Eating healthy isn’t complicated. Actually, it is VERY simple and can be really affordable. What IS difficult is having the discipline and finding the willpower to do it. So, let’s start with some basics.
Build a Budget
Look back through your bank account and credit card purchases for the past month to give you an idea of where you’ve spent your money on food. It may surprise you! That quick stop into the coffee shop for a hot chocolate…hitting the drive-thru on your way to work…meeting up with a friend or colleague for lunch…it all adds up eventually; and the picture it paints of your spending habits as well as the kinds of food you’ve been consuming may not be pretty.
After you’ve recorded the $$ amount for how much you used to spend on food, figure out a rough estimate of how much money you are willing to spend on food items each week. Allow extra wiggle room for events such as evenings out with friends and business lunches, etc.
10 Tips for Making Healthier, Budget-Friendly Choices
The following are some budget-friendly, totally doable ways that you can make the transition into healthier eating.
- Whole Grains-Whole grains are not only an important part of your diet, they also provide you with the nutrition that you need if you are an athlete. Staples include: oatmeal, sweet potatoes, Cream of Wheat (Farina), brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread, 100% whole wheat pasta and cereals such as Special K or Shredded Wheat.
- Fresh Fruit- Buy according to season to keep costs down. Avoid pre-washed/pre-cut fruits because these are usually more expensive! To cut down on waste, buy smaller amounts of fresh fruit when you shop, or if you do buy fruit and find that you have leftovers, get creative. Bananas can be peeled, wrapped in aluminum foil and thrown in the freezer to be used later in smoothies. Leftover oranges and apples can be used to make desserts. If you decide to purchase canned fruit, only purchase fruit that is canned in water- not syrup.
- Frozen Veggies– Contrary to what some people believe, frozen veggies are just as nutritious as fresh veggies; and they are a great option for those who are trying to eat healthy and save money because they last longer. Broccoli, carrots, spinach and mixed varieties are all great choices to add to any dinner.
- Beans– Beans make a great addition to salads or pasta dishes, and they are filled with nutrients that your body needs. When buying canned varieties, look at the nutrition label. The only ingredients should be ‘beans’ and maybe ‘salt’. Before you eat beans, make sure that you thoroughly rinse them in cold water. This will remove a lot of the sodium.
- Bigger Portions-A great way to cut down on overall cooking time throughout the course of the week is to cook in bulk. Make one big meal on a Sunday night and tupperware the rest. Freeze what you don’t plan on eating. Not only will your food already be portioned out perfectly, but it will make it easy for you to ‘grab n’ go’ when you’re leaving for work in the morning or coming home from a long day where cooking may not be the top priority.
- Sales– Supermarkets almost always have some sorts of sales going on. Check the paper or check online to see what the sales are and only plan to purchase those items that make sense for your new, healthy eating lifestyle. Too often, people make the mistake of buying items that they don’t really need simply because they were ‘on sale’. Don’t fall into this trap!
- Plan Meals– One of the most efficient ways to protect your body and your budget is to plan out your meals. You don’t have to take a ton of time to do this. Instead, just go online or use a clean eating guide to help you pick out a few simple meal choices. Jot these down and you’ll be good to go. Besides this, it takes the guesswork out of what you are going to eat if you already have it planned out. When you food shop, STICK TO YOUR GROCERY LIST. This will help you avoid over-spending.
- Water– The most important part of any diet is water. Our bodies rely on water for so many different things. Besides this, water is relatively inexpensive to purchase, and it also helps to prevent overeating. Before every meal, you should be drinking at least one tall glass of water. If you’re an athlete, you should be drinking the equivalent of at least 8-10 glasses of water each day. Keep in mind that you also get water through the food that you eat (such as fresh, juicy fruits and veggies).
- Nuts– Nuts such as pistachios, almonds and nut butters are all things that should be staples in any healthy pantry. Use olive oil for salads and for cooking, but make sure that you consume olive oil (and other nuts) sparingly because while they are packed with nutrients and healthy fats, too much of a good thing is never good!
- Cut Out Fast Food. The only thing that is ‘fast’ about fast food is how quickly that ‘food’ turns into fat. Fast food can also be a drain on your bank account. One way I avoid the fast food trap is by always making sure that I store some healthy, non-perishable snacks and bottles of water in my car. Ideas for non-perishable snacks include things such as baggies filled with pistachios, a few Luna bars, dried oatmeal with raisins thrown in, sunflower seeds and a few unsalted Saltine crackers.
Build a Better Body
Building a better body IS well within your reach. Anything worth doing right takes some effort on your part, and shouldn’t your body be worth it? While eating is important, make sure you don’t neglect the other things that contribute to your overall health and fitness such as: getting plenty of rest at night, participating in activities outside of work that make you feel good (ex: volunteering, exercise, mentoring) and getting your finances in order. The hardest part is taking that first step, but once you do, you’ll realize that anything is possible.