories per serving

The Oreos and Doritos listed above are the small single serving packages most frequently seen at a local corner store or gas station. Comparing the prices of these snacks to the apple and banana, you can immediately see how not only is it less expensive to eat the fruit over the packaged item but it is also much less calorically. The same applies to the Hot Pocket and Cheeze-Its when compared to the granola or peanuts. If you were to eat each of the listed packaged goods once during the week, you will have spent $4.07 and consumed a whopping 870 calories -- on snacks alone! By substituting those items with fresh fruits, nuts, and granola (the clean diet choices) you will only be spending $1.30 and limiting your calories to just 635.

The same principle holds true when applied to breakfast and dinner. A pound of raw steel cut oats from the bulk food section can cost anywhere from $1.50-$2. The standard serving size for steel cut oats is ¼ cup. Since a pound equals 5 cups, that means you get 20 servings of breakfast for just $2! Frosted Flakes on the other hand, a popular choice by many, can cost anywhere from $5-$7 per box. At a serving size of ¾ cup, one carton of cereal yields roughly 25 servings. For $3 more than oatmeal you only get an additional 5 servings. Yes. ¾ cup of cereal is technically larger when compared to ¼ cup of oats, but the Frosted Flakes contain less than 1 gram of dietary fiber per serving. Oats have 5 grams. That's 20 percent of the recommended daily fiber intake for someone on a 2,000-calorie diet. Not only is fiber responsible for the feeling of satiation and fullness we all look for after a meal, but it also helps to lower cholesterol and maintain healthier blood sugar levels.

When asked why it's important to eat clean, certified health and wellness coach Rhonda Huff tells us:

Your body knows what to do with real food. It doesn't always recognize the chemicals we allow into our bodies and that sets off a whole plethora of unintended and unwanted chemical and hormonal reactions. These reactions can sabotage your weight loss goals and ultimately, your health.

She agrees eating clean can be affordable. "It's all about planning. If I buy what is in season and plan my meals so that nothing gets wasted, I can eat healthy, organic food on a budget." Her personal rule of thumb is that if there are more than five ingredients on the label, don't buy it. "Non-processed foods are foods that your great-great-great grandmother would recognize." Sorry folks that rules out the Snickers. Hungry? Grab an apple.

The moral of the story is save money, save calories, and save your health. By substituting more natural and unprocessed foods into the diet, these objectives become more realistic. If limited finances are a concern, no longer be fooled by the misconception that eating healthier is more expensive. Convert to the world of clean eating and take better control of your budget and calorie count.