Although the month is a third over, I thought it might not be too late to let you know that March is National Nutrition Month. However, when I often bring up eating healthy, I’m told that it costs too much. Now I have proven that to be untrue before, but for those still not convinced, here’s some food for thought (Sorry I couldn’t resist.)
Eating well can fit well within anyone’s budget, but just like anything, it takes a little advance planning. According to Keri M. Gans, author of “The Small Change Diet,” “Just because you choose to eat healthy, doesn’t mean you need to break the bank.” Here are some tips to keep in mind not only when you’re shopping but before you begin and at meal time.
— Before you even go shopping, start with a game plan. To save green, get a green thumb. Try planting some of your own vegetables, fruits or herbs. Ask a garden center expert for tips on what grows best in your region. Choose at least three seed packets, seedlings, or plants. Alison and I did this for the first time this last summer. We didn’t do as well as we hoped but we enjoyed free delicious tomatoes and basil all summer long.
— Look for a good deal and try to buy in bulk. You would be amazed with what you can freeze. Just be sure to buy foods that you eat. Saving $5 on a bulk item of something healthy that you won’t eat is not saving money.
— When you’re shopping, use these tricks to stay on track. Shopping on an empty stomach can lead to “grocery goggles” — where everything looks good and you ultimately buy excess unhealthful items, or just too much. Gans said, “Enjoy a grab-and-go snack, like an apple and string cheese, about 20 to 30 minutes before your shopping trip, to help signal your brain that you’re stomach is satisfied, and to forgo buyer’s remorse.”
— Stick to the outer perimeter. Most foods for a health and cost-conscious eating plan are found by shopping the supermarket’s boundary. Then, with your shopping list in tow, visit just the aisles you need to balance fresh selections.
— Draft a produce dream team. Choose a variety of in-season whole fresh fruits and vegetables. They’ll be most abundant, most nutritious, and least expensive. “Alternatively, pick by sports seasons. Enjoy citrus fruits and sweet potatoes during football season; buy berries and tomatoes during baseball season,” Gans said.
So now that you have properly shopped for your healthy diet, let’s put it into action.
— Remember the goal here is to eat right and save money, so start “brown-bagging” it to work. Not only will you save money from eating out, but you will always be in control of what you put in your body.
— Create a little healthy “competition” at your job. Challenge co-workers to a budget battle and see who can spend less on the healthiest foods. Or perhaps who can bring in the best looking, or tasting, inexpensive lunch.
— Don’t get caught with an appetite and without a healthful snack on hand when stuck in traffic, in a meeting, or unexpectedly away from home. Carry ready-to- eat snacks like meal replacement or energy bars or a small baggy containing a snack like roasted edamame, almonds, carrots or granola.
— And when it’s time to eat out, there are still plenty of healthy inexpensive choices. Most fast food places now have healthier options, and if you’re at a sit-down restaurant, ask the server about options and tell them how you want your food prepared.
One argument that unfortunately a lot of people don’t accept when it comes to how much a healthy diet costs compared with an unhealthy diet is this: A person may believe that unhealthy food is cheaper, and that’s their excuse to buy the $5 big box lunch from Hardees, which by the way is 2,000 calories and 91 grams of fat. But think about it this way, you may think you’re saving money now, but what about all of those looming medical and hospital bills you’ll pay after eating a diet like that for several years.
Mike DeCinti can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 910-827-2439.