We are living in a fast food world where almost everything is easily made, processed, boxed and marketed as healthy food. But now many people are aware of the various health options available and are trying to go back to a healthy lifestyle. What is exactly is a healthy lifestyle?
Some people think that dieting or doing exercises is living a healthy lifestyle. Yes, these two can add to being healthy but there are other factors that you may need to have a truly healthy lifestyle. For some people, having a proper diet and exercising regularly is second nature. It’s possible that these people grew up playing sports and have very health-conscious parents. On the other hand, people who diet and do vigorous exercises might not be accustomed to it. These people have to be conscious of what they’re eating all the time to maintain a healthy lifestyle. There are some cheat days, of course, because they know depriving themselves of foods they really like to eat will just lead to frustration and misery. But don’t feel discouraged if dieting and exercise don’t come naturally to you because there are thousands of people feeling the same way.
If you’ve made the decision to change and follow a healthy lifestyle, you have to start gradually. It’s a mistake to go on a crash diet or exercise too much, too fast and too soon. Even professional athletes take months or years of proper training to get their bodies to look and function as they want them to. Results will differ from person to person, so don’t expect to see the same results as your friends or workout buddies. One thing almost everyone will notice is that you’ll have more energy and will feel better within a few days or weeks of starting on your healthy lifestyle journey.
Diet and physical activity are the two leading determinants of your level of health and quality of life. Having a nutritious diet of lean meats, vegetables, whole grain, fruits and healthy fats is necessary for managing weight. Having a balanced diet also helps in maintaining energy levels all throughout the day. Regular physical activity including different strength-building and aerobic exercises helps prevent weight gain. Plus a change in lifestyle habits like quitting smoking and limiting alcohol intake also help. Allowing your body to rest and getting the proper amount of sleep everyday is essential to having a healthy lifestyle.
Having an inactive lifestyle is one of the primary causes for chronic diseases and the good thing is that many of these chronic conditions are manageable and can be prevented by doing physical activities and being conscious of what you eat and the lifestyle choices you make. In a hallmark study that was made for 16 years that was published in March 2001 by “The New England Journal of Medicine”, participants who maintained a body mass index of 25 or less were found to have significantly lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes as compared to people with a higher body mass index. Diets that are high in sugar, saturated fat and processed foods will surely lead to weight gain and will increase risk of diabetes, higher blood pressure and certain cancers.
Eating the right food and taking part in regular exercise can help prevent and fight stress. Learning how to effectively deal with stress also plays an important role in maintaining health. Many health experts have stated that regular physical activity and eating a balanced diet helps lower stress levels, specifically in women. There are studies that certain foods help in lowering stress levels. There are many ways to release anxiety and handle daily pressures. Some people do yoga, participate in sports, read or just being alone and sleeping helps to manage stress. Also spending a few minutes in some thoughtful reflection before going to bed at night can improve a person’s quality of sleep.
Being healthy need not to be expensive. You don’t have to be a member of an expensive gym or own the most expensive running shoes or ride the most expensive mountain bike just to be healthy. You just have to know your health priorities and maximize all the things that you have to begin a healthy lifestyle. Yes, you may spend some money, but you don’t have to spend too much. Know your budget and plan your options, and then formulate a game plan.
If you’re not prepared physically and mentally to do rigorous workouts, you can start with your food. For most people, the food budget takes the largest chunk of the household expenditures. Most people spend half of the money they earn every month on food. There are ways of keeping the food bill at a manageable cost and still eating healthy. You just have to be practical about it. We have to admit that healthy food can be expensive, thus it’s very difficult to eat well when you’re on a tight budget.
You can still eat healthy on a budget if you shop smart and cook everything yourself. Again, you have to make some lifestyle changes to make it work. Eating healthy isn’t rocket science because you should already roughly know what’s good and bad for you. Just take out the junk food and fast food. With planning, you can eat healthy and affordable at the same time.
Understanding Healthy Eating
The idea of healthy eating is somewhat distorted these days since most of the stuff available is either modified or altered in some way. And you know at the back of your mind that there is some doubt that you can get hold of anything pure unless you grow or raise it yourself. Yes, you see all the pretty pictures of many healthy foods online, but that’s how marketers work. They entice customers with pretty pictures to make people buy without really looking or checking if they are truly healthy.
Healthy eating doesn’t mean complicated, rare or expensive produce. Healthy is what your body and mind need. If you think of it, there isn’t much your body can get from processed food. You can survive on junk food, but you will surely lack the proper nutrition that your body actually needs. Eating junk foods continuously will eventually decrease your lifespan and your quality of life. Try to simplify your intake. The more complex your shopping list is, the more likely you’ll spend more.
Eating Healthy On a Budget
Start thinking about a healthy eating plan! Here are some tips to get you started:
1. Make a Meal Plan
When you want to save money when you go food shopping, making a plan is very important. You can use one day of each week to plan your meals for the coming week. You can make a grocery list of the things you need. Also, you have to make sure to check your food cabinet and your fridge for the things you already have that may be hidden at the back of the pantry. Buy what you know you’re going to use so that you will not end up throwing anything away that you will just keep for a long time.
2. Buy Whole Foods
Unprocessed foods are more affordable and more nutritious as compared to processed foods. That’s a fact. Plus, these foods give you total control over your ingredients. If you can avoid or lessen any food that comes from a box, then do it. Some foods are also cheaper in their less processed form. Say for example, a block of cheese is more affordable as compared to shredded cheese. Dried beans by the bag are cheaper than canned or refried beans. The less processed the food is, the cheaper it is and the better it is for you.
3. Stick To Your Grocery List
After you have planned your meals for the week and made your grocery list, you have to stick to it. It can be very easy to get sidetracked which can result to unintended and expensive purchases. Here’s a helpful tip: check the bottom and the top shelf in a grocery store. The most expensive items are usually stacked at eye level.
4. Buy Fresh Produce When In Season
Fresh produce is always good, but the cost can go up fast. Buy something that is currently in season and work around it. You can also consider stocking up on seasonal foods when you get a good deal. Any produce that you can freeze can save you money. Also, buy produce by the bag if you can because they are a lot cheaper than buying by the piece.
5. Buy Frozen Fruits and Vegetables
Fresh fruits, berries and other types of vegetables that are in season may sometimes be expensive because they are only in season for a few months every year. Another option is to go for quick frozen produce because they are just as nutritious. It’s cheaper and available all year round and often sold in large bags. Frozen produce is great for making smoothies, sauces and general cooking. Plus, you’ll be able to take out only what you need and the rest will be kept frozen and avoid spoiling and wastage.
6. Make Home-cooked Meals
Making home-cooked meals is obviously a lot cheaper than dining out. What you spend at a fancy restaurant may be equivalent to a few days of delicious home cooked meals. Or you can feed your entire family for the same price as a 2 person meal at a restaurant. Plus, you can cook and they keep the leftovers and probably make something different from those left overs. And often time left over taste better when re-heated. Think of the price difference between eating out and cooking at home. Do the math!
7. Cook Large Portions
Cooking large portions of food can save you time and money. Leftovers can be re-heated, used for other recipes, used for lunch the next day or can be frozen and then reheated and enjoyed at any time. Many leftovers can be used for stews sandwiches, salads, burritos especially when you’re on a budget.
8. Look for Sales
If your local grocery store offers sales or savings cards, sign up and check their site or catalogue to see what’s on sale.
9. Do Not Shop When You’re Hungry
If you go to the supermarket or farmer’s market hungry, there is a big chance that you’ll ignore your grocery list and buy something on impulse. And whenever you’re hungry, you always crave for foods that are not good for you or your budget. Eat a piece of fruit, a bowl of cereal or yogurt before going food shopping.
10. Buy Generic Brands
Most grocery stores offer generic brands for nearly every product. All food manufacturers have to follow industry standards in providing safety especially for foods. The generic brands offer the same quality as other big name brands, and obviously they are less expensive. However, you must read the ingredients list to make sure that you’re not getting any product of less quality than what you are used to.
11. Cut down on Junk Food
Cutting down on junk food will help you to fulfill your road to a healthy lifestyle plus it will also lessen unnecessary expenditures. You will also be surprised how much you save when you cut out soda, pre-packed meals, beer, cookies, chips and other junk foods every week. Keep in mind these foods offer little or no nutrition. Plus, most junk foods are expensive. By cutting out junk food, you will have more money to spend on healthier and higher quality foods.
12. Buy Cheaper Meat Cuts
The only difference expensive cut or meats to cheaper ones are the flavor, tenderness, fat contents or marbling and especially the price. Most fresh meat can be pricey. If you don’t care too much about the cut, buy a large and inexpensive cut of meat that you can use in several dishes during the week. Expensive and inexpensive cuts offer the same nutrients so you’re not really losing something big here. Plus inexpensive meats take a while to cook so it offers more flavor when used in casseroles, stews and soups.
13. Use Meat Substitutes
Meat provides proteins, fibers and essential fatty acids, but it’s also not good to eat meat every day because it may cause health problems for some people. What you can do is swap out meat two or three days per week and use a substitute that offers the same nutrients. Beans, legumes, eggs, omega-3 rich fish, hemp seeds, and vegetables can be used in place of meat. They are less expensive, easy to prepare and nutritious. Plus, most of these meat substitutes have a longer shelf life and are less likely to spoil.
14. Grow Your Own
If you have the space, it’s a good idea to grow your own produce. Seeds of fruits and vegetables are pretty cheap to buy. With some time and effort, you can grow your own tomatoes, herbs, onions, eggplants, peppers and other crops. If you’re able to make them grow properly, you’ll have a continuous supply which can save you money. Plus homegrown produce will taste better and you will be guaranteed ripe produce every time.
15. Coupons – Take Advantage of Them
Coupons are a great way to save money. Just make sure to use them wisely because most coupons offered are for processed and unhealthy foods. Pick the ones that offer quality deals and stock up on healthy foods, cleaning products and other staples you will definitely use.
16. Buy From Local Farmers
They may not always be cheaper, but you get tastier and better quality food. If you buy a lot they also often give free stuff or give big discounts.
17. Purchase from Cheap Online Retailers
There are a number of online food retailers that offer up to 50% cheaper price than regular supermarkets. If you register to their site, you may be able to get daily discounts and deals and what’s good about it is they deliver the products straight to your address. Just be mindful of the website you’re buying from because there are bogus sites out there. Buy from a recommended website that your friends and family members have already tried.
18. Think Long Term
Buying everything from the farmers market is not the cheapest option but if you haggle enough, you’ll get discounts and freebies. There will always be days that you‘ll crave for some greasy, salty or sweet food, but consider what you’re paying in the long run. A pack of dried fruits or nuts, a bowl of salad, green leafy vegetables, lean meats are cheaper than a hospital trip and a lifetime’s worth of medication.
Delicious Budget Recipes
We all want delicious, healthy and affordable food. Each of these recipes is full of nutrition without sacrificing taste:
1. One Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes
1 ½ kg medium chicken
6 halved lemons
4 rosemary sprigs
2 quartered onions
9 cloves of garlic
1 tbsp of chopped thyme leaves
2 tbsp of olive oil
500g of halved baby potatoes
3 lemon thyme sprigs
Heat oven to 190C. Stuff the chicken cavity with the two lemon halves, 2 rosemary sprigs and 4 onion quarters. Rub chicken with salt and pepper. Place chicken in a large roasting tray. Crush the three garlic cloves and add the thyme leaves and olive oil in a separate bowl. Mix well and then rub this all over the chicken.
Place the baby potatoes around the roast chicken with the rest of the lemon and onions, whole garlic cloves, rosemary and lemon thyme. Place in the oven and cook for 1 hour and 20 minutes while turning the potatoes in the pan twice. To check if the chicken is cooked. Pierce the thigh with a stick or skewer. The juices should be clear.
After cooking, remove the chicken from the tray and place on a serving dish. Let it rest for 15 minutes. Leave the juices on the tray and increase oven temperature to 200C and cook the potatoes for another 10 minutes or until tender.
For the gravy, remove the potatoes from the tray and mash the lemons, herbs, garlic together and add a splash of water or red wine to deglaze. You can add a bit of flour to thicken and serve in a separate bowl.
2. Chili Pasta Skillet
1lb lean ground beef
¾ cup of chopped onion
1 15oz can of red kidney beans, black beans or red beans. Rinsed and drained.
1 14 1/2 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1 8oz can of tomato sauce
½ cup of dried macaroni
2 tsp of chili powder
1 4oz can diced green chile peppers
½ tsp garlic salt
½ cup of shredded Monterey Jack
In a large skillet, cook onion and meat until they are brown and onion is tender. Drain excess fat.
Stir in the beans, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, macaroni, chile peppers, chili powder and garlic salt. Bring it to a boil, then reduce heat. Let it simmer uncovered for 20 minutes or until the macaroni is tender, stirring often to prevent from sticking. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cheese. Cover and let it stand for 2-3 minutes or until the cheese is melted.
3. Chicken and Sweet Corn Fried Rice
600g of cooked, cold rice
1 tbsp of sunflower oil
3 beaten eggs
320g pack of stir fry veggies
1 tbsp of curry powder
140g sweet corn
1 shredded roasted chicken breast fillet
2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
2 tbsp ketchup
Heat pan or wok until smoking, then add oil until smoking. Pour egg and swirl pan until it is coated in a thin layer of egg until its set. Tip the egg into a chopping board, roll up and then slice thinly. Set it aside.
Heat a little more oil, then add the stir fry vegetables, sweet corn, curry powder and a splash of water. Cook for 2 minutes or until the veggies start to wilt. Pour in a bowl and set aside. Add the remaining oil into the pan. Mash the rice with your hands until they are separated, then pour into the pan together with the chicken. Mix well then add soy sauce, ketchup, sweet chili sauce a splash of water and black pepper. Stir rice with medium high heat.
Lastly add the eggs and the veggies, mix together until everything is blended and heated well. Serve hot.
4. Crispy Fish and Peppers
1 lb of fresh or thawed fish fillet
¾ cup of buttermilk
1 cup of all-purpose flour
1 tsp of Cajun seasoning
1 cup of sliced miniature sweet peppers
1 cut up lemon
Rinse the fish and pat dry. In a separate shallow dish or bowl, whisk the buttermilk, Cajun seasoning and egg. Place the flour in a separate dish. Dip the fish in the buttermilk and then flour. Repeat to coat the filler twice.
Heat a heavy skillet with 3 tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Once the oil is hot, carefully place down the fillet in the pan. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side or until golden brown. You can add more oil if needed. Drain fillets on a paper tower after cooking.
Drain oil from skillet and wipe it clean with a paper towel. Add pepper to the skillet and cook for 2 minutes or until crispy. Serve the fillets with peppers and lemon.
400g of spaghetti
500g of ground beef
2 tspn of olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 chopped courgettes
1 crushed clove of garlic
85g button mushrooms
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp of Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp of gravy granules
Heat oil in a large pan. Add the onion and cook until translucent. Add the carrots, courgettes and mushrooms and cook for another 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic in at the last minute. Pour the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and 300 ml of boiling water. Season to taste. Bring the mixture into a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes until veggies are tender.
In a separate pan, cook the ground beef for 10 minutes until brown. Add the basil leaves to the vegetable sauce. Use a hand-held blender to blend the sauce until smooth. Pour the sauce and gravy granules into the cooked ground meat and stir. Cover and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
Boil the pasta and reserve a small cup of the pasta water. Drain the pasta. Mix the spaghetti and the sauce together. Use the reserved water if the dish gets dry. Top with a few more basil leaves before serving.
Eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive. You just have to know your options. Bon appétit!