These days food prices are exorbitant. Ironically, many of us are finding ourselves sacrificing our health for food. In an effort to keep our bellies full on a limited budget, we are making the rash choice to fuel ourselves and our families on a diet of processed, nutritionally void, convenient food stuffs. While this may seem cheap and convenient now, it ultimately costs us our health and quality of life in the not so distant future. By making a few changes to they way we think about eating, we can cost effectively maintain a diet that makes us look, perform, and feel our best.
Tip #1: Eat Plant Strong
The best way to promote optimal health while on a budget is to eat plant strong. Fruits, vegetables and whole grains are relatively inexpensive. They are made up of the antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals our bodies need to run efficiently. In addition, when our bodies receive the fiber and nutrients needed, we are satiated longer. Eating plant strong does not mean you have to become a vegetarian, but it does mean your diet should be plant-based. Make these nutritionally dense foods the staples of your diet:
- Leafy greens (such as romaine, kale and spinach, preferably organic)
Beans (preferably dry and not canned, soaked before cooking)
Whole grains (preferably soaked before cooking)
Root vegetables (such as sweet potatoes, beets and taro)
Wild caught fish and organic meats (in moderation)
Organic Greens are Worth the Money
Leafy greens are the most palatable when organic. For all other fruits and vegetables, buy organic when possible. Wash all produce thoroughly before eating. The Environmental Working Group publishes lists of the twelve most pesticide ridden fruits and vegetables (Dirty Dozen), as well as the fifteen cleanest fruits and vegetables (Clean 15). Refer to these lists to know which items to buy organic.
For more information on the Dirty Dozen click here.
A Word About Wild Caught Fish and Organic Meat
Most of us know that wild caught fish and organic meats are expensive. However, eating meat three times a day, or even everyday, is unnecessary. If you are not interested in becoming a vegetarian, eat meat several times per week with lots of plant-based vegetarian meals in between. Alternatively, use just a bit of meat to season your food. Think broth, soups, stews and salads.
Without delving too far into the horrors of factory farming, think about the unnatural diets imposed upon factory farmed animals. Factory farmed cattle (who in a natural environment thrive on a diet of grass) are fed diets of animal fat and carrion. Diets like these promote disease in the animals subjected to them, so how can that translate into health in the humans that consume these animals? Eating organic meat in moderation is not only cost-effective, it affords you and your family the ability to eat the healthiest, best quality, animal protein.
Frozen Produce is Okay
Frozen produce is picked at its peak, blanched, then frozen. In many cases it is just as nutritious, sometimes even more nutritious, than fresh produce. It is often cheaper than fresh.
Tip #2: Cook at Home
Cooking affordable, nutritious foods at home is cheaper than eating out. When analyzing the portion size and nutritional value of fast food vs. meals cooked at home, cooking at home proves well worth the time and effort. In order to cut down on the time it takes to get food from the fridge to the plate, preparation is key. Take the time to wash your produce before placing it in the fridge. Chop items like onions, tomatoes and lettuce after washing them. Taking the time to prep produce in advance makes meal preparation during the week less stressful.
Tip #3: Shop at Farmer's Markets or Subscribe to a CSA Program
Farmer's markets serve up local, organic, seasonal produce at cheaper prices than conventional grocery stores. Another great alternative is to subscribe to a local CSA program. CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture. When purchasing a CSA subscription you are essentially purchasing shares of a local farmer's crops. Your CSA subscription consists of a weekly delivery of a variety of fresh local, seasonal produce.
For more information on how to save money on organic produce click here.
Hopefully these tips will help you make better choices for you and your family regardless of your financial situation.
For more information on eating healthy on a budget, check these books out:
Forks Over Knives - The Cookbook
Amazon Price: $18.95 $8.99 Buy Now
(price as of May 29, 2015)