A nutritious diet is an investment in your health. Eating well gives your body the fuel it needs to function while protecting against a number of health conditions including heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure. With food prices on the rise, however, healthy foods may seem out of reach if you’re trying to stay within a budget.
Here are some simple shopping and meal planning strategies that can help you eat healthy without breaking the bank.
Choose fruits and vegetables that are in season. While you can find most fruits and vegetables in the grocery store year-round, items that are in season are plentiful, driving down prices considerably. Check out your local farmer’s market to find seasonal produce that is grown locally. Local fruits and vegetables don’t have to travel halfway around the globe to reach your table, decreasing food prices and also minimizing environmental impacts. To find out what’s in season right now, check out this seasonal ingredient map.
Stretch your grocery budget by stocking up on healthy foods when they are on sale. Familiarize yourself with grocery store prices so you can recognize a good deal. Many grocery stores operate on a sale cycle, offering the lowest price on an item approximately every eight weeks. Stock up on healthy non-perishable foods such as whole-grain cereals, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, canned fruits, vegetables and tuna to get you through until the next sale. Check out the bulk section of your grocery store or health food store to find rock bottom prices on beans, rice, pasta, nuts and dried fruit.
Opt for whole foods and avoid prepackaged items. In general, whole foods will be healthier and less expensive than highly processed foods. Although pre-marinated chicken breasts are convenient, they often contain large amounts of sodium and preservatives, and cost more than twice as much as a plain chicken breast. Skip the pre-washed, pre-cut salad mixes, apple slices or any other packaged items in the produce department. Make produce affordable by buying your fruits and vegetables in their natural state and do the prep work yourself at home.
Eat less meat to improve your health and save money. While high in protein, meat can also be a source of unhealthy fats and cholesterol. Beans and lentils are great alternate sources of protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals at a fraction of the cost of meats.
Any good investment takes time and planning and eating well is no different. With enough practice and planning, you can have a healthy body and a healthy budget.
Kristin Conley is a registered dietitian who has worked in hospitals for 8 years and has written about food and nutrition for Livestrong.com. She is budget conscious and tries to provide interesting, healthy meals for her family.
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