Healthy Eating on a Budget

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Is it too expensive to eat right?

Would you propose that tap water and a zero-calorie diet soda are the nutritional equivalent of each other? They both contain zero calories, but one of them is pure and organic, while the other is processed, packaged, and branded. You’d probably agree that the processed option is not only worse for your health, but also costs more, right? Sure, but what if we aren’t talking about tap water?

Fast food = cheap food

If you’ve ever been to the 99-cent menu at your local burger place, you’d agree that fast food can be ultra-cheap!  As Americans try to feed themselves on an ever tightening budget, it seems our options are increasingly limited. Isn’t it usually more cost effective to eat the fast, packaged food, versus the grocery store offerings of whole grains, fruits, veggies, and proteins?

Actually, not only can healthy eating be accomplished on a budget, it is imperative that we start shifting our “I want it fast and I want it now” mentality, and stop pouring chemicals into our bodies under the guise of “it’s too expensive to eat right”.

Some people insist that healthy eating costs too much. However, the cost you pay to eat healthfully pales in comparison tothe annual cost of obesity in the United States, estimated to be in the billions of dollars. Compare the price of a typical fast food breakfast sandwich, which feeds you for a day, to buying a dozen eggs and a loaf of bread at the market, which will feed you through at least a week.

In the time it takes you to drive down to the fast food place, you could have cracked and cooked your eggs, toasted your bread, fed yourself and the kids, and even washed the dishes. Plus, you can feel good because you know who prepared the meal and exactly what was in it, AND there’s plenty leftover for tomorrow.

Healthy Eating – You Have Choices

When it comes right down to it, we make choices everyday, and choosing to make healthy eating decisions costs no more, and often less than, the unhealthful (albeit “fast”) equivalent.

Moral of the story: you don’t have to spend a lot of money to get the most nutrition for your dollars.

Here are a few tips to s t r e t c h your food budget:

  • Stock the staples.
    Always have beans, brown rice, pasta, and oatmeal in the pantry. Brown rice ads fiber and is a great addition to stretch things like soups, stews and casseroles. Beans are a great source of protein and fiber. Add them to salads or even add black beans to marinara sauce to pump up the fiber in pasta dishes.
  • See what’s on sale.
    Visit your favorite supermarket online before you head out and see what’s on sale. Stock up on sale items with a lengthy shelf-life, like low-sodium chicken broth. Every week, check the frozen vegetable section and buy what’s on sale so you always have a variety of mixed vegetables in the freezer. Get to know the online coupon sites and smart phone apps, which can also help you locate deals.
  • Shop in season.
    Fresh produce tastes better and costs less when it’s in season.
  • Make your own soup
    This is so much better than buying in a can. When you make your own soup, you know what’s in it. You control the quality of ingredients, sodium and overall nutrient content of the dish. It’s nourishing and most broth based soups are lower in calories to help you control hunger and better manage your weight. Crockpot recipes are great, too!
  • Limit dining out.
    Today, eating out is a regular part of American culture. It is often easier to grab our meals on the go. Remember, you pay for that convenience. If saving money and eating healthfully are on your agenda, consider bringing your lunch to work a few times per week and cut back on dining out when possible. Of course, life happens, so when you do end up going out to eat, you can still be mindful of the menu choices and order healthier options.

  • Make your own “TV dinners”.
    This can be done on a Sunday afternoon as you plan for the week. Double your recipes and freeze half. Put chili, soup and entrees in freezer and microwave safe containers for quick lunches you can reheat with ease.
Eating the right quality food makes a world of difference in how you look and feel. It will give you strength and make you healthy. Take time to plan your meals and grocery lists, even if you need to begin with baby steps. You will see big nutrition benefits and your bank account will thank you!
Here’s to your health,
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List adapted from The American Dietetic Association’s National Spokesperson Marisa Moore, RD, LD

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