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Traps and Tips for Good Nutrition on a Budget

Posted Dec 07 2012 8:00am

We all want to do more with less, especially when it comes to food, and yet eat healthy too. There’s a common misperception that ‘eating healthy’ means ‘eating expensive’ but that’s just not true (although you can spend lots of money on food unnecessarily if you want to). Here are some of the traps and some of the tips for eating well without blowing your budget.

First, keep in mind that the more energy other people put into preparing food before it gets to your mouth, the more you will pay for it at the supermarket checkout. Take pasta sauce for example. If you have grown the tomatoes, picked them yourself and created the sauce on your own stove, the cost will be far less than if someone else grew the tomatoes, transported them to their factory, made them into a sauce, packaged it, and transported the jar to the supermarket. Lots of people have been involved, and were paid at each step, which means you will pay more as the consumer. The more work you put into preparing your own food, the less it will cost you.

The second trap for the budget-unwary is failing to plan. This can lead to last-minute take-away, again, because there’s nothing in the kitchen. Planning what you’re going to eat for the week only takes about 30 minutes. You don’t have to create a meal plan to rival a gourmet restaurant’s, just a different style for each night of the week: For example, rissoles one night, pasta the next, stir fry another night. Then, armed with your meal plan, go shopping.

Marketing is also a seductive budget trap. Scientific research has discovered that some foods are particularly high in antioxidants. Savvy manufacturers pounce on these findings and create products rich in these antioxidants, then market them to appeal to health conscious people. But in most cases you can obtain these health boosters just as easily (and more cheaply) from fresh vegetables and fruits. Spices and fresh herbs are incredibly rich in antioxidants.

The relative cheapness of grain based and sugary foods compared to protein rich foods is a significant budget trap, because although you seem to be getting a lot for your money, they’re mostly empty calories. It feels satisfying to fill your trolley. So much food! But so little nutrition! Protein rich foods, on the other hand, will deliver concentrated nutrition in smaller packages. You could easily feel that your trolley is empty; but it will actually be full of nutrition.

Now you know how to keep your food bill down while boosting your health: Buy less processed foods and prepare them yourself, plan your meals, and include fresh vegetables, fruit, eggs and fish in your diet more often.

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