Managing Your Diet on a Budget: Advice From a Nutritionist

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Eating healthy is one of the best things you can do to improve well-being, lower the risk for many chronic diseases, and feel energized. Healthy eating, physical activity, getting plenty of sleep, and managing stress are all important as a foundation for optimal health and wellness. 

Another important part of being healthy includes having optimal health insurance. An online health insurance guide can give you more information about the types of health insurance, the importance of purchasing health insurance, and the cost of health insurance. 

Having health insurance is important to save money on medical expenses and to have access to health care, health services, and preventive screenings. 

Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. There are many great ways to enjoy a variety of healthy and nutritious foods without breaking the bank. 

Healthy (and Inexpensive) Eating By Food Group

There are many ways to cut back on expenses and still eat nutritious foods from all five food groups. There are healthy eating options with the fruits, vegetables, protein, grain, and dairy groups that can be inexpensive and healthy at the same time. 

Fruits and Vegetables

The most inexpensive fruits and vegetables are seasonal fresh fruits and vegetables. Fresh fruits and vegetables are also full of nutrients like fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Fiber is an important nutrient that can help lower cholesterol, promote fullness, and prevent constipation. 

Some fresh produce is almost always inexpensive. Bananas, lemons, and limes are always priced very reasonably. Oranges, grapes, and berries are either usually on sale or priced reasonably. Peppers, lettuce, and cucumbers are usually vegetables that are inexpensive. 

Pre-cut, pre-washed, or ready-to-eat produce is more costly. Instead of baby carrots, buy the bag of carrots and wash, peel, and cut them yourself to save a few bucks. Instead of the bagged salad mix, buy the lettuce and prepare the salad yourself. 

When fresh produce is not reasonably priced, you can reach for the frozen produce next.  A common myth is that frozen fruits and vegetables are not as healthy as their fresh counterparts, but that is actually not true. 

Frozen fruits and vegetables are also full of nutrients and inexpensive. Frozen produce is usually flash frozen after harvest so it is at peak quality and peak nutrition. 

Canned fruits and vegetables can be a good option as well. They are usually inexpensive and also full of nutrients. The only thing you have to watch for in canned produce is extra salt and sugar. Read the nutrition label or choose low-sodium or sodium-free vegetables and low-sugar or sugar-free canned fruits. 

Protein

Meat can be one of the biggest expenses in your food budget. There are ways you can cut back on meat consumption, purchase meat on sale, or find creative ways to use alternatives to meat. 

Chicken, turkey, fish, and seafood are healthy options but can be costly. It’s best to buy these items on sale. The good news is that lean cuts of red meat are typically cheaper than fatty cuts of red meat. Look for round, sirloin, or roast cuts to save on your meat budget. 

You can use less meat in meals to save money but still have meals including meat. Adding other healthy foods to the meat can help stretch the meat further. For example, if you are cooking lean ground turkey for tacos, you can add some diced tomatoes or black beans to use less meat in the meal.  

Beans are one of the most underrated, inexpensive, and healthy foods. Beans are a healthy protein option that also have fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Canned beans are convenient and inexpensive, but reach for the reduced sodium or low-sodium varieties.

Nuts, seeds, and nut butter are nutritious options that contain protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals. Eggs are another inexpensive protein source. We may only consider eggs as a breakfast food, but they can be eaten for any meal or as a snack.

Canned or packaged tuna is inexpensive, convenient, and very nutritious. Canned salmon and canned sardines are also nutritious and usually inexpensive. 

Grains

Whole grains are your healthiest choice in the grain group because they are less processed and retain more nutrients like fiber, B-vitamins, and antioxidants. The more processed grains like white rice, sugary cereals, and white bread can be inexpensive but are lacking in nutrients when compared to whole grains.

Brown rice, quinoa, and oats are great options. Popcorn is also a whole grain and is usually inexpensive. Whole-grain bread, whole-grain pasta, and whole-grain cereal are also nutritious and can be priced reasonably too. 

Dairy

Low-fat dairy products are full of nutrients like calcium, vitamin D, and many other vitamins and minerals. It can be easy to find bargains and inexpensive options in the dairy group. 

Cow’s milk is typically cheaper than plant-based milk. Some with allergies or intolerances to dairy may need to consume plant-based milk instead of cow’s milk. 

Low-fat conventional or Greek yogurt are great options for vitamins and minerals like calcium, vitamin D, and potassium. They also have probiotics that can help improve the health of your gastrointestinal tract. A large container is usually inexpensive compared to individual servings of yogurt. 

Cheese can be expensive but is usually on sale. Blocks of cheese or sliced cheese can be cheaper than shredded cheese. 

Limit Processed Foods

Processed and packaged foods that are high in fat, sodium, and sugar may seem cheap, but they are a waste of money. Those foods have very little nutrients and can contribute to weight gain and health issues. 

Limit or avoid chips, packaged meals, frozen meals, boxed side dishes, and other highly processed foods. Focus on getting your nutrients from the inexpensive fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, and dairy products. 

Plan Ahead and Look for Bargains

Before you head to the grocery store, make a list of the foods you need. Try to stick to the list while you are shopping. This will help you avoid impulse buying of unhealthy foods. 

You can also check out the weekly ad to see the bargains and sales that are available. One great strategy is to plan your weekly meals and snacks around the sales in the weekly ad. For example, if chicken breasts are on sale, try to incorporate chicken into a few meals during the week. 

If you have extra pantry or freezer space, sales are a great time to stock up on frozen fruits and vegetables, canned fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, nut butter, nuts, and seeds. 

If the supermarket has a rewards or loyalty program, make sure to sign up for that. You can get better deals and extra rewards if you are a member. They are typically free to join. 

Cut Back on Restaurant Foods

Restaurant and fast food expenses can add up quickly. It is also more challenging to eat healthy when you eat out often. When you do eat out, look for bargains, deals, or nightly specials. 

Eating healthy is one of the best ways to live a healthy lifestyle. The tips and strategies prove that it doesn’t have to be difficult to eat healthy while staying on budget. If you’re staying healthy and eating the best foods for your body, you will have an easier time with all types of things, even finding individual health insurance policies.

Melissa Morris writes and researches for the insurance comparison site, ExpertInsuranceReviews.com. She has a master of science degree in exercise science, is an ACSM certified exercise physiologist, and an ISSN certified sports nutritionist.

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