Eating healthy on a budget

Eating healthy can be an expensive endeavor.  You want to stock up on good-for-you foods, but wow, sticker shock! Don’t throw in the towel just yet. It is possible to buy wholesome foods and cut your bill. Success depends on you planning in advance and knowing where to save. Here are some ways to eat healthy on a budget.

  1. Plan your meals.  Plan your meals for the upcoming week.  Then make a grocery list of what you need.  Only purchase what you know you will use.
  2. Stick to your grocery list.  As a general rule, shop the perimeter of the store first.  This is where most of your whole foods are located.  Also, look at the top and bottom of shelves.  The most expensive items are usually placed at eye level.
  3. Cook at home.  Cooking at home is much cheaper than eating out.  If you cook, you know exactly what is in your food.
  4. Cook large portions and use the leftovers.  Cooking large meals can save both time and money.
  5. Don’t shop when you’re hungry.  When you’re hungry, you often crave foods that aren’t good for you and tend to be more expensive.
  6. Buy whole foods.  Some foods are cheaper in less processed forms.  For example, canned beans are cheaper than refried ones.  Whole grains, like brown rice and oats, are cheaper than most processed cereals.
  7. Buy generic brands.  Be sure to read the ingredients list to make sure you’re not getting a lower quality product than you’re used to.
  8. Don’t buy junk foods.  They provide little nutrition, contain unhealthy ingredients, and they are very expensive.
  9. Stock up on sales.
  10. Buy cheaper cuts of meat.
  11. Replace meat with other proteins.  Try replacing meat once or twice a week with beans, legumes, eggs, or canned fish.
  12. Shop for produce that is in season.  Produce that is in season is typically cheaper and more nutritious.  If you buy to much, freeze the rest or incorporate it into future meal plans.
  13. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables.
  14. Buy in bulk.
  15. Grow your own produce.
  16. Pack your lunch.
  17. Use coupons wisely. Most coupons are for unhealthy, processed foods.  So be careful about their use.
  18. Learn to appreciate less expensive foods.  Try increasing your use of eggs, beans, seeds, frozen fruit and vegetables, cheaper cuts of meat and whole grains.
  19. Buy from cheap, online retailers. There are several online retailers that offer healthy foods for up to 50% cheaper and deliver to your home.
  20. Go to the farmers market at the end of the day.  Sellers often want to get rid of as much as possible before they close up for the day.

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Healthier food substitutions

Below are some healthier food substitutions that you can try to bolster your health.

  1. Try a grilled chicken sandwich instead of a cheeseburger.
  2. Try hummus instead of ranch dressing to dip fresh vegetables.
  3. Replace juice and sugary energy drinks with water.
  4. Serve oats instead of sugary breakfast cereals.
  5. Pack trail mix that includes dried fruit and nuts.
  6. Instead of a plain bagel, eat a whole wheat one.
  7. Choose rice cakes instead of high-fat cookies and crackers.
  8. Choose graham crackers, rice cakes, fig bars, ginger snaps and molasses cookies instead of high-fat cookies and crackers.
  9. Try angel food cake instead of devil’s food cake.
  10. Eat frozen fruit bars instead of ice cream bars.
  11. Instead of ice cream, eat sherbet or low-fat yogurt.
  12. Choose a small bagel versus a Danish.
  13. Eat a baked potato with vegetables instead of french fries.
  14. Whole grain rolls are a better choice than white rolls.
  15. Broth-based soups with vegetables are healthier than cream-based soups.
  16. Peel-and-eat shrimp is better than buffalo chicken wings.
  17. Instead of pastries, try 1/2 almond butter or peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread with a piece of fruit, or a handful of almonds.
  18. Instead of soft drinks, 1 cup low-fat or skim milk, or 1/2 cup fruit juice.
  19. Instead of fried tortilla chips and processed cheese, try baked corn tortilla chips and salsa.
  20. Instead of candy bars, try homemade trail mix with raisins, whole-grain cereal and dried fruit.
  21. Instead of whole milk, try skim or 1% milk.
  22. Instead of chips, try a small handful of almonds or medium piece of fruit.
  23. Instead of cheese made with whole milk, try low-fat or reduced fat, low-sodium cheese.
  24. Instead of fried ground beef, try browning lean ground sirloin and rinsing away fat with hot water in a colander.
  25. Instead of a croissant, try pita bread or a slice of whole-grain bread,
  26. Instead of salted pretzels, try homemade snack mix with low-sodium seasonings.
  27. Instead of regular mayonnaise, try low-fat mayo or mustard.

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Health benefits of water

You’ve probably heard that you should drink eight glasses (64oz) of water daily.  But this amount was just a guideline, not based on any scientific evidence.

Water is essential to life and your health. Water is a nutrient your body needs and is consumed in liquids, plain water, and foods.  You lose large amounts of water each day through skin evaporation, breathing, urine, and stool. These losses must be replaced for good health. When your intake does not equal your output, you can become dehydrated.

Benefits of consuming water include:

  • Drinking water helps maintain the balance of body fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature. When you’re low on fluids, the brain triggers the body’s thirst mechanism. Unless you are taking medications that make you thirsty, you should listen to those cues and drink some water, juice, milk, coffee – anything but alcohol.
  • Water can help control calories. Dieters should drink lots of water to aid weight loss. Substituting water for higher calorie beverages can help. “What works with weight loss is if you choose water or a non-caloric beverage over a caloric beverage and/or eat a diet higher in water-rich foods that are healthier, more filling, and help you trim calorie intake,” says Penn State researcher Barbara Rolls, PhD, author of The Volumetrics Weight Control Plan.  Also, food with high water content tends to look larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans.
  • Water helps energize muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue.  Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.
  • Water helps keep skin looking good. Your skin contains water and functions as a protective barrier to prevent excess fluid loss.  Dehydration makes your skin look drier and wrinkled, which can be improved with good hydration.  You can also help keep moisture into your skin by using moisturizer, which creates a physical barrier to keep moisture in.
  • Water helps your kidneys. Body fluids transport waste products in and out of your cells. The main toxin in the body is a water-soluble waste that is able to pass through the kidneys to be excreted in the urine. Your kidneys filter and excrete toxins, as long as your intake of fluids is adequate.  When you’re getting enough fluids, urine flows freely, is light in color and free of odor. When your body is not getting enough fluids, urine concentration, color, and odor increases because the kidneys trap extra fluid for bodily functions. If you chronically drink too little, you may be at higher risk for kidney stones, especially in warm climates.
  • Water aids in digestion. Adequate hydration keeps things flowing along your gastrointestinal tract and prevents constipation. When you don’t get enough fluid, the colon pulls water from stools to maintain hydration – and the result is constipation (not fun).

If you feel you aren’t getting enough water in your diet, below are some ideas to increase your intake:

  • Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
  • Choose beverages you enjoy; you’re likely to drink more liquids if you like the way they taste.
  • Eat more fruits and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from foods.
  • Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.
  • Choose beverages that meet your individual needs. If you’re watching calories, go for non-caloric beverages or water.

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