Eat Like A King On A Budget: A Healthy Diet Doesn't Have To Be Expensive

Monday, October 23, 2006 - 2:45pm

By Katie Clark, MPH, RD

There are a few valid excuses for letting your diet slip, but cost should never be one of them . Managing a healthy diet is financially doable, even on the tightest budgets.

Buy protein wisely

Most Americans need approximately 50-65 grams of protein per day. But most of us consume much more than that. Cut back on your protein costs with the following tips:

1.   Practice portion control when buying meat

Be conscious of the amount of meat you’re purchasing. A three-ounce serving of lean meat has 165 calories and 21 grams of protein. Keeping your portions small will yield a few extra servings per package.

2.   Consider canned meat to control your protein intake

We’re not talking Spam here. Tuna packed in water and canned chicken breast are great accompaniments to salads and entrees.

3.   Go meat free - meat-free proteins can be inexpensive

Eating less meat has a number of health benefits. And meat-free protein foods tend to cheap. Stock up on dried and canned beans and lentils, low-fat peanut butter and lots of egg whites. You’ll save money and calories too.

4.   Explore alternative sources for purchasing your produce

Depending where you are geographically, your access to fresh fruits and vegetables may fluctuate throughout the year . The increasing distance from farm to table in the United States does have one benefit: more readily available fruits and vegetables for most Americans. Try these suggestions to assure you get your 5-a-day:

  • Scope out new markets. While conventional grocery stores, Whole Foods and places like Trader Joe’s may offer good deals on healthy, pre-packaged foods, their produce selection is not always the cheapest. If you live in a city, explore ethnic markets and corner stores, many of which feature an impressive, affordable selection of fruits and vegetables.

  • Check the freezer aisle. Fresh and frozen vegetables are preferable to canned ones. Look for vegetables in the frozen foods section to add to stir-fries and soup.
  • Grow your own. Seeds are cheap and gardening is a great form of physical activity, not to mention a rewarding hobby.

Practice smart shopping strategies

1.   Buy milk in bulk

Many grocery stores now offer ‘Buy 1 get 1 free’ specials on gallons of milk. If you and your family use a lot of milk, this can be a great way to cut costs. Stick to Skim or 1% milk and you have a great, cheap source of protein and calcium.

2.   Become a member of a shopping club to keep costs down

Warehouse or club stores like Costco and Sam’s often bring about images that typify the gluttonous American. But there are healthful bargains to be had. Seasonal produce is often cheaper at these stores. And buying foods such as boneless, skinless chicken breast and reduced fat cheese in bulk here is often much cheaper than in grocery stores.

3.   Stock up on non-tempting foods for a healthy convenient diet

A lot of excess food on hand can be tempting and ruinous to a good diet. But if you stock up on high-fiber, low-fat canned, dried and frozen goods and seasonal fruits and vegetables, you’ll set yourself up for a healthful, cheap meal plan.

Eating well is manageable on every budget . You don’t need a personal chef or have to be a gourmet cook. By planning ahead, shopping for sales and varying the stores you frequent, you can amass a good deal of nutritious foods that won’t devour your food budget.

For further information on this subject see the following article from TheDietChannel: Meal Planning: Healthy Eating on a Budget.