Many people strive to eat a healthy diet but struggle with the cost of some healthy “rules” such as eating all organic foods or going gluten-free. It can be difficult to justify spending double your grocery budget on so-called healthy items. It’s even more frustrating when it seems like there are so many different opinions on what is healthy. However, there are ways to eat healthier while still sticking to a reasonable budget. Here are six healthy choices that won’t break the bank.
1. Eat More Vegetables
You don’t have to give up all your normal meals in favor of salads and green smoothies. Even just adding a vegetable side dish to dinner every night helps you get more nutrients. It doesn’t have to be fancy: steaming and roasting are two easy ways to cook vegetables. Plus, eating more vegetables leaves less room for not-so-healthy foods. Fresh veggies can be expensive, especially if you look at the organic options. However, you can keep the cost down by choosing only fresh vegetables that are in season, and going with frozen options for the out-of-season veggies.
2. Choose Fruit for Dessert
While it’s fun to enjoy a piece of cake every now and then, it’s much healthier to choose fresh fruit for dessert the majority of the time. Shopping seasonally can help keep your budget in check, especially when it comes to fresh fruit. You can also use the “Clean 15” list to determine which fruits you should buy organic, and which ones to save money on by choosing conventional. If you need a little extra sweetness, add a small amount of chocolate or whipped cream with your fruit.
3. Don’t Be Afraid of Seasoning
If part of your healthy eating plan involves cutting down on fat, you may feel that your food tastes bland. A cheap way to remedy that is to use lots of seasoning. Most dried herbs and spices are inexpensive, so you can experiment with different choices to add pizzazz to your healthy meals. In most cases, you should use seasoning liberally to get the right flavor. You can even use a fair amount of salt as most scientists now agree it doesn’t pose a great health risk. With the right seasoning, you won’t even miss the old calorie-laden recipes.
4. Add Vegetarian Recipes
Meat is one of the most expensive grocery items, especially if you choose organically-raised poultry or grass-fed beef. Keep your budget under control and your calories in check by making a vegetarian meal a couple nights per week. You’ll automatically get the nutrition of eating more vegetables, and you may find you prefer the vegetarian version of some dishes, such as eggplant parmesan. There are numerous ways to find vegetarian dishes, and you can use the “Meatless Monday” tag on social media to find countless new recipes.
5. Switch to Healthy Brands
When you are thinking about choosing a “healthy” brand over a traditional brand for pre-made foods, you may be worried you’ll spend a lot more. Some healthy brands are expensive, but HamptonCreek isn’t one of them. Their products are comparable in price to traditional brands and their mayo, salad dressings and cookie dough are vegan and made with real, healthy ingredients. You can feel confident you are choosing a healthy alternative without worrying about going over your budget.
6. Allow an Occasional Splurge
With both your diet and your budget, maintaining ruthless control usually backfires. Instead of eliminating all unhealthy food from your diet, allow yourself to splurge every once in awhile on a treat. The same is true for your budget. If you are constantly focused on finding the cheapest options or refusing to allow any superfluous purchases, you’ll most likely give up sooner or later. Leave some money in your monthly budget for a night of takeout food or a trip to the ice cream parlor. Planning ahead reduces the risk of going overboard on unhealthy food and your budget.
If you want to eat healthier while still sticking to a reasonable food budget, you can succeed by making a few key choices. Eating more veggies and fruit, and choosing healthy pre-made options can help keep your calorie intake in check. Additionally, you can shop seasonal and frozen produce to save money, as well as foregoing meat in at least one meal a week. By leaving room in your meal planning and budget for an occasional splurge you reduce the risk of going overboard or giving up altogether.