Eat Healthy on a Budget – Part One

Did you know that the cells in your body perform millions of functions every minute of every day. In order to do this, they require the proper nutrients and oxygen, which they get from your blood. The nutrients in your blood come from the foods you eat and from supplements you take. Of course, you knew that. However, knowing what to do and doing it are very different things. We all recall times where we knew what to do to correct an issue – but we just didn’t do it. There’s a third scenario, and that is: knowing what to do, having the desire to do it, but not the ability. That’s what I want to address as it relates to nutrition.

First of all, no matter how good your diet is, it’s a good bet that you are not getting optimal nutrition from your foods. I’m not just talking about improper eating. You know, not enough fresh fruits and vegetables, too much soda, coffee and processed foods. Even if you eat a reasonably clean diet most of the time (which almost nobody does), the actual soil that our food is grown in has been over-farmed and lacks essential nutrients. In fact, according to a government study, only four percent of Americans are getting their recommended daily allowance (RDA) of essential vitamins. And the government RDA’s are notoriously low.

So what if you want to eat a healthier diet, you want to make sure your children eat healthier, but you don’t have the money to buy all organic produce, grass fed beef and wild caught fish? We, as a country, are experiencing very unstable economic conditions and many people find themselves unemployed or underemployed. So, what can you do to improve your diet when you don’t have a lot of money to spend? I’ve had some subscribers ask that very question and I am sure it affects many of you, so I wanted to address this issue and give you some specific suggestions. This is part one of a three-part series. Here are the first six suggestions:

First of all, just decide that you will make the best choices available to you. You may not be able to afford ALL organic produce – not many of us can. You can, however, try to buy locally grown produce, in season. There are usually farm markets that have very fresh, seasonal produce. If you want asparagus in December, you will pay top dollar! You’ll know what is in season because that is usually what is on sale. You can click the link below and then find your state or region of the country to see what fruits and vegetables are on sale during each season. Also, why not think about growing your own? A vegetable garden is a fantastic way to get the freshest vegetables at the best price.

Some vegetables ALWAYS seem to be a great value – one of the most versatile is cabbage. You can eat it raw (if you have no sluggish thyroid issues) in a slaw, ferment it into a healthy sauerkraut, cook it as a base for a ratatouille type vegetable dish/soup or blanch and stuff the leaves. It is very inexpensive and quite nutritious. Next, don’t discount the lowly potato – white or sweet! While I wouldn’t suggest you eat a lot of potatoes, particularly if you have a weight issue, potatoes have vitamins, minerals and fiber and they can extend a vegetable dish, you can roast them or bake them – just don’t load them up with sour cream or butter – choose salsa, a drizzle of olive, flax or some other healthy oil instead. And red potatoes have less sugar than russet. Of course, never forget about onions, garlic, celery and carrots. They’re usually on sale somewhere every week. They are nutritional powerhouses, very inexpensive and add flavor and texture to any meal they become part of.

Beans (chick peas, cannellini, kidney, pinto, lima, black, navy) and legumes (lentils, peas) are absolutely one of the best values around – nutritionally as well as for your budget! This is one of the few canned foods (besides canned tomatoes) I consider a staple in my pantry. Canned beans and even dried beans that you cook up yourself are loaded with fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They are nutritional powerhouses and there is almost always a brand on sale. You can put them on salads, make a bean salad combining several types, use them for soups, puree them and mix with ground meat to bump up the fiber and nutrition content of burgers or meat loaf or make them into a delicious dip like hummus; I even puree them and use them in baked goods! Keep in mind that if you combine beans or legumes with a whole grain like brown rice or barley, you have created a nutritious, inexpensive, complete protein.

That brings me to whole grains. Oats, brown rice and barley are among the healthiest, and most affordable whole grains. You can use them in so many ways. I already mentioned combining them with beans or legumes for a complete protein. They are wonderful extenders in ground meat meals like meatloaf or burgers (instead of bread crumbs). Oatmeal is a wonderful breakfast or even snack. They make delicious and nutritious cookies, bars, crisps and crumbles. Brown rice and barley are excellent added to soups, combined with vegetables to create nutritious, satisfying vegetarian meals and as a side dish flavored with spices and herbs. And don’t discount buckwheat and grain-like seeds such as quinoa, millet and amaranth. They are a bit more expensive and are available usually at a health or nutrition store, but these versatile, nutritional powerhouses also go on sale periodically, too. Keep your eyes open for sales. Just be sure to prepare them properly. If you need info on exactly how to do that, it’s in the Nutrition-Boosting e-book, along with other strategies to get the most nutrition from all your foods. A quick note about pasta. Whole grain varieties are the best choice. Watch for the sales and stock up then. When you combine these with beans and vegetables you have an inexpensive, low fat, high nutrition, complete protein meal.

Frozen vegetables and fruits are a good choice when they are on sale and fresh produce is not. They retain much of their nutritional value – never buy canned. Also, one of the absolute best values pretty much all year round is frozen spinach. It is so versatile. This can serve as a vegetable or side dish, but you can also add it into soups, combine it with grains and add this to smoothies, omelets and into your burger meat – it extends the meat, which is good in several ways. You use less meat which is healthy and saves money. Spinach also contains a compound that synthesizes protein, so you get more benefit from the protein you combine it with. A win-win in my book.

Eggs are a nearly perfect protein food and all things considered, are very economical and versatile. You can make them any number of ways, of course – scrambled, fried, hard boiled, soft boiled, poached, into omelets or frittatas. You can stir scrambled egg into warm broth to create a type of “egg drop” soup or what Italians call Stracciatella. This was a favorite of my children’s when they were small. When made as an omelet or frittata, eggs can be the basis of a nutritious, satisfying and very inexpensive dinner. If you can find a local source for your eggs, that’s great. When Omega-3 eggs like Egglands are on sale and you have a coupon – stock up. Great Day Naturals Omega-3 eggs are sold in my Walmart and are actually less expensive than regular eggs and have the most Omega-3’s and lutein of any other eggs I’ve seen. As an added bonus, they’re distributed by a wonderful, Christian company.

I hope you find these first six suggestions to be practical and helpful. Be sure to look for Part Two!

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