Choosing healthy food options doesn’t always have to break your piggy bank!
Especially when funds are low or you don’t seem to have enough time in your day, nutrition is the first thing to go out the window for many people. You are what you eat and you are what you think. It is possible, especially if you choose more vegetarian dietary options, for you to increase the optimal nutrition in your life, lower your stress, stretch your dollar, and improve your health and outlook on life.
Take 5 Minutes to Assess What You Can and Can Do at the Present Moment
Yes, making changes and assessing your spending and eating habits can be difficult, unwanted, or you may feel stressed out and already feel pushed to the brink already. However, by taking as little as 5 to 15 minutes out of your day to review how you feel, what your budget is, and exploring your options, you can feel a sense of regained control. Believe it or not, if we give in all the time to indulge in stress eating, binging on cheap chips, soda pop, candy, sugar filled snacks, and caffeine… we end up feeding our addictions, emotional voids, and not treating the root causes of our problems.
These little guys are great now and then, and yes, they are colorful, but they ain’t veggies!
Make Your Plate Colorful
Eating more colorful foods that are high in water content, high in fiber, and have quality protein sources can really make a difference in how we function throughout the day. Don’t believe the hype that eating healthy has to be super expensive, super specialized prepackaged products, and out of your reach. Change your shopping and eating habits by just 20% at the least, and you will see some positive outcomes. Yes, buying organic may seem out of reach for many, especially if you live in a food desert, or your stores are not accommodating your needs.
Have you considered shopping at farmers markets or buying in to a co-op farm for farm-to-table delivery? Have you considered talking to your local grocery store manager, to voice your concerns or desires for different food options? Have you considered shopping for specific items at smaller local chains vs. shopping at big box stores?
Personally, I have found some great items shopping alongside people willing to share their membership to venues like Sams Club, CostCo, and other big bulk suppliers to the public. One brand that I have found accessible and on sale fairly often, is EarthBound Farms. Their packs of pre-washed salad mixes, carrots, and other items have been relatively the same price as conventional selections on the market.
Use Coupons, Memberships, Co-op Farms & Food Sharing
Another big help for selecting better quality food is timing and the use of coupons and sales. Typically as the seasons are changing, newer product is coming in, and on the weekend, a lot of items are on sale. Take advantage of savings around you and pay attention to your local sales circular, or signs in-store. Make sure to make use of those rain checks with coupons, if an item is not in stock. If you don’t know, ask your local store manager, and keep your eyes peeled on the dates things are on sale.
Pay attention to the labels on your items! Everything that is organic may not be labeled so. If anything, check for the NON-GMO Project Verified label on canned, bagged, and boxed items. You may find yourself landing a food windfall for your kitchen pantry. Beans, tomato paste, some soups, yogurt, and labels have been marked with this label, if you just look for it. Also try to find items that are in BPA-free liners too.
It may not be economically feasible for you to eat 100% organic and fair-trade, but choosing to eat as organic as possible in your diet, and shopping fair-trade does make a difference in the market. Companies pay attention to the actions of consumers, and eventually price will come down on certain items, and more options will be available for purchase. Support local establishments, as many of them are the forefront of changing the face of food availability that holds itself accountable, and seeks to serve people over profit.
When it comes to buying organic foods, try to purchase corn, tomatoes, peanuts, and other items organic. There are some good lists on foods that you definitely want to buy organic, whenever possible. If you ever go out to eat, it may be hard to avoid conventional foods, but the more positive changes you can make for yourself and your diet, with the choices of food you purchase to put into your body, the better.
Consider sharing meals with others, not only to give back, but to split costs. Make sure you try to limit the amount of foods treated with insecticides and chemicals as possible. Just because an item is listed organic does not mean it has not been treated with pesticides. Natural does not mean the same as organic and is just a food industry term and selling point to consumers. Research the owners of the companies you purchase. All labels and company names do not have transparency about how they have changed ownership, management, or their practices for food production and distribution.
When it comes to overall supplying yourself with a better diet, opting for fiber heavy whole grains, lean protein, and lots of colorful veggies will help you feel oh so much better! If you are not into eating salad, consider having some kale, spinach with chickpeas or pasta, broccoli, cauliflower, carrot, cabbage, asparagus, or brussel sprouts. There are a plethora of various plant foods that we can eat. Consider eating a vegetable that you do not commonly eat, and expand the range of your palate. Choose red cabbage and red onions, over green cabbage and yellow onions. The colors of your plant foods offer unique and highly beneficial vitamins and nutrients that other types may not. Consider eating non-conventional greens like dandelion leaves and stems, which can be sauteed with olive oil, or eaten in a salad or with pasta.
Add herbs and spices with healthful benefits to play up the flavor of your food, and offer your their unique properties to balance health conditions. I love keeping spices like paprika, curry, basil, thyme, oregano, and cinnamon, just to name a few. Keeping things as simple as (sea) salt and black pepper can make your food go from blah to bland. Choose neutral oils like olive oil or soybean oil to cook your foods. Sometimes just giving your food a little time to saute, add a bit of char on a grill or in an oven, or steaming can help release flavors and healthful benefits within your meal.
Choose simple meal ideas like stuffed bell peppers, carrot soup, curry potato and pea soup, steamed broccoli and carrots, or tomato soup with a side of rice and beans, lean animal protein like chicken, turkey, or fish, or with a savory corn or herb muffin. Do not feel limited. We live in an age where we have things like YouTube and the internet to guide you with different cooking methods, meal ideas, and how to guides for making a dish. Just think about how you eat and why you eat a little differently. Ask yourself questions about what you put on your plate, the possibilities with a specific food item, and build something new and exciting around one or two select food items. Check out a meal that includes eggplant, a squash, bean sprouts, bok choy, kale, mushrooms, asparagus, or beans…
Remember, you are what you eat and you are what you think. Be creative. Live adventurously, and do not beat yourself up to uphold a rigid standard of being 100% true to a concept or idea about your diet, your money, and your lifestyle options. You can find some flexibility and options if you look for them. Your health is your wealth, and by choosing to make some steps to improve your life, learn how to cook inexpensive nutrition packed meals, and exploring the diversity and richness of the food around you… Not only will you benefit yourself, but you may help someone else out in the process too!
To your health!