Eating healthy on a budget

Updated: Apr 2

Written by Aoife Corr

Healthy eating is important for a variety of reasons: to improve heart health, general mood and reduce disease risk. A balanced diet includes fruit and vegetables (5 portions/day), wholegrains (oats, brown rice/pasta, bread), legumes (beans, peas, lentils) healthy fats (nuts, avocado) and protein (meat, fish, dairy) [1].


Contrary to what some may think, eating well does not have to break the bank. Here are just a few simple tips and tricks that I find super beneficial to ensure I stay eating healthily, even when on a budget.


Plan your meals – Sit down on a Sunday for a few minutes and plan out your meals for the week. I would recommend checking your kitchen first to see what food you have to ensure nothing goes to waste. Once you know what meals to cook, make a shopping list that includes your snacks and any staples you still need to buy. Research shows that making a list and sticking to it, has been linked to healthier diets [2].


Batch cook/meal prep – if you have space in the freezer try to cook in bulk as it will lead to savings in the long run. When you are buying your food, you can opt for bigger quantities which can work out cheaper. This will also help to reduce food waste and means you will always have a few meals in the freezer to eat, which may lead to fewer takeaways and will save you time in the future!


Don’t shop on an empty stomach – studies have shown that shopping when hungry can lead to you spending more money and buying more unhealthy foods [3]. We’re all guilty of giving in to the eyes of our hunger, so don’t let yourself be tempted and have a good meal


Buy foods on sale - always check the reduced section or check apps such as the Tesco and Lidl Plus app to see what foods are on sale that week so you can incorporate them into your meals for the week.


Cook from scratch – While this may not always be possible, try to stick to cooking at home and refrain from buying takeaways and lunch at work. There are plenty of fake-away recipes available now online which can be a good substitute.


Buy frozen fruit and vegetables – They are much cheaper and as they are frozen when ripe, they have the same if not more nutritional value as fresh fruit and vegetables. If frozen produce isn’t for you try to buy fruit and vegetables that are in season as they are generally cheaper.


Buy supermarket brands – Try to switch to supermarket brand foods, generally there is very little difference in taste and nutritional value, and they are much cheaper than luxury brands.


Cook with pulses – Instead of always opting for meat or fish for your protein source try switch to cooking with beans, peas, and lentils a couple of times a week. They are so much cheaper and just as nutritious and tasty; I find it handy to always have a few tins in the press for when I need them.


Switch to wholegrains Try to make the change from white starchy foods to wholegrain alternatives as they provide much more nutrients such as fibre, vitamin B, iron, zinc, and copper [4].


I hope you have found these tips helpful to make some good nutritional and cost-effective choices.



References:


1. WHO. Healthy diet 2020 24 March 2022]; Available from: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/healthy-diet.

2. Dubowitz, T., et al., Using a Grocery List Is Associated With a Healthier Diet and Lower BMI Among Very High-Risk Adults. Journal of nutrition education and behavior, 2015. 47(3): p. 259-264.

3. Xu, A.J., N. Schwarz, and R.S. Wyer, Jr., Hunger promotes acquisition of nonfood objects. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2015. 112(9): p. 2688-2692.

4.BDA. Wholegrains: Food Fact Sheet. 2022 24 March 2022]; Available from: https://www.bda.uk.com/resource/wholegrains.html.


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