Eating Healthy on a Budget-YES YOU CAN!
How far can you stretch a dollar for groceries?
What tips or tricks do you have?
When the budget is tight what fresh foods do you purchase and how do you stock your pantry?
It goes without saying that for some folks, money is just plain tight. And in those instances these folks aren’t shopping at leisure at Whole Foods who some affectionately refer to as Whole Paycheck. No, they are working 2 and 3 jobs to make ends barely meet and in between running to the store to get bare necessities or visiting local food banks.
BUT I love Whole Foods! I love how beautiful the produce looks and all the great products they have and I love how I feel after I shop there with all my organic locally sourced and lovingly raised fruits vegetables, meats and sustainably fished fish-I LOVE IT! But things have been little tight as of late with just finishing school, working through an internship, building a business and looking for a job. SO what’s a Princess to do when her bank account is painfully low? Institute a budget? Implement a code red state of emergency? Call on the Bank of Mom and Dad? Hmmm. I say, GET CREATIVE! There is a lot you can do with a can of beans or bag of lentils and lots of great places to shop.
-It goes without saying but PLAN PLAN PLAN:Plan your menu for the week
-Reuse ingredients to limit waste and maximize nutrients and dollars
-Consider dried, canned or frozen foods
-Be strategic in the fresh foods you purchase
-Cook once eat twice or more
-Cook for the freezer
-Prep for the freezer
Build a SMART Pantry:
Canned Beans: Look for Beans packed in water with NO or low sodium. Some canned goods use seaweed or Kombu to season in lieu of salt. This is a plus. The water and Kombu will break down the phytic acid in the beans causing them to be more easily digested when consumed. Canned beans are quick, easy and inexpensive. In some instances all you have to do is drain, rinse and add to a dish. They are low in saturated fat, high in fiber!! Great options: Chickpeas, Black Beans, Cannelini Beans, Kidney Beans, Black Eyed Peas, Lentils
Other Canned Foods: Tomatoes (stewed, whole, crushed), olives, artichoke hearts, Lentils, Tuna (in water) *A note on canned tomatoes, avoid tomato sauce, often times there are hidden sugars and you can easily make your own out of stewed or crushed). Canned tomatoes are usually canned at their most ripe and flavorful point so less spices and salt needed. So Delish, rich in antioxidants!!! BINGO!
Dried Beans or Lentils: Like canned Beans dried lentils and beans will last A LONG time in the cabinet and great in a pinch when times are tighter than usual. Be sure to soak your beans or lentils in water for 5 hours-overnight, before cooking. You will want to drain and rinse the beans or lentils and add them to fresh water for cooking. This way you will slightly sprout the bean or lentil releasing healthy live enzymes while at the same time breaking down the phytic acid produced by the beans enabling them to be more easily digested.
Herbs and spices: Garlic/Dried Garlic Powder, Oregano, Sea Salt/Mineral Salt, Pepper, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Cloves, Turmeric (great for memory and brain health by the way), Cumin, Cayenne, fresh or dried Ginger ( great for upset stomach-try sliced fresh steeped in hot water). Consider growing Fresh Rosemary and/or Basil and thyme in a small jar or pot in your window or yard. These herbs grow easily and fast- as a side note if your tight on cash at the holiday’s who wouldn’t love to receive a rosemary bush- just plant a clipping in a mason jar, wrap a ribbon around it and waalaaa! Avoid spice blends and make your own.
Frozen: Frozen fruits and vegetables are terrific and will last a few months if closed tightly. Consider fruit like blueberries, pineapple, strawberries and Vegetables think Spinach, Peas, Carrots or whatever is your favorite and on sale. Frozen fruits are prefect baked into desserts, or breads or baked goods. Frozen vegetables are well suited to be cooked into soups, casseroles, and stews
Dry goods: Oatmeal!!!!!, Brown Rice, Quinoa, There are a bazillion things one can do with Oatmeal. It’s gluten free too. You can use it as a breakfast cereal, you can grind it to make flour and mix into cookies for a healthier version, you can make granola, you can bake into bars or you can use it as a topping for a fruit crumble-just to name a few. And oh by the way you can do the same with rice and quinoa.
Fresh Must Haves:
Onions (Rockin cancer fighter!)
Garlic (basically a nutritional powerhouse!)
Eggs (A perfect protein and only 70 Kcal per egg-eat the yolk)
Any form of Dark leafy green if you can.
So you planned out your menu, shopped accordingly and are good to go What next?
If chicken is on the menu, buy a whole chicken, cut up the pieces or have the butcher do it, when you get home, repackage according to what you will eat together. After cooking, remove the meat from the bones and keep the bones. Store in an airtight container in the freezer not much longer than a few days then use chicken carcass, onion, garlic, celery and carrots if you have them and make a chicken broth. The broth can be frozen for months in air tight containers and pulled out when needed. This will save $2-3 per container of broth at the store. And beside, bone broth is the “in” thing right now, if you make your own your trend setter!
Try to repurpose your left overs into new meals. Left over Salmon from Sunday could be made into Salmon burgers for Tuesday. Make one large pot of Chickpeas, make three different kinds of hummus and keep in the freezer until your ready to eat.
Its no secret that if you eat less you will lose weight right? WRONG!!!
Here is the 411 short and sweet -If you eat too little your body will hold on to the adipose tissue, you will not lose the weight you are hoping for and will instead burn muscle for energy. YES it goes a lot deeper and gets more complicated i.e. Ketogenic diets, Paleo, South Beach-But do you really care or do you JUST want to know what to eat and how much? One major truth is undeniable-the quality of your calories matters! For weight loss think healthy fats, lean protein and complex carbohydrates. You need fat to burn fat. DRINK LOTS OF WATER and limit sugar.
Have a healthy meal 3x a day, drink water, workout (the higher the intensity the more water you will need and consider following your tough workouts with a protein shake or meal), avoid snacking (snacking throughout the day will spike your insulin levels and force your body to burn sugar for energy and not fat). Protein will help the body repair the muscle after a workout in a leaner more efficient way. Weight lifting or strength training is important because it helps build and maintain bone density which is especially important as we age. Go easy on the weight if your just looking for general health and weight loss but enough that you feel like you worked out when you wake up the next day. Think 2-3 sets of each exercise with 15-20 repetitions plus 30-45 min of cardio (daily cardio is even better). This type of program will build bone density, lean you out and provide some muscle definition. No you won’t end up looking like a body builder-promise- you will however start to feel better.
When you start your fitness routine, remember, muscle is heavier than fat so you may not see a change in the number on the scale but you will notice how you feel and how your clothes fit. Remember, choose those types of exercise that you enjoy and are passionate about-Walk, Swim, Yoga, Bike, Strength Train, Dance, Pilates, take the stairs. Bring a friend, its much more fun!
How do you know how much to eat-well its far more simple than you would think. While I am not one for counting calories, total caloric intake is important especially when portion control is not a concept you are familiar with, you have a particular goal in mind or you regularly consume the typical standard American diet. We all have a basic amount of calories that we need to consume just to sustain life-its called your Basal Metabolic Rate (BMR) this is the amount of calories that your body burns at rest-like when you wake up in the morning and are lying in bed, you need this much.
Here is how you calculate it using the Harris Benedict equation:
BMR (Basil Metabolic Rate): The # of calories your body burns at rest.
Women BMR = (4.35 x_______ wt (lbs)) + (4.7 x _______Ht (in)) – (4.7 x _____Age (yrs)) + 655
Men BMR= (6.23 x______wt (lbs))+ (12.7 x_______Ht (in)) – (6.76 x ______Age (yrs)) + 66
Activity Factor: __________ (see below for multiplier)
Little to no exercise: 1.375
Light Exercise 1-3 days per week: 1.55
Moderate Exercise 3-5 days per week: 1.725
Heavy Exercise 6-7 days per week: 1.9
Total Calories needed to maintain weight: (Total BMR x Activity Factor) = ____________
Subtract 300-500 from that number above to come up with total calories to consume each day for weight loss of 1.5-2 lbs per week. This would not apply if you are pregnant or have special nutritional needs due to a particular illness or medical condition in which case please consult your doctor or medical professional.
Protein needs are determined by multiplying your weight in Kg by a multiplier (this is total grams of protein not weight of protein)
Adults 19+: .85g/Kg
Pregnant and lactating: 1.1g/Kg
Endurance or Strength Training Athlete: 1.2-1.8 g/Kg
Moderate to Severe Stress: 2.0-2.2 g/Kg
Once you determine the amount of protein you need think 1 Tbsp of healthy fat per meal such as olive oil, flax seed oil, coconut oil, avocado oil. (Stay tuned for more intel on Fat in another post because we need fat to burn fat not to mention convert much needed vitamins.) Everything else should be vegetables and more importantly not the starchy ones (think roughly 50-60% or 2 cups). Make sense? Initially the number might surprise you but remember that is per day not per meal. The number will change as you change. Definitely, absolutely don’t forget to give yourself a treat meal once a week. (NOT a treat day-JUST a meal) That’s right if you want chocolate cake for breakfast with a side of ice cream, so be it. You will feel awful later but ENJOY!. If you know you can eat what you want when you want you will be less inclined to feel as if your diet is restrictive and want to binge on food that doesn’t serve you. Eat with your goals in mind. Trust your body, its smarter than you think
Nutrition as a field of study is evolving at record speed. Friends and strangers alike tell me all the time that I am on the cutting edge of a new industry and it’s so exciting. It is, it really is, I love the study of nutrition and am passionate about sharing with others how minor “tweaks” in diet can profoundly improve one’s health. But with so much information available to us on the internet, on TV and in magazines and so much of it unsubstantiated and over inflated by the latest craze some important facts are lost or just plain left out of the equation. For example, today’s topic of discussion The Egg.
As a personal trainer many of my colleagues are insistent that they and their clients need only to consume several egg whites for breakfast in order to get the necessary protein to build muscle and drop fat. TRUTH folks, don’t fear the yolk!!! Its true, there is lots of protein in the white but do yourself a favor, do your client’s a favor- Eat the YOLK!
The Egg in it’s entirety is a perfect protein containing ALL amino acids required by the body. One egg is 6g of protein and is ONLY 70Kcal! I gather folks fear the yolk due to it being rich in cholesterol. Here is the thing though, we NEED, ABSOLUTELY MUST HAVE cholesterol to survive-our bodies in their infinitely perfect design manufactures it. There is a wonderful book written by Dr. David Perlmutter called Grain Brain (2013) in which he provides recent and compelling research supporting the value of cholesterol to support brain health which is becoming increasingly important with Alzheimers overwhelmingly on the rise. The Yolk is rich in Choline which is terrific for brain health and the egg in total is an excellent source of Selenium, Zinc, Vitamin D, B6 and B12 not to mention rich in Antioxidants and very good for eye health.
DON’T fear the egg, maybe consider a 2 egg breakfast with 2 cups of dark leafy greens and fried onions-leave out the bacon, sausage or toast. This will get you loads of calcium minus the dairy, lots of fiber not to mention Vitamin C and K and all those great cancer fighters. Current research shows that cholesterol in food does not raise blood serum cholesterol levels (SUGAR DOES! shhhh) contrary to what your doc might say. Oh and for the record, brown eggs and white eggs are both the same, the chickens are a different color. Opt for organic pasture raised over conventional when possible-the Yolks will be a richer more beautiful golden yellow.
PS: To my trainer friends who I love and admire, the nutrients in eggs are more bioavailable when cooked vs consumed Rocky style (aka raw)-Scrambled, over easy, poached, fried- you choose!
Rong, Y., Chen, L., Zhu, T., Song, Y., Yu, M., Shan, Z., … Liu, L. (2013). Egg consumption and risk of coronary heart disease and stroke: dose-response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. The BMJ, 346, e8539. http://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8539
Fuller, N., Caterson, I, Sainsbury, A., Denyer, G., Fong, M., Gerofi, J., Baqleh, K., Williams, K., Lau, N., Markovic, T. (2015). The effect of a high-egg diet on cardiovascular risk factors in people with type 2 diabetes: the Diabetes and Egg (DIABEGG) study—a 3-mo randomized controlled trial. Am J Clin Nutr 101(4) 705-713 doi: 10.3945/ ajcn.114.096925
Fuller, N. R., Sainsbury, A., Caterson, I. D., & Markovic, T. P. (2015). Egg Consumption and Human Cardio-Metabolic Health in People with and without Diabetes. Nutrients, 7(9), 7399–7420. http://doi.org/10.3390/nu7095344
Perlmutter, D., (2013) Grain Brain. New York, NY: Little Brown and Company.
With my master’s degree freshly but thankfully behind me I am now able to concentrate on sharing my passion and new found knowledge with others. Do you ever really realize how much of a time suck school and work can be when pursuing or attempting to maintain a balanced life-Sheesh! I certainly didn’t. With so many things large and small filling my brain so that my cup runneth over, there is one topic that seems to stand out as a great place to start or restart my blog and it is the idea or concept of an individual’s food story.
Several months ago I went with a friend to a seminar about the benefits of a plant based diet which I believe definitely has merit depending on a number of factors. This particular event was opened by the host who started by sharing her “food story”. Then the next speaker came to the front and she also spoke about her “food story”. Interesting really. I have been a self professed foodie for years, followed by a nutrition nut and clean eating obsessed but never once had I thought about my food story. In each of the two instances the speakers shared very personal and sad tales of whoa as it related to their relationship with food, body image and a sense of self loathing.The expectation, at least that night, was that each of us in the room had our own unhealthy food story that had since pushed us toward enlightenment. This concept of a food story really resonated with me. What was my food story? Was it sad? Was it unhealthy? As a nutritionist, health strategist and personal trainer i really wondered what is it about someone’s food story that can either doom them to failure or guarantee their success in their journey to health?
Recently I began volunteering at a free clinic in Washington, DC. I am working with a wonderful group of ladies who are already really knowledgeable about food and dieting as every woman is by the time they are 13 but most are obese. When they asked me for the secret to weight loss I responded by asking them about their food story? Initially the blank stares were deafening-basically screaming “this over privileged white lady is just plain crazy!” But as we talked and I shared my story they began to share theirs.
The honest to goodness truth is that food plays a profound role in our lives and our individual food story is what weaves the foundational fabric of our life, our health and our family. Food is significant in every culture and religion, it solidifies friendships, builds community, it celebrates, it is an expression of love, of sameness, of respect for past present and future generations, it is comfort and it is life. Understanding your food story unlocks your beliefs around food and affords you the opportunity to make necessary and appropriate changes to support your health and lifestyle in a way that is respectful to the values you hold dear.
For me, food is always about celebrating-celebrating family, friends, life and love. It is how I give, how I show affection and I think for me tends to be particularly intimate and important because whatever I prepare and is consumed by others becomes part of who they are in the very truest sense-We really are what we eat. After many years of struggling with my relationship with food, I can honestly say that I don’t any longer and haven’t for some time largely because I have chosen to honor my food story and the role food plays in my life rather than limit and deny myself in order to follow someone else’s idea and the results have been liberating. I eat what I want, when I want and have no sense of guilt or self loathing. Some days I have chocolate cake for breakfast but most days I don’t and that’s mostly because I live a really active lifestyle and need the energy that a well balanced meal rich in lean protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates affords. I come from a place where I honor the role food plays in my life and make choices that support the life I want to lead.
What does all this mean? If your reading this post it’s because you are most likely as interested in eating well and being healthy as I am. So I would ask you, what is your food story? Do you honor that story by the choices you make, do those choices support the life you lead or want to lead? If not why not? Almost anything in moderation is ok (except maybe fried twinkles-these are not good!) but finding ways to modify those recipes and dishes you hold dear in way that supports your life and your goals is key. Stay tuned for tasty and healthy versions of common comfort food dishes or email me for tips on how to modify one you love.
Let me just say for the record, I have great boobs! (Highly subjective yes, a little crass maybe but I definitely got your attention! Wondering what boobs have to do with nutrition? As I have said before and will say many times again good nutrition involves all five senses and through The Regal Fig it’s my goal to educate individuals on how to nourish the mind, body and soul in an authentic and sustainable way. To that end I have a story to share which goes back a few years now but seems to be especially relevant as of late for a number of reasons. Read more