10 Simple Ways to Eating Healthy on A Budget Diet

Eating healthy on a budget can seem a challenge with today's rising food costs. Don't be taken in by grocery merchandising tricks and try not to fall into a mealtime rut of eating the same foods all the time.

A healthy, balanced diet does not need to be expensive and there are many ways to keep costs down when buying healthy food. Here are some top tips on smart ways to plan and shop for a budget diet.

Before turning to our 10 simple ways to eating healthy on a budget diet, let's recap first on what is a healthy diet?

* ~30% wholemeal or wholegrain starchy foods, so if you're eating bread, pasta, rice, go for the brown versions.
* ~40% fruit and vegetables, aim for 5 a day by having 1-2 portions in each meal. Vary the colors and textures daily to ensure you get a good range of wellness-promoting vitamins and minerals and antioxidants.
* ~20% protein (approx. 75-100g for women and 100-150g for men, based on 1gram protein per kg lean muscle mass).
* ~10% fats, but go for unsaturated fats (plant oils and margarine) and keep animal-based saturates to a low level.
* Include dairy products but choose low fat versions and keep eggs to no more than 6 per week.
* Avoid high sugar and high fat foods.
* Keep your salt levels to a minimum, i.e. don't add extra salt to your meal.
* Stay clear of processed, packaged foods as much as you can, because they contain high levels of 'bad' fats, salt and sugar - to make them taste 'ok' after processing and preserving!
* Avoid alcohol and pubs - it's really expensive and kills your weight loss plan!!! Limit yourself to one or two small drinks a day or enjoy a bottle of wine once a week.
* Drink plenty of water ~1.5 to 2 liters a day. Tap water is best - compared to bottled water or fizzy drinks, tap water is pretty much free and it's healthy, .

So, once you have in mind WHAT you should be eating for a healthy diet, start shopping for these items!

Here are 10 tips on eating healthy on a budget or ... how to stick within your weekly costs.

1. Set your Budget. The first step is to decide how much you want to spend each week for yourself and/or your family for eating healthy on a budget. Set yourself a limit and even divide it up according to the proportions and guidance above. That way you won't blow your budget on packaged foods and sweet treats.

2. Plan what you need for eating healthy on a budget across the whole week if possible, make yourself a list. Divide up into 2-3 days meals and shop accordingly, so you won't buy stuff and have it go off. Remember to take your list with you to the shops - don't laugh, we've all done it) and stick to it. Avoid shopping on an empty stomach!This way you won't get tempted by impulse items, that you fancy or you think are a bargain but the cost really add up (especially if they're not so healthy and don't fit your planned meals).

3. Keep basic ingredients at home all the time, including healthy breakfasts and lunch meals like or porridge oats or a nutrition shake, wholemeal bread, tinned fish, fruit etc. You’ll be less tempted to buy a muffin or high carb/sugar snack later on in the morning or an expensive sandwich or fast food at lunch.Also, this way you can always conjure up an evening meal rather than resorting to a take-away. For example, wholegrain pasta, tins of tomatoes, diced chicken or lean mince in the freezer that you can quickly defrost, frozen peas or jars/tins of carrots, sweetcorn, chick peas and so on; frozen brown pitta breads, which can be rapidly brought to life under the grill; tins of tuna or other sources of fish/omega 3s (great with pasta); grated low fat cheese usually have long 'Use By' dates.

4. Avoid 3 for 2 offers or BOGOF (Buy one, Get one FREE) if you want to be eating healthy on a budget. Often these items are not healthy, like bread and processed foods, so only go for these if it's on your list and you need those quantities. Otherwise. It may look like a bargain when you on a low budget, but often you don't need the item at all and you could be tempted to eat all you have brought and overeat - not good if you are aiming at weight control or weight loss!

5. Always shop around if you can to compare food prices. Store brands are usually less expensive than advertised, known brands. You can now do this online before you go, so you can do the research once or twice and get a good idea which supermarket to use. Corner shops are generally more expensive and markets can be good value. However, watch out on these assumptions!Corner shops can sell some great wholegrain products from local mills at really reasonably prices. And sometimes market stalls can seem a cheaper option for fruit and vegetables and meats/poultry, but frequently, you end up with more than you need and the money really adds up.

6. Try cooking more veggie meals like vegetable stew or dahl. (But watch the fat or salt you add.) Vegetables are often cheaper than meat and are loaded with important vitamins, minerals and fiber. Supermarkets often have special offers on specific fruits or veg - some promote 5 a day! You can even find some great organic products on offer - they usually store well and taste better as many of the natural ingredients are not destroyed by chopping and packaging! Did you know that pre-packaged products can lose up to 80% of the vitamins and minerals! Either go for fresh, un chopped fruit or veg or frozen or jars (where the food has been picked and stored very rapidly preserving much more of their 'goodness').

7. Check how to store foods properly, so they last longer. Check out sites where you can find out the best ways to store fruit and vegetables - this was a real eye-opener to me - I was putting things like tomatoes in the fridge thinking this was best, when really they should be at room temperature; and storing potatoes in a dark plastic bag (thinking to keep them out of the light so they don't sprout)rather than 'dry' in the dark.

8. Shop for seasonal fresh fruit and vegetables so you pick up the bargain special offers, are not buying items that have been through long transportation (and lose their goodness through irradiation and GM) and come with a high price tag for the privilege. Avoid so-called 'super foods' as these are often expensive and really you should be aiming for variety in color and texture. No single fruit or vegetable can be supposedly superior. Canned fruits and vegetables can be just as nutritious and usually cheaper! (But check labels for salt and sugar levels.)

9. Avoid ready meals and processed, packaged foods. Cooking can take up more time, but it will pay off in terms of health and costs. To add convenience, cook dishes in batches and freeze them. This is particularly a good habit if you live alone or when there's just two of you rather than whole families or households.That way you can buy decent size packets of ingredients, which works out cheaper, and you won't waste as much. Make sure you follow guidelines for effective freezing and defrosting.

10. Review at the end of the week, which meals you liked the most and try to create varieties based on mixing and matching. For example, if you liked the chicken and chickpeas with tinned tomatoes and brown rice,try lean mince with chickpeas, add something else like sweetcorn or sultanas and have it with green tagliatella pasta!

So hopefully now you see clearly that eating healthily isn’t about buying the most expensive organic foods. You can eat a balanced diet without breaking your budget.

Below are a bunch of further resources for eating healthy on a budget, so you can delve in a little deeper and plan and shop your way to looking and feeling healthy - even when you're not that wealthy!

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