Eating Healthy on a Budget

As much of the world’s population shelters at home, eating habits are under scrutiny. People alternately joke and despair on social media about the large amounts of food that they’re consuming while they stay at home, even though they know that overeating will lead to weight gain and other health problems.

The problem isn’t only how MUCH people are eating, but WHAT they’re eating. Instead of reaching for fruits and vegetables, it’s often easier and more expedient to grab a bag of chips or some cookies. Not only that, but at a time when people are watching their budgets like never before, it may seem that eating healthy means multiplying the food budget with expensive vitamins, supplements and other expensive food stuffs.

Nutritionists remind us that it’s possible to exchange filler-foods for healthy alternatives without adding significantly to the food budget.

Some suggestions:

Eating Out/Ordering In

Don’t. Unless you’re getting your food from a place that specializes in healthy food choices, you can assume that the eatery is using inexpensive ingredients and putting little thought into health. Plus, of course, you pay for eatery’s service.  The time has come to start cooking at home. Take a break from your EasyBet online casino gaming entertainment and go into your kitchen to put together a balanced, nutritious and inexpensive meal.

Shopping

You’ve probably heard the advice to not go shopping when you’re hungry but studies show that when a shopper is hungry, s/he is most likely to make impulse purchases. Instead, eat a sandwich before you go to the store. It’s also a good idea to prepare a shopping list and to take that list with you so that you won’t be tempted to buy things that you know are unnecessary, unhealthy and costly.

Stick to fresh foods as much as possible. Pass through the pre-packaged food section, the frozen meal area and the snack section. Circle the store where you’ll find fish and meat, fruits and vegetables, eggs and dairy (or dairy substitutes). These foods are filling and healthy so you can create good meal plans at a reasonable price.

Bread

Some people could care less about bread but if you enjoy good bread, go ahead and indulge. It’s best to choose whole wheat, spelt or another whole grain bread. Nutrients such as germ and bran are removed from the grain during processing. That means that white grains don’t have the same kind of rich nutritional value as do whole grain breads.

Even better, consider making your own bread. Making bread can be quick and easy. Breads involve only a few ingredients, a five-minute mixing process, some time for the dough to sit while it’s rising and baking time. That means that, actually, you only need to put in the time to mix and knead (5 minutes), then to put it into the pan after the dough rises, and then to put the loaves in and out of the oven.

If you want to increase the nutritional content of your bread you can add ground flax seeds to the dough or even mix the ground flax seeds with water and use it as a substitute for eggs. You can also add oats to the dough, reduce the sugar to a bare minimum and experiment with different types of grains for a healthier bread.

Produce

Skip the canned, frozen, pre-cut and bagged fruits and vegetables and buy everything fresh. It’s true that it will take you a few minutes to wash and cut the fruits and vegetables but it’s cheaper and healthier to buy everything as fresh as possible. If you’re focused on saving time you can make many dishes ahead of time and freeze them.

It’s best to buy the fruits and vegetables that are local and in season – those that are trucked in from far away are more expensive and have likely lost a lot of their nutritional content during the shipping process. It’s also fun to slip in fruits and vegetables as snacks for your family members. When you’re playing video games or watching TV you can much on some carrots or apple wedges instead of high-salt, high-sugar, high-cost snack food.

Grains and Legumes

Whole grains and legumes are considered superfoods and they’re generally lower-priced food choices. Researchers have found that eating whole grains and legumes lowers the risk of heart disease, adds needed fiber to your diet and adds vitamins and minerals to your daily food intake. They’re also helpful for losing weight since they expand in your stomach to make you feel full. Some legumes, such as red beans, are also full of iron which is important because iron-deficiency is a problem for many people.

You can add grains and legumes to soups and salads or even pasta so that any dish is enhanced with extra nutritional value.   Quinoa is not technically a grain but you can serve it like a grain – it’s a super food that is both a protein and a carbohydrate and it’s loaded with essential vitamins and minerals

Proteins

Meat and fish are expensive these days. But if you’re not ordering out or going out, you can get inexpensive cuts or find more budget-friendly alternatives to add protein to your diet. Some suggestions include: walnuts, tofu, cottage cheese, dried beans, nut butters (almond, peanut, etc), milk and greek yogurt.

Popcorn

Popcorn is a low-calorie, high-fiber and inexpensive snack food. If you get pre-bagged popcorn it’s going to cost you more and deliver a high concentration of calories and sodium. However, if you make your own popcorn, you’ll keep the cost down and give yourself a delicious snack.

You can pop your own popcorn in a big kettle or put the kernels in a paper bag and stick them in the microwave. Either way, sprinkle a little olive oil, some salt and, if you want to be extra nutritious, some brewers yeast over the popcorn and you’re good to go.

Dressings, Dips, Spreads and Sauces

Dressings, dips, spreads and sauces give some extra pizzaz to many dishes but if you buy the ready-prepared ones that are sold in the supermarket, you’ll simply have unnecessary sugar and salt plus an unnecessary cost to your food budget.

You can make any of these items yourself and often substitute ingredients to make it healthier. Keep a good array of spices and herbs on hand – better yet, grow some of the herbs yourself in an herb garden to save money and enjoy fresh herbs.

Mediterranean

Consider following a Mediterranean food plan wherever possible. Salads, poultry, hummos, tehina, tabbouleh, and other Mediterranean foods are on the lower-end of the price scale and on the higher-end of the health scale. If you’re going to go Mediterranean, be sure that you keep plenty of olive oil on hand. That may be the pricier part of the food plan but good olive oil adds a lot to Mediterranean dishes and it’s a healthy oil choice as well.