Tag Archives: Fruits

10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

When people are asked why they do not eat healthier foods, a frequent answer is, “Because healthy foods cost a lot more.”  If that is your reason, I encourage you to reconsider because there is no reason to think that way. Many people are eating healthy on a budget.

Yes, some organic produce and other “health foods” can be more expensive; but,  it is not mandatory that you buy organic, etc., in order to eat clean, healthy meals. There are ways to stay on a food budget and still feed your family fresh, healthy foods on a regular basis.

  1. Buy fruits and vegetables in-season.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables will be less expensive that those out of season. You can educate yourself through online sources to make decisions about when to buy different types of produce. If you watch the prices in the groceries stores, that will be a fairly good indication, as well. Out of season produce is usually more expensive; don’t buy those.

Buying at your local Farmer’s Market or finding a good store that stocks fresh, local produce like SPROUTS, helps you buy fresh fruits and veggies at the best prices.  When you find good prices, buy in bulk and freeze the excess for later.

In the past year or so, Safeway has been making a huge shift by providing organic and local produce. Just be sure to read the signs and watch the price points.

  1. Plan Meals Ahead

When you plan ahead (preferably a week at a time), grocery shopping becomes much easier. You buy exactly what you need and can avoid impulse buying.  When you are not sure what you are going to prepare, you pick up a lot of random ingredients that you never use – a terrible waste of money and very hard on the budget.  Plan, shop with a list, and stick to it.

  1. Shop the Perimeter of the Market
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by monkey_business

It is not necessary to buy a lot of fancy foods with exotic names just to eat healthy. The majority of the food you need will be around the perimeter of the market, so limit your time in the middle aisles – go there for specific items and leave quickly.

When you are on a budget, start by making a list of the most basic items you need, such as lean protein, produce, and whole grains. The rest of the food is only chosen, based on what you need for your planned meals or on occasion when you have a little extra money.

  1. DO NOT BUY Processed Foods

Processed foods may seem less expensive, but in reality, you get much less food for your dollars, it has been stripped of nutrients, and it is filled with additives.

For example:  think about the price for a box of instant brown rice, which is good for one meal, compared to a big bag of uncooked brown rice and the number of meals you would serve from the bag.  Yes, it does take a little more time to soak and cook the rice yourself, but you get a lot more for your money, more nutrient-rich food and no harmful additives.

  1. Learn to Cook with Inexpensive Protein Sources

Protein is a vital component of a healthy diet, but that does not mean you have to eat a large serving of meat at every meal.  There are a number of protein sources that are less expensive and good for your body.

For fish, instead of always serving salmon, try tilapia, tuna, or mackerel – all much lower in cost.  Chicken breast, hard cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are also low-cost protein options.

  1. Buy Grains and Beans in Bulk

The American way of life has become so dependent on prepared foods that what I am going to suggest may seem like a real stretch for some.  But, if you are living on a strict budget and want to eat better, try the following . . .

Instead of buying refried beans from a can, buy pinto beans in the bag, soak them, cook them, and add spices as needed. You can buy many grains and other legumes in bulk, which allows you prepare many meals for just a few dollars – and it is real, unadulterated food – so nice!

  1. Be Creative with Leftovers

In addition to lower cost, another reason for buying in bulk is that it saves time.  You can cook larger portions for each meal, and use the leftovers to prepare additional healthy meals.

Instead of buying a small package of two chicken breasts, buy a package of 8-10 chicken breasts and bake them all at the same time. Use two or three for dinner, use two more for chicken sandwiches the next day for lunch, and another one or two the following day for a chicken casserole.  If there are any left, freeze and use for other meals. One package could give you dinner for a week or longer, depending on the size of your family and types of meals you prepare.

  1. Organize Your Pantry and Fridge
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by olesiabilkei

This may seem like a silly tip, but when you pantry and fridge are organized, you can see what you have and use items in a timely manner. It also prevents you from buying duplicate items that you do not need.  Food waste is a major factor in overspending on groceries.

You may have fruit and vegetables in the crisper drawer that are still good but you forgot you had them; or meat in the back of the freezer that could create a nice meal. Keeping your kitchen organized will help you stay within your budget.

Another tip closely related to this, is to always check your pantry and fridge for items on your grocery list before you go shopping.

  1. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Are Acceptable Alternatives

There is nothing wrong with quick frozen produce. It is extremely convenient, saves money and also helps eliminate waste – because it doesn’t go bad as quickly as fresh produce – and it is great when you are in a hurry. Just be sure that you are buying frozen produce that has NOTHING added – including sugar and salt – pure fruits and veggies.

You can buy these year round – seasons do not affect the price and you can use partial packages and save the rest for latter.  So, when the items that your family enjoys are on sale – or specials – stock up.

Freezers should be set at 0° or colder. Eating frozen foods past suggested deadlines is not dangerous as long as the temperature has been stable, but flavors and textures will begin to deteriorate.

  1. Try Off-Brands

You do not have to buy brand names to eat healthy.  Learn to read labels and buy foods with no additives, salt, or sugar.  Buy a small amount and test them for taste, texture, etc. If they work for you and meet the “clean” criteria, there is no reason not to stick with the new lesser-known brand.

There are specific “organic” brands, but there are also generic brands offering the same nutritious ingredients. The main key is to ALWAYS read labels!

Food manufacturers play games with labels – and have no qualms about misleading the public. It is up to you to make sure you are eating the kinds of foods you want – that are good for your family’s health.

You and your family can start eating healthy on a budget today. It takes a little planning, but it can be done – and well worth the effort.

I challenge you to take care of yourself and your family by changing the way you think about food and healthy eating. 

Smart Snack Choices to Keep You Healthy

Snack choices can increase chances of a successful outcome for any diet or throw you completely off track. And . . . if your goal is a healthy lifestyle, smart snacking is critical.

The idea of healthy snacks may seem completely impossible when your goal is to eat healthy, nutritious foods. In fact, healthy snacks may sound like an oxymoron because the word snack immediately brings to mind foods like doughnuts, potato chips, ice cream and cookies. Let’s look at some guidelines for smart snack choices to keep you healthy.

There are many delicious, wonderfully healthy snacks that are a vitally important part of your daily intake especially when your meals are spaced more than four hours apart. A tasty nutritious snack prevents starving yourself for a few hours and then gobbling up anything you can find, which are typically foods that are not good for you and kill your appetite for a healthy meal later.

Healthy snacking requires planning (the same as your meals). The process is much easier if you keep a large selection of nutritious foods on hand in your frig and pantry so you always have healthy options.

The first step to healthy snacking is to understand the types of snacks that are good for you.

Fruits and vegetables provide many delicious alternatives to potato chips and cookies. That may seem too simplistic, but when you replace just one cookie or candy snack with a piece of fruit or vegetables strips, you immediately cut a large number of calories, plus eliminate excess sugar, fat, and sodium from your diet.

Image by Christine
Image by Christine

Small changes make a huge difference in your diet and your health. The next time you want to reach for a salty bag of chips, try carrot sticks instead. You get the crunch that you crave without the excess salt and fat. If carrots are not your favorite, there are other options such as, celery, broccoli, jicama, and cauliflower. If you do not like them plain, peanut or almond butter are yummy with celery and jicama; and hummus is a great dip for all veggies. These snacks are not only low in fat and calories but they are extremely high in nutrients that many people are lacking in their diets.

Fruits are wonderful for snacking and most come in their own wrapper! In other words, they are easy to pack and carry. An apple, a banana or an orange can be the perfect portable snack for busy people on the go. Fruits contain natural sugars that your body craves when you are hungry, which makes them very satisfying. Eat an orange instead of that morning candy bar and enjoy the same fulfilled feeling without the calories, excess refined sugar, and fat.

If your diet includes a caffeine or salt restriction, fruit is one of your best options for snacking. Even small amounts of chocolate contain caffeine and fat. Oranges, apples, and bananas are completely caffeine free!

Image by Pakhnyushchyy
Image by Pakhnyushchyy

My favorite snack replacement for chips is raw nuts. When you buy nuts from the vending machine they are usually salted and often have preservatives added. Avoid those if you can. Buy nuts in bulk (Spouts has the best prices, as a rule). You can buy salted, unsalted, and raw. The best choice for snacking is raw and unsalted; but small amounts of salted nuts are also acceptable in most diets.

When you work long hours with minimal breaks, you probably notice those physical lows when you become very hungry and tired. It is during those times that healthy snacking is important. Your body is telling you that it needs refueling.

Many of us eat breakfast very early before leaving for work or school and lunch may be scheduled six hours later. Six hours is too long to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. On your morning break, it is important to feed your body in order to sustain your energy until lunch.

Eating a healthy snack between three and four hours after breakfast also prevents the desire to eat a huge lunch. Everyone is well aware that a heavy, calorie-filled lunch makes you sleepy a couple of hours later. Always eat a light, healthy lunch; then, have another healthy snack mid-afternoon to sustain your energy until dinner time.

Nutrient-filled snacks between meals are especially important when you work outside or in extreme conditions. They not only keep the body energized, they help to keep you warm.

Good snacking habits are a vital part of a healthy lifestyle. Healthy, nutritious snacks keep your blood sugar steady throughout the day, which is important for the following reasons:

  1. Hunger can make you grumpy and short tempered. Snacking controls mood swings that come from low blood sugar levels, especially between meals.
  2. A small snack keeps your blood sugar from dropping and eliminates those sudden feelings of fatigue during your work day.
  3. Erratic blood sugar levels are one of the main causes of diabetes and other metabolic diseases – conditions you want to avoid if at all possible.

Fruit is one of the best snacking choices to sustain a stable blood sugar level when you have long stretches of time between meals. Freshly-squeezed fruit (and vegetable) juices are another option for delicious snacking. You can either make your own, or find a local “raw” juice establishment to make them for you.

Fruits, vegetables, and nuts are not your only choices.  There are plenty of options for healthy snacks.

  • Low fat cheeses like mozzarella and cottage cheese.
  • String cheese is a portable snack that even children enjoy.
  • Sunflower seeds and raisins (or dried cranberries or cherries)
    • Sunflower seeds contain healthy fats. Dried fruits are sugary but provide a burst of energy that can pep you up for the rest of the day when eaten after lunch.
  • Make your own mix of nuts, seeds and dried fruit (go easy on the fruit because of the sugar content).
    • Packaged mixes are not recommended unless you can find a mix that has no additives and sugar added, which can be difficult.
  • Green tea and ginger tea – lightly sweetened with local honey.
    • Green tea contains caffeine, but it also contains many antioxidants that are beneficial to your skin and overall health.
    • Ginger tea is excellent to settle a stomach and decrease bloating that often happens after a large lunch.

Snack foods are available everywhere in vending machines, but BE SMART in your choices.  Make healthy decisions when it comes to snack foods. Read labels carefully and avoid anything that has ingredient names that you cannot pronounce – or added sugar or sugar derivatives. A small bag of chips or pretzels is an acceptable snack on occasion – in others words a couple of times month (and choose those without additives).

The biggest problem comes from allowing yourself to become extremely hungry and making unwise choices just to quell the hunger. This can be solved by eating a good healthy breakfast, and carrying nutritious snacks that can satisfy your hunger, energize your body and help you to avoid eating foods that are more harmful than helpful.  When you plan your snacking options, you never get to the point that you will need to grab ANYTHING that is handy because you are starving!