-The Community Health Team-

Eating healthy isn't always easy. Watching that grocery bill increase with each "boop" of a scanned item isn't fun. But, eating healthy on a budget is achievable. March is National Nutrition Awareness Month, created and coordinated by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. During the month of March, it invites “everyone to focus on the importance of making informed food choices" and to develop "sound eating and physical activity habits.” 

At Community Health, we believe in preventative care -- meaning that we prevent health problems before they can arise. Part of preventing health problems and staying healthy is nutrition. To us, nutrition just means eating right. Other things like exercise and sleeping habits relate to nutrition and play a role in your overall health. But here we will focus on the food and eating parts. 

Eating right and being healthy can get confusing -- and even worse, expensive. We don’t think nutrition should be either of those things. So, we made 7 easy tips to eat right, that won’t break your wallet. 

1) Cook More, Eat Out Less

When you go out to eat, you’re not only paying for food. You’re paying for the convenience of someone else making that food. When you’re in a rush or getting something you can’t typically make on your own, that extra cost is worth it. But when you’re trying to eat healthy and affordably, that convenience isn’t really worth it. When you cook your own food, you’re in charge of the ingredients and method of cooking. That means you control the health and money aspects. At the grocery store, you can pick the more affordable brand or make a dish from on-sale items. You can also take the time to read ingredient lists and nutrition facts. Then when you get home, you decide how to cook -- like baking a dish instead of frying it in a pan full of oil.

2) Go to the Right Grocery Store

With control comes responsibility. It’s important to take what is in your control, and make the best of it. Eating healthy on a budget means you have a special need for foods that are both good for your body and good for your wallet. It’s not always easy to make that happen. Some common ways to increase meal nutrition is to add fruits and vegetables, and change red meat into chicken or fish. If you know those are your needs, then the next step is to find the most affordable solution. You can search out multiple grocery stores in your area, and find out which ones have cheap produce or deals on chicken breast. You can always buy in bulk and freeze later.

3) Plan Ahead

Planning ahead of time can help you to eat healthy on a budget in a few ways. First, you can search out good sales and deals. This will guide you to the best stores to buy. Plus, you can plan your meals around what is on sale that week. If you don’t know what to make, go right to Google and search for recipes! Planning ahead also sets a limit to your food bill. By creating a grocery list, you won’t stray away and buy things you don’t need. The important -- and hard -- part is to stick to that list when you’re shopping. 

4) Eat More Vegetables 

If there’s one thing we remember about nutrition from growing up, it’s that vegetables are healthy. If there’s a second thing we remember, it’s that vegetables aren’t the tastiest thing to eat. But that’s because we never learned how to cook and eat them in creative ways. The AND provides 20 different ways to eat more fruits and vegetables, here.

Good eaters get a 2-for-1 when eating more vegetables, if shopped for right. While bell peppers and asparagus prices run up, many vegetables are very affordable. Some are so cheap, you might be tempted to become a vegetarian, and get your protein from beans (they’re cheap, too). Some that top the list are carrots, lettuces, celery, and potatoes. 

5) Replace Sweets with Fruit 

Like we showed above with vegetables, fruit can be very affordable, too. Even better, they’re inherently more tasty than vegetables. Well, at least we think so. Bananas, apples, oranges, peaches, pineapple, and watermelon -- they’re all cheap and tasty. Most times you can get bananas and apples for well under $1 per piece. You can add fruit as a side dish to lunch, or eat them for breakfast instead of cereal or snack bars. You can switch out your late-night cookie munching with a just-as-cheap and just-as-tasty fruit salad.

6) Drink Water

Water has zero calories. And if you buy a reusable water bottle, water has zero cost. 

7) Make Your Own Snacks 

The AND provides smart snacking tips for kids, here. But we think these tips can be used for adults, too. Going back to replacing sweets with fruit, you can dip your fruit in yogurt, or even chocolate. If you go with dark chocolate, it’s even healthier. You can make your own granola bars, and cut out a lot of the added sugar with natural replacements from dried fruit or natural syrups. Even making a peanut butter and banana sandwich with whole grain bread is a healthy choice. Try toasting it up to make it more indulgent!

If you have any questions about eating healthy on a budget, or simply want to talk about it in more detail with your doctor, case manager, or other CHDC team member, reach out at 484-948-3097.