Healthy Eating on a Budget
Last year, we started our series of community talks at the centre and one of the topics we discussed was the many ways one can make healthy nutrition choices even on a budget. This article contains most of the key points mentioned during the talk. We’re sharing this because the month of love just started, and what better way to celebrate this month than by loving yourself first and giving your body the right nutrition for a healthier you.
What is Healthy Eating?
Healthy eating is consuming the right amount of food so you maintain a healthy body weight. A balanced diet consisting of a wide variety of foods in the right proportions is essential for good mood, feeling great about yourself, having more energy throughout the day, and improving your overall outlook.
The Price of Health
One common excuse for avoiding a healthy diet is: “Healthy eating is too expensive!” On the contrary, eating a healthy and balanced diet helps avoid high costs of medications and hospital bills that result from diet-related chronic diseases, such as obesity, heart diseases, diabetes, and cancer.
Did you know that 1 in 5 Australians aged 18 and above are diagnosed with cardiovascular disease or CVD and 1 in 19 Australians have diabetes? And did you know that 1 in 2 males and 1 in 3 females have cancer? These long term diseases are largely preventable, with a healthy lifestyle that involves proper nutrition and regular exercise.
Mistakes People Make When Trying to Get Healthy
- Belief that sourcing or preparing nutritious meals is too expensive, too hard, takes too long, or is too complicated
- Belief that exercise will forgive all sins. Exercise is an ADJUNCT to a healthy eating plan; not a substitute.
- The all or nothing attitude
- Failing to plan = Planning to fail
- Relying on discipline alone to reach your goals
- Believing that foods labelled “natural” or “organic” are the healthiest option.
Helpful Tips to Eating Healthy on a Budget
#1: Buy Whole Foods
Recent studies suggest that eating whole foods, foods that are as close to their natural form as possible, is the best way we can achieve good health and prevent disease. Whole foods retain fiber, phytochemicals, and essential nutrients which are often removed in processed foods. For example: ground beef, liver, plain yoghurt, eggs, rice, oats, fruits and vegetables, olive oil, butter, nuts.
#2: Buy Frozen Fruits and Veggies
Frozen fruits and veggies can contain more nutrients than fresh ones. Buying these can actually help you save money because these are often half the price of fresh fruits and vegetables, have an almost infinite shelf life, and you can buy them in bulk and just keep them in the freezer for weeks. These are also a great way to save time, as frozen produce are already pre-washed and pre-cut, so less preparation time!
#3: Buy Seasonal Fruits and Veggies
Food grown in season tastes better and is cheaper! Get to know what is in season and buy in bulk.
#4: Buy Calorie-Dense Foods
Calorie-dense foods provide high level of calories, or energy, in the smallest amount or serving size. Such foods are whole milk, potatoes, rice, pasta, and oats – which are not just filling, but very tasty as well. Other calorie-dense foods can be seen in this article from LiveStrong.com.
#5: Buy Cheap Protein
Protein is necessary to build and maintain muscle. Eating whole protein with each meal also helps fat loss. You can buy cheaper meat cuts like on the bone or whole chicken and offal meats. Other sources of cheap protein are eggs, milk, whey, mackerel, tuna, calves liver, frozen chicken breast, and cottage cheese.
#6 Buy Organic
Every year the Environmental Working Group presents a list of “Dirty Dozen” and “Clean 15” – the former being a list of 12 or more produce items which contain the highest pesticide residues among conventional produce; while the latter is a list of fifteen produce items which use the least pesticides and are safer to buy conventional. Here is their latest list:
#7: Buy at Farmers Markets or Local Farmers
Purchasing produce from farmers markets or local farmers is a cost effective and convenient means to buy healthy food in bulk that is fresh and even tastier.
#8: Avoid Impulse Buying
- Make a list of what to buy and stick to it. List all the foods you need. Go to the grocery store, get what’s on your list, and get out.
- Eat before you go shopping.
#9: Prepare Your Own Food
Stop buying food outside and avoid buying processed food. Learn to cook from scratch and take food with you to work so you avoid eating fast food. There are a lot of simple recipes you can find online for healthy foods.
#10: Grow Your Own Food
Growing your own fruits and vegetables makes it very convenient and also more budget-friendly to have access to clean and nutrient-rich foods. You can plant fruit trees and potted herbs, create veggie patches, or even start a community garden.
Eating healthy does not have to be expensive or complicated. All it requires is some planning and mindful sourcing. You are what you eat, so its worth the effort!