How to Eat Healthy on a Budget
Posted on October 18 2016
Given the hectic yet sedentary lifestyles that most of us lead, eating healthy is an effort that we often cannot afford - literally. However, staying fit and eating the right foods does not mean that you need to shell out a major portion of your earnings to spend on edibles every month.
A research conducted in 2013, revealed that healthy diets incorporating fruits, vegetables, fish, and nuts—cost significantly more than unhealthy diets (for example, those rich in processed foods, meats, and refined grains. According to the study by the Department of Epidemiology at HSPH a day’s worth of healthy foods cost approximately $1.50 more per day than the least healthy ones.
Contrary to popular belief and this study, there are ways to eat healthy without having to bust your budget or drain your bank account. We’ve compiled a list of tips and tricks on how to eat healthy on a budget.
Healthy Food Choices
What you put into your shopping cart determines what you plan to eat and snack on in the following days. Make it a point to be mindful when you grocery shop and refrain from randomly picking up whatever seems tempting. These are some foods that are easy on the budget and high on health:
Whole eggs: Besides being a rich source of protein, whole eggs also nourish your body with vitamins A, D, and E.
Canned tuna: Canned tuna is one of the densest sources of proteins, and also one of the cheapest sources of protein in the grocery stores today.
Canned mackerel: Though less-protein-rich than tuna, mackerel tastes good, and is excellent for adding variety to your seafood. Toss some mackerel on your salad or in some seasoned rice.
Milk: Though somewhat richer in fat, milk is an excellent source of proteins and other nutrients. Choose low-fat versions (if you prefer too). Milk is a simple choice that provide protein and calcium. It also helps cut a bit of cost.
Almonds: Almonds contain protein as well as monounsaturated fat and fiber. They are commonly referred to as “supernuts”. Almonds also reduce the risk of diabetes. Whenever you feel like snacking in between meals, grab a handful of almonds instead of a bag of potato chips. Almonds are easily found in build and in shells. Choose to shell your almonds to save even more.
Peanuts: Peanuts are an excellent source of good fat, and also help in lowering the risk of diabetes. However, ensure that you consume these only in moderation.
Lentils: Richer in protein as compared to meat, lentils are a good addition to any diet. These food items are among the richest naturally-occurring sources of antioxidants. Explore a number of dishes using lentils to add variety to mealtimes.
Oats: High in fiber, low in fat, easily available, and excellent at lowering cholesterol, oats make for a healthy breakfast. This versatile food item are also delicious in many other ways to satisfy most palates. Savory oatmeal with onions, mushrooms, and herbs make a great lunch in a pinch.
Yogurt: Filled with calcium and probiotics, yogurt improves your body’s immune system and enriches muscles and bones. And there are several yummy varieties and flavors. Choose low fat versions and aim for Greek during the weeks you are able to splurge.
Brown rice: The whole-grain version of white rice, brown rice is known to help cut the risk of diabetes, and is a rich source of fiber. It is also reported as helping to keep you full longer which wards off hunger pangs.
Whole-wheat pasta: Whole-wheat pasta has a richer and more complex taste and texture as compared to regular pasta. It also contains more fiber, antioxidants, and protein. So if you love your Italian cuisine, stick to the whole-wheat options.
Bananas: Bananas are a fruit high in fiber and potassium. They have also been reported as helping to reduce cholesterol. Moreover, they are one of the most delicious, easy-to-eat, and cheapest fruits - especially during warmer seasons.
Watermelons: Packed with Vitamin C, watermelons boost immunity and help strengthen bones. Eating watermelons is an excellent way to keep hydrated on hot days.
Onions: Onions are not only powerhouses of flavor, they pack a surprising amount of antioxidants too. So go ahead and be liberal in the use of onions in your cooking.
Tricks to Eating Healthy the Affordable Way
Sometimes the thought of eating healthy and planning meals that do not bust the bank is overwhelming. Changing your diet to incorporate foods that give your body the essential vitamins, probiotics, and antioxidants is not easy. Here are few actual tips to help you pull off eating a healthy diet affordably.
Grow your own salad greens.
Eating salads are healthy, but picking fresh ingredients all the time does become a tad expensive. The best option is to grow your own produce and go true-blue organic. We are not saying that you need an entire farm, just a windowsill and some small planters to help you start your personal herb garden and a few other items.
Sprouts, onions, tomatoes, and several herbs are just some of the things you can grow. If you have more space, even better! You will not only have fresh ingredients available readily, but a new hobby as well. Plus, your home will look prettier than ever and you have peace of mind and satisfaction knowing you grew your own food.
Stock up on seasonal produce.
Any smart shopper knows that taking advantage of sales is one of the most cost-effective ways of shopping, so why not plan your grocery shopping too? While you may not be able to stock up on staples this way, when it comes to fresh produce it is best to buy them in bulk when they are in season.
Fresh is better any day, but if you are on a tight budget it may work against you. Instead stock up when you get a good deal and then take some time to segregate and freeze these foods properly for later. Keep an eye out for discounts on online shopping sites. Also try rebate applications such as Ibotta to get some remarkable deals and paid rebates immediately.
Organize your fridge the correct way.
We often tend to open the fridge when hungry, and grab the first thing that we see. Make this work to your advantage by organizing the food in such a way that the healthiest items are visible first. Consider this- if you notice a tempting piece of chocolate cake right on opening the door are you likely going to lean towards the apple shoved in the corner?
Make the effort to store your healthy foods in transparent containers while the junk food can be stashed in opaque boxes at the back. Moreover, not keeping your fridge properly organized means that you are probably forgetting about leftovers which results in wasted food, which is not great if you are trying to stick to a food budget.
Opt for cheaper cuts of meat.
We all need (and love) our protein and while it is vital to a nutritious diet, buying meat frequently puts a huge dent into your budget. Go for the cuts of meat that cost less than others, and use these cuts in different ways in your meals throughout the week.
Chicken thighs are an excellent choice. Also consider going for a whole bird so that you can use different parts for a variety of dishes. Moreover, leftover meat is easily used to add flavor to stews, soups, stir fries, and salads.
Plan your meals in advance and prep for it.
We are more likely to dine out or call for pizza after a long day of work if there are no ready-to-eat meals. This also means that you may be wasting whatever is in the fridge. To avoid this, start planning and prepping your meals for the week (this includes breakfast) over the weekend and you will not only eat healthier, but also not feel guilty about indulging in a restaurant meal once in awhile—all the time remaining within your desired budget. Here are 7 easy prep meals to keep you trim.
Carry your lunch to work.
Eating lunch with coworkers is fun and very expensive. Dining out does not come cheap, and does not do much good to your health either. So start packing home-cooked lunches and carrying it to work—no extra effort (since you are already prepping your meals for the week), costs a fraction of eating out, and ensures that you stick to your healthy meal plan.
Swap your desserts with different fruits.
Agreed, it is tough to resist the lure of that brownie that is simply calling out your name. But before you let it go into your body, think about how many calories you are gulping down. If you want to stick to a healthy diet but have a sweet tooth, simply make fruits your dessert. There are enough varieties to not get bored. With fruits you can buy during sales or seasons to stock up and have frozen fruits available anytime.
Stop buying unhealthy drinks and junk food.
The best way to avoid eating unhealthy food is to simply stop buying them. Moreover, canned juices, soda, fries, and processed foods are not really inexpensive, so why spend money to do harm to your body? Cut out the junk food and make water your choice of drink—costs almost nothing and has a whole lot of health benefits.
Eating the right foods for a healthy lifestyle is definitely not time-consuming or expensive process if you are smart about it. All you need is determination, so try incorporating these tricks and soon you will notice changes in your health and your bank account.
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