Tag Archives: healthy meals

6 Budget-Friendly Cookbooks for Healthy Eating

 You may feel strapped by your budget when it comes to healthy eating. As a result you may even succumb to the temptation of buying processed foods and meals because they seem less expensive. In the long-run they are not – plus they are NOT healthy.

Following is a list of 6 budget-friendly Cookbooks for healthy eating: 

  1. Budget Bytes: Over 100 Easy, Delicious Recipes to Slash Your Grocery Bill in Half: http://amzn.to/1Qdytbu

This is one of the top-rated, budget-friendly cookbooks on Amazon, and for good reason. Beth Moncel’s cookbook contains more than 100 healthy recipes that do not cost a lot to prepare.  She covers breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, desserts, and beverages. You will find many recipes that are bound to become family favorites in her cookbook, and also receive valuable tips for saving money.

  1. Good Cheap Eats Dinner in 30 Minutes or Less: Fresh, Fast, and Flavorful Home-Cooked Meals, with More Than 200 Recipes: http://amzn.to/1XwniwM

The Good Cheap Eats Dinner Cookbook features all healthy meals that use fresh ingredients that are not expensive, and have minimal preparation time. It combines convenience and cost in a cookbook filled with delicious, healthy recipes. Even if you don’t have money for filet mignon or time to make crème brûlée, you can still have wonderful meals every night.

  1. Family Feasts for $75 a Week: A Penny-wise Mom Shares Her Recipe for Cutting Hundreds from Your Monthly Food Bill: http://amzn.to/1W5QEBc

This healthy cookbook does not just cater to budget eating and cooking in general, but offers recipes that provide enough to feed your family well. It provides a full menu with recipes for family meals for just $75 a week. You will not only save money, your family will love the interesting, delicious meals, as well – a nice combination.

  1. Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day: http://amzn.to/2649U8c

This cookbook is for any household that is on an extremely limited budget, allowing just $4 a day/per person. This may seem impossible, but it is not and this book will help you do it. It may take time to adapt, but when you shop carefully, and prepare the meals from scratch, at home, you can do it.  A budget of $4 per person, per day, is what many food assistance programs offer. The author of this book has worked hard to make that viable for you. Enjoy meals like vegetable jambalaya, broiled tilapia and pulled pork.

  1. The $7 a Meal Slow Cooker Cookbook: 301 Delicious, Nutritious Recipes the Whole Family Will Love! http://amzn.to/1W5Su4Z

Your slow cooker will become your new best friend if you want to feed your family healthy meals. This cookbook offers delicious meals that are budget-friendly and all prepared in your slow cooker. Each meal is just $7, many of which will feed an entire family – a great resource.

  1. The Healthy Diet Cookbook – Low-Carb; Low-GI; Gluten-Free; Sugar-Free; Vegetarian; Healthy: http://amzn.to/2649bE6

Budget-friendly cookbooks for healthy eatingFinally – A Healthy Diet Cookbook filled with 119 scrumptious healthy recipes for low-carb, low-fat, low-GI, gluten-free, sugar-free, and vegetarian dishes. Each recipe was created with only the healthiest ingredients required for each specific diet. It also includes a section for a traditional “healthy diet” that will allow you to feed your family well regardless of their dietary needs.


Nutrient Rich Meals

The next step is to start planning nutrient rich meals. One way to do this is to make a vegetable (or vegetables) the central ingredient of your main course with meat as a condiment or secondary ingredient rather than the main course.

This is a little more complicated that changing up your snack foods.  It requires a mindset change. In other words, forget everything that you have been taught about meal planning (with meat at the center).

Roasted Veggies with Beef - Image by Maya83
Roasted Veggies with Beef – Image by Maya83

The average American eats far too much meat each day. It is time to change. I am not saying that you should become a vegetarian – far from it. But, I am suggesting that you make vegetables the largest portion of food on your plate, with meat on the side, rather than the other way around.

It sounds simple; but, I realize it will be a sizable challenge for many people. If you are willing to make this adjustment, you will immediately begin to serve healthier meals without changing the types of foods that your family enjoys.

For example: the next time you grill steaks, rather than make the steak the highlight of the meal, serve it as the side dish. Cut the steak serving size in half and double the size of your vegetable portions. (Think about the positive impact that will have on your food budget!)

If you normally make peas or green beans with your steak, look for recipes that spiff up the veggies to make them tastier, more interesting, and more enjoyable. Try adding crisp onions, sliced almonds, interesting spices, or topping them with fresh garlic bits sautéed in olive oil or sprinkle with grated cheese. Remember . . . make the steak the small side dish to your meal.

Substitute olive oil for butter in your cooking (except in baking). Olive oil mixed with Italian seasonings, garlic powder, salt and freshly-ground pepper is a healthy and delicious substitute for butter on bread. Try this Olive Oil Bread Dip Recipe. Small substitutions like these can lead to easy and fast meal ideas that contain very little saturated fat.

Healthy, simple meals begin with simple ingredients. One of the biggest mistakes is using high fat and high sodium butter products in our cooking. (If you are a dedicated butter user – try unsalted.)  But as an important note . . . olive oil is simply the best oil for cooking (except for baking). In cases where the flavor of olive oil is not acceptable in a recipe, try using only pure seed oils such as sunflower oil rather than more processed varieties.

Healthy Diet Cookbook_digital
Purchase on Amazon.com

Find a couple of good cookbooks like my newest cookbook, The Healthy Diet Cookbook, that include recipes for people living with Type II Diabetes or those battling high blood pressure. These types of cookbooks offer recipes that are simple, nutritious, and low in salt, sugar and fats.,

Even for the healthy person without any particular issues, learning to cook with health-based recipes will begin to change your taste in foods; and put you on the path to eating more nutritious meals.

Getting used to foods that do not contain huge amounts of sodium and fat can take time, but using these types of cookbooks will make the changes easier. The “healthy” cookbooks often include excellent dessert ideas and healthy snack options that you may not think of on your own.

Cookbooks take the pressure off when it comes to planning meals and creating good shopping lists (which also helps eliminate impulse buying and waste).

Plan your meals and snacks at least one week in advance. It will be easier to stick to nutritious food options and it will help you avoid unnecessary time crunches that force you to resort to fast foods or frozen dinners. Taking time to create nutritious meal plans allows you to think about the foods you want to serve your family and also enables you to buy ingredients in quantities large enough to cover all meal options.

Meal plans and shopping lists also also make it easier to avoid the aisles in the supermarket where the “bad” foods are located. As I have said many times before – shop the perimeter of the market, skipping the interior aisles entirely. It will not only shorten your shopping time; it will lower your food bill.  It also makes weight control and family dietary concerns much less stressful because you will no longer be filling your cart with fattening, less nutritious foods.

Limit your menu to foods that are as close to nature as possible and never more than one or two steps away from natural. This means means avoiding all processed, prepackaged foods completely (includes most frozen dinners and all fast foods); plus eliminate all refined sugar products and white flour products from your diet.

Buy fresh fruits and vegetables or quick-frozen fruits and vegetables with nothing added (one step away from natural). Only use canned vegetables if you have no other option. They are often loaded with sodium and are heavily processed, making them several steps from natural.

Image by Nick Ares
Image by Nick Ares

Use whole grain cereals, pastas, and breads rather than white flour products. Choose cage-free eggs, grass-fed beef and pastured chickens.

Once you adjust your thinking about food, meal planning, and shopping, it becomes much easier to buy the foods that are good for you and your family. Remember focus on close to nature for the most nutrition. This does not necessarily mean that you must only buy organic foods; but, when available, that should be your first choice – especially for most produce.

Choosing to run a marathon begins with a single step; revamping your diet also begins with the first step. Small changes can have a huge impact on your health and your life.

If starting slowly will work better for you, begin with one change – and add another each week. For example:  you could begin by eating a healthier morning snack (leaving behind the doughnuts and sugar-filled coffee or the heavily caffeinated, sugary soda) – or by simply adding vegetables to your dinner plate – or preparing fresh green beans rather than opening a can.

Every step you take toward serving nutrient rich meals is one step closer to a healthier you and a healthier family.   



Learning to Eat Healthy

Forgive me for digressing a bit from this series.  My recent episode with the heat and loss of my air conditioner for several days reminded me of the challenges of continuing to eat healthy when it is incredibly hot. Because of that I wanted to share a few of my favorite hot-weather recipes.

Today I am back on track with ideas and information that can help you focus on a healthier lifestyle, learning to eat healthy all the time, and feeding your family well – or at least focusing on making changes that will help you reach those goals eventually.

One of the most difficult parts of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and learning to eat healthy is knowing how to choose the right foods – and doing so, over the long-haul.

What we eat is probably THE MOST IMPORTANT factor in building and sustaining good health and a general sense of well-being. Because of that, it is worth taking the time to learn about nutrition and how to make wise food choices. Coming up with fast and healthy meal ideas becomes easier with time and practice.

The key to creating nutritious and simple meals and snacks is understanding the kinds of foods you should eat and learning how to balance those foods in your diet. To develop this understanding, you must first be aware of where most people go wrong in their diet choices.

There are so many ways to stray off the “good nutrition” path that I could probably write a book on that topic alone; but for today, let’s look at the easiest way to stray – which is: allowing yourself to get extremely hungry. The hungrier you are, the less likely you are to make good choices of the foods you eat.

Don’t fall into that trap. Far too often, people worried about weight control make the mistake of trying “not to eat” breakfast and sometimes lunch. As a result, they end up ravenous and stuffing themselves later in the day with anything that is available – typically unhealthy foods.

Image by Syda Productions
Image by Syda Productions

We have talked about this before, but I just want to emphasize a few points before we move on.

The best approach to eating healthy throughout the day and living a healthy lifestyle is to start the day with a good breakfast. Then, pack (or plan) two healthy snacks (one for the a.m. and one for the pm.), plus a healthy lunch.  If you can be diligent in following those steps, your eating habits and your health will begin to improve dramatically. (Note: the links will take you to earlier articles on those subjects.)

Which brings us to the next point – the easiest place to start eating healthy is with your snack choices.  This requires two critical steps:

  • Get rid of all the unhealthy snacks in your kitchen (that includes the fridge and pantry – or any other place you may be stashing them).
  • Keep ONLY good snacking options in your home.

In other words, throw away (or give away) the potato chips, cookies, protein bars, sweetened yogurt, and prepackaged snacks of any kind. Then, stock your shelves and your fridge with fresh fruits, vegetables, and nuts.

When you are hungry, it is much healthier to reach for a handful of raw nuts than a handful of potato chips. Nuts are filled with nutrients and also quell your sweet cravings. Fruits, vegetables, and nuts should also be incorporated into your meals, so having them on hand serves a dual purpose.

The best part is – the foods you can see easily and reach quickly are the foods you tend to eat, which makes having good food around the quickest way to begin forming new and better eating habits.  When your kitchen is well-stocked with healthy foods, packing your two snacks and a healthy lunch is easy.  Make a commitment to this simple change and begin NOW!

On Monday, we will be discussing – planning healthy dinners. Be sure to join us.

Meal Planning for Healthy Options

Now that people seem to be more concerned with healthy diets and exercise, meal planning for healthy options is becoming an important dietary tool.

Planning meals means much more than just making a grocery list. To ensure that your diet is both nutritious and delicious, it should include mapping meals and snack choices at least, a week at a time.

Find an App or Do It by Hand

Although this may seem like a chore, there are simple Apps available for smart phones and planners that are downloadable and free on the Internet to make meal planning much easier.

If you are technically challenged, as I am, you can do it the old-fashioned way with a pencil and piece of paper. That is all it takes to begin regular meal planning and to start making healthy food choices for you and your family.

In addition to facilitating healthier eating in general, planned meals and snacking options are especially helpful to anyone who needs to reduce cholesterol, lower blood pressure, manage diabetes or lose weight.

Even if your family is healthy and no one is struggling with disease or health issues, meal planning is necessary. It will help you provide your children with nutritious snack options that will support their rapid growth and active lives.

Most children will be happy with healthy snacks if that is what is available


Clean Out Your Pantry and Refrigerator

The first step to meal planning for healthy options is to do a complete inventory of your pantry and refrigerator.

Remove items that are past their expiration date, wilted, or unappetizing to create space for nutritious alternatives. Once those have been removed, start eliminating all snacks filled with sugar, fats, and additives. This includes most packaged snacks, cookies, candy, sodas, bottled juice, potato chips, etc.

With that first step you have started down the road to healthier bodies for everyone. Removing the bad food options makes it more difficult to slip back into unhealthy eating habits. If those foods are not available, you and the family cannot eat them.

Find and Use Healthy Recipes

Healthy Diet Cookbook Cover

Second step . . . search the Internet for recipes, cookbooks, and websites that offer nutritious meals. You will be astounded at how many healthy versions there are of well-loved recipes available for download or included in cookbooks. Check out my book, The Healthy Diet Cookbook as a place to start.

Begin collecting healthy recipes that appeal to you and that you think your family will enjoy. Use those recipes to plan your meals and snacks. The larger your collection, the more choices you have to feed your family well.

Start make healthy adaptations of your family favorites. A few small changes to recipes like spaghetti, meatloaf, and beef stroganoff can turn them into much healthier dishes.

Make It Easy on Yourself

In the beginning choose recipes that are easy to prepare and use ingredients you know the family likes. You can move out of the family’s comfort zone on occasion because trying new foods can be great fun. However, for your basic meal planning stay with tried and true recipes that have been changed slightly to healthier versions.

Begin to stock your pantry and refrigerator with healthy foods that you will enjoy . . . and remember to double up on the fruit and vegetables (organic, if at all possible).

Almost any type of fruit can make a wonderful snack, especially for those in the family with a sweet-tooth. Fresh oranges, melons, and crisp, juicy apples are great snacks that keep well in the refrigerator. Melons or berries topped with plain Greek yogurt and a little local honey make a tasty treat.  Sliced apples with chunks of real cheddar cheese are great after school snacks (and also excellent in a packed lunch for a mid-morning treat).

Vegetables like carrots and celery are perfect for a crunch snack and they also store well for up to a week in the fridge. Serve with hummus or almond butter to add a little protein.

Make It Easy to Choose Healthy Snacks

Healthy Fruit Snacks
Image by Christine

The most important thing to remember about keeping fruit and vegetables for snacks is to make them easy to eat by cutting them up into bite-sized servings.

Grapes are best when removed from their vines and washed thoroughly. After washing, dry them completely and put them into containers or baggies. Voila! You have snacks that are perfect for days when family members need to grab and go.

Cherries and grapes are also delicious when frozen – especially for hot and tired children when they come home from school.

For protein, buy lean, grain fed, free range beef if you can, and limit the amount of red meat in your meals. Focus more on poultry, fish and eggs. Lentils are another good source of protein to work into your meals.

Meal Planning Eases Your Budget

When you plan meals in advance, you know the exact quantity of each item to purchase, so budgeting is easier. Meal plans are perfect for the bargain shopper because they give you time to select foods that are on sale and in season.  Clip coupons to add to your savings. Coupons for fruits and vegetables may be difficult to find, so concentrate on the meat sales to save money on your weekly shopping budget.

As I mentioned earlier, selecting a software program or App to help with your meal planning is an excellent time-saver (if you are into technology). These work particularly well for people with careers AND families.

With busy schedules and multiple obligations they tend to be the worst at preparing and eating healthy meals. Using a smart phone or computer to help choose nutritious dinners is the perfect way to incorporate a time-saver with a health-saver!

Find a Good Meal Planning APP

Some Apps allow the user to select certain foods and then offer meals that can be created with those foods. This type of planning helps when you are pressed for time, especially for weekday dinner preparation. If you make lunches for your children to take to school, these programs can help with a large selection of healthy lunch options, as well.

Final Thoughts

Once again, I want to emphasize how planning meals and snacks in advance will be helpful for busy mothers and fathers. Without planning, you put yourself in the position of coming home from work and being forced to scramble to find the ingredients for a healthy dinner. This can be frustrating and stressful for the entire family and may result with the decision to order pizza just to fill the empty tummies.

Having the right ingredients on-hand so you can prepare quick and easy, nutritious meals is the perfect way to change your diet and the diet of your entire family.

Meal planning for healthy options is the ideal tool for busy families. Children can even be included in the planning process. Have fun with it and encourage them to find new foods that everyone may enjoy. It is a great way to get them interested in healthy eating and to build good habits for life.

Pay Attention to What You Eat

Photo of cans of drink on crushed ice.
Image by RTImages

It is important to pay attention to what you eat – ALL DAY LONG!  Your diet includes everything you eat not just what you eat at meals. Awareness of your eating habits can be the magic bullet that brings better health in a short period of time.


Busy people tend to overlook the number of beverages and the type of beverages they consume each day. You may be careful about making healthy choices for lunch, but add a large Coke for your beverage – big problem. There seems to be a complete lack of awareness about the dangers of caffeinated and carbonated sugary drinks (all sodas, plus the particularly insidious “energy drinks”).

Filtered Drinking Water
Image by ginasanders

Large glasses of soda may contain up to 20 teaspoons of sugar and 300 empty calories. That amount of sugar is physically harmful for anyone and especially bad for busy people. Replacing all sugary sodas with a bottle of fresh water (best choice), a glass of sparkling water or freshly-squeezed fruit or vegetable juice are much better choices and will help avoid the “sugar high” and “afternoon crash” that come from unhealthy, sugar-loaded drinks.

Eliminating sodas, heavily sweetened coffee and sweet tea and adding lots of fresh water to your daily diet is a great first step toward building a healthier, more nutritious diet.

What About Lunch?

Having a nutritious lunch is another important, but challenging issue for busy people. Instead of running out to a restaurant or the nearest fast-food establishment, packing lunch for your mid-day meal is much smarter. This not only saves time and ensures much healthier meals; it also alleviates a lot of stress. You can use the time to relax and enjoy your food.

Fast food meals and restaurant meals taste good because they are packed with sugars, fats, sodium, and many taste-enhancing additives – none of which contribute to good health. When you live a busy, stressful life, you need nutritious food to fuel your body. Restaurant meals and fast foods do not provide healthy fuel.

In addition to being unhealthy, the average fast-food or take-out lunch contains 350 (or more) calories, plus the drink, making the total around 800 calories. Imagine how much better off you would be if you dropped 400+ calories from your daily intake. It is much easier to do that than you may think. All you have to do is start with small steps like packing and eating healthy lunches.

Don’t start moaning and groaning as you envision yourself eating salads day after day. You have many other choices, such as: wraps made with lean meats and whole wheat tortillas – an excellent source of nutrition for the busy person. Baby carrots and other vegetables served with a yogurt dressing, humus, or almond butter are delicious and nutritious at the lunch table. Whole-grain bagels and low-fat cream cheese make a nutritious lunch that is also very filling.

Packing a healthy lunch is actually easier than running out to a fast-food restaurant; it just takes a little more planning and some smart shopping.

And Then There Is Dinner

Dinner is often another difficult time for busy people, but meal planning can take the hassle out of creating healthy meals. Writing out a loose meal plan each week can help you stick to eating healthier foods even when your schedule is hectic.

Meal planning is a great way to keep yourself and your family on the healthy-eating track each week without taking up too much of your time. A plan removes the guesswork in preparing healthy dinners for those with overly-crowded schedules. Meal planning and shopping lists also save time and money at the grocery store. (More about this in the next post.)

Plus, if you do it right, you will have yummy leftovers that can be packed for lunch the next day. Two birds with one stone . . .

In an earlier post, we discussed the importance of a healthy breakfast and now I have added the challenge of eating a healthy lunch and dinner. It may feel like an impossible task; but, I promise you eating well all day long is important and well worth the time and effort.

Without good nutrition, you will not be able to keep up with your busy schedule and also stay healthy. Eating “out” for lunch and/or dinner adds up. It puts a dent in your wallet and endangers your health.

Making the effort to eat nutritious meals pays dividends – more than you can imagine. You will sleep better and wake up feeling more rested. You will look better, feel better, and be more productive than you have ever been. Good nutrition gives you energy that lasts throughout the day and creates a healthy lifestyle that will serve you well in your busy world.