Regional One Health’s clinical nutrition team helps patients improve their diet through small, realistic changes that add up to big improvements.
It’s possible to make those changes even if you’re on a tight budget. Some of their tips include cooking at home, buying healthy ingredients in bulk and keeping portion sizes reasonable.
Eating healthy can feel challenging if you’re on a strict budget – but according to our clinical nutrition team, there are ways to improve your diet that are also good for your bank account.
Regional One Health’s dietitians are sharing tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for eating healthy on a budget:
Cook at home
Eating out can get expensive. Preparing meals at home is a lot cheaper, and you can make healthier versions of your favorites. While it’s OK to eat out for special occasions, for day-to-day meals find a handful of simple, healthy recipes that you and your family enjoy.
Choosing and preparing meals and snacks in advance saves time and money. Make a list of the ingredients you’ll need, then go to the store and stick to the list. If you know exactly what to buy, you’re less likely to spend money on items you won’t end up using.
You can also make a large batch of favorite dishes by doubling the recipe. Buying ingredients in bulk is cheaper, and you can refrigerate or freeze extra portions for a quick meal in the future.
Look for deals
Check online or in the newspaper for sales and coupons, especially for pricier ingredients like meat and seafood. Compare the costs for different brands and package sizes to see which has a lower unit price (usually posted on the shelf right below the product).
Shopping for fruits and vegetables that are in season also helps, as they are usually cheaper and more readily available. If you want an item that isn’t in season, canned and frozen options can be good alternatives – look for products that are packaged in 100 percent juice or water or labeled “low in sodium” or “no salt added.”
Watch your portion sizes
Overeating not only means too many calories, it also causes you to over-spend. Using smaller plates, bowls and glasses is a good strategy to keep portions under control.
Remember to fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables and the other half with grains and lean proteins such as lean beef, poultry, seafood or beans. This is an easy way to eat a balanced meal while controlling portions and cost. To complete the meal, add a glass of fat-free or low-fat milk or a serving of fat-free yogurt for dessert.
Focus on nutritious, low-cost foods
Make the most of your food budget by finding recipes that use ingredients like beans, peas and lentils; sweet or white potatoes; eggs; peanut butter; canned salmon, tuna or crabmeat; grains such as oats, brown rice, barley or quinoa; and frozen or canned fruits and vegetables.
These are all foods that are both healthy and low cost, so make them your staple ingredients.
Make your own healthy snacks
With individually wrapped items, you pay more for the convenience. With a little planning and work, you can easily make your own snacks for a lot less money.
Try purchasing large tubs of low-fat yogurt or cottage cheese and dividing them into smaller containers. Make trail mix with unsalted nuts, dried fruit and whole grain pretzels or cereal, then store small portions in airtight containers.
Air-popped popcorn and whole fresh fruits are other good low-cost snack options.
Start a garden or visit a farmer’s market
A garden can be fun, satisfying and an affordable way to eat more fruits and vegetables. Buying seeds and plants is typically budget friendly.
If you don’t have a green thumb, visit a farmer’s market to buy local fruits and vegetables. The prices are usually better than those at the grocery store.
If you’re thirsty, choose water
Drinking plain water instead of sweetened beverages not only saves you money, it helps you reduce extra calories from added sugars. Water from the tap is free, healthy and environmentally friendly…so pour yourself a glass the next time you need to quench your thirst!