Healthy Eating on a Budget
Eating healthy doesn’t need to cost the earth. By following a few simple top tips you can ensure you get a a balanced diet, giving you all the key nutrients you need to stay in tip top condition.
Don’t feel like you have to follow the latest food trend on which food is this week’s ‘superfood’. These often come with a hefty price tag. Just make sure you eat a balanced diet including a wide variety of vegetables. Choose lots of colours to ensure you have a variety of nutrients, consume beans and legumes, wholegrain and good quality protein from meat,fish, nuts and seeds and good quality dairy. If you have any health issues that affect your diet then please seek the help of a qualified nutritional therapist.
Opt for wholegrains – When buying grains and cereals opt for the wholegrain variety: brown rice, pasta, cous cous, bread (pittas and wraps). Wholegrain foods have a higher fibre content which is needed to keep our gut functioning well.Most of your gut bacteria resides in the colon converting dietary fibre into short-chain fatty acids. These fatty acids have anti-inflammatory benefits and help to stimulate immune function and prevent potentially harmful bacteria from taking hold. Some people may find they suffer from digestive issues when they consume a lot of fibre, such as bloating or excessive wind. This may be the case if you suffer from IBS or have other gut issues. Introduce high fibre foods to your diet slowly whilst your gut adapts to the change. If your symptoms persist it’s best to consult a qualified registered nutritional therapist.
Give frozen fruit and veg a try – Buying frozen vegetables and fruit such as berries is generally cheaper than buying fresh it is more convenient and avoids food waste. Choose vegetables such as frozen peas, corn, broccoli, cauliflower, green beans, carrots, spinach. Choose supermarket own brands as they are cheaper instead of big well known brands. Add frozen berries to porridge, natural yoghurt or smoothies. In terms of nutrient content there isn’t a great difference in frozen compared to fresh, in fact there is more vitamin C in frozen corn, green beans and blueberries compared to fresh and a higher vitamin B content in frozen broccoli. Lightly steam or stir fry your frozen veg to get the best taste and to ensure they retain their nutrient content.
Choose tinned or frozen fish – Oily fish such as mackerel, salmon, anchovies, herring and sardines are an excellent source of omega 3. We can’t make omega 3 ourselves so we need to get it from our diets or a supplement. Omega 3’s are anti inflammatory and contribute to heart and brain health. Tinned and frozen fish are more economical and convenient than fresh.
Get to know your local butcher – buying from your butcher means you have a wider variety of meat cuts to choose from and you can ask your butcher for advice on which cheaper cuts to go for. You
can also get to know where the meat comes from and how it was reared. Opt for chicken drumsticks and thighs rather than chicken breasts as these are often more expensive. Meat on the bone lends itself well to slow cooking such as stews, casseroles and roasting. Some butchers also offer family packs that end up being cheaper than buying these individually from the supermarket. If you have the budget to buy organic grass fed meat, then look online for delivery boxes.
Be selective with organic fresh food – Organic fruit and veg is more expensive. If you choose to eat organic for whatever reason then I would advise you to look at the ‘Dirty Dozen’ and ‘Clean Fifteen’ lists to see which foods have the most or least pesticide residue so you can bear this in mind when your are shopping.
This can be accessed here: https://www.pan-uk.org/dirty-dozen-and-clean-fifteen/
Buy dried pulses and beans – Lentils and beans are a great source of plant based protein and packed full of b vitamins, fibre, iron, magnesium and potassium. And they are more economical especially if you buy them dried. If buying dried beans then these need to be soaked overnight. I often soak a big bowl overnight and cook them the next day and freeze them in batches, this works out cheaper than buying them in tins. Of course tins, jars or cartons have their place too as they are quick and convenient to use. Most lentils don’t need to be soaked. However if you find that eating lentils and beans causes you gut issues then here’s my top tips:
1. If using tins or jars makes sure that you drain and rinse them well before using them. Often what causes gas and bloating are the phytates in the beans and lentils, this is a naturally occurring substance that can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
2. Soak dried beans for a minimum of 12 hours and drain and rinse the beans several times during soaking to get rid of the phytates that has leached into the water. Do not use the soaking water for cooking.
3. Keep an eye on what type of beans or lentils cause you more discomfort and go slow – don’t introduce them to your diet all at once.
To make sure meals go further substitute half the meat in a recipe with lentils or beans for example in a cottage pie, curry or bolognese sauce.
Don’t just shop at your supermarket – Find out if there are any local markets in your neighbourhood and also seek out any ethnic grocery stores as they have a wider selection of grains, pulses and beans, traditional brands of feta and halloumi, fresh herbs and fruit and vegetables which are cheaper and also offer bigger packets compared to what you would buy in the supermarket.