Eating food, you have cooked or prepared at home is healthier for you. It is also considerably cheaper. The key to this is planning. You’ve probably heard the saying ‘failing to plan is planning to fail’. Without a weekly food plan, it will be pure luck if you end up with the right foods in the fridge or cupboard. And, without planning your time, you won’t always make the time to enjoy breakfast or make that lunch. Here are a few tips to help ensure you are eating nutrient dense meals without overspending.
1. INCLUDE PROTEIN AT EVERY MEAL AND SNACK
Protein keeps energy levels stable and is essential for the body’s growth and repair, and healthy skin and nails. Protein is found in meat and poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, lentils, beans, pulses (like chickpeas), quinoa, nuts and seeds. Protein should make up a quarter of your meal (about the size of a clenched fist). Many people do not have protein-based breakfasts. How can you change yours?
MONEY-SAVING TIP: the cheapest sources of protein are vegetarian sources, like beans and lentils. Consider going meat-free one or two days a week. Eggs are a good stable protein source to have in your fridge, on condition you do not have an intolerance to them.
2. EAT PLENTY OF FIBRE
That means lots of vegetables – likely more than you are currently eating. The recommendation is 5 portions of vegetables and 2 portions of fruit (ideally low sugar fruit like berries, grapefruit, watermelon, plums etc) a day. Fibre keeps energy levels constant, balances your hormones, fills you up, keeps you regular and those fruit and veg contain many immune-boosting plant chemicals. Aim to eat a rainbow of colours over the course of the week.
MONEY-SAVING TIP: Fruit & Vegetable stores are often the cheapest places to buy your veg. Don’t rule out frozen veg either. It’s cheap, often frozen soon after picking so it’s very fresh, and offers the ultimate convenience. And you are likely to waste less.
3. CHOOSE HEALTHY FATS
Eating good fats don’t make you gain weight or put on fat, but some fats are healthier than others. The body loves omega 3 fats, which boost mood and support the stress response, and reduce inflammation. They are found in oily fish (salmon, trout, halibut, cod, fresh tuna, mackerel, sardines), flaxseeds, chia seeds, hemp seeds and walnuts. Other healthy sources of fat are avocados, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.
MONEY-SAVING TIP: Frozen fish is a far cheaper option than refrigerated. Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s inferior. Tinned tuna and salmon work well in salads and for lunches. Chia seeds are available in bulk and are rich in omega 3’s, they can be used in smoothies, to make puddings and are a lovely addition to homemade muesli.
4. THINK CAREFULLY ABOUT STARCHY ‘CARBS’
Many diets rely heavily on white, pasta, bread, rice and potatoes, but these (especially when eaten without protein) can unbalance your blood sugar levels and cause you to store fat. Swap to healthier wholegrain alternatives; brown rice, wholemeal pasta and bread, and sweet potatoes, and ensure this element takes up no more than a quarter of your meal.
MONEY-SAVING TIP: Many people bulk up meals with starch, especially on a budget. Your body will love you for bulking meals up with veg instead. Eating large portions of starchy foods will have you craving more food than if you had more modest portions.
5. CUT OUT SUGAR
Most people have an understanding that sugar is not good for them. Eating sugary food is like a treadmill, with one biscuit creating the need for the next. Sugar creates a blood sugar or energy imbalance, fuels inflammation in the body, and makes you put on weight.
MONEY-SAVING TIP: Consider that the more sugar you eat, the more you need to eat. Sugary ‘treats’ soon become a three times a day habit. Depending what you’re snacking on, cutting it out (or cutting down) could save several you several Rands each day.