It’s evident that eating “healthy” costs more than eating a diet ridden with junk and empty calorie foods. Unfortunately, foods low in micronutrients, loaded with added sugars and preservatives, like most fast food options, tend to be the cheapest. This creates a vicious force behind the epidemic of obesity in many first-world countries and other lifestyle preventative diseases, such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Although traditional “healthy” foods, like vegetables, fruits and fresh, lean protein sources are generally more expensive, doesn’t mean you have to compromise improving your body composition on a limited budget. The good news is, losing fat while on a limited food budget is still very realistic. The key is to be a bit more selective about your selections when grocery shopping and eating on the go. This article will cover and highlight--how to choose the foods that are most cost effective when it comes to losing fat. Now let’s talk about how to get healthy on a food budget!
WholeBod Step 1: Plan Your Fat-loss Macros: First thing to do before you go spending money on any foods is figure out your macronutrient needs. There are a variety of methods/calculators on the internet and app store to help calculate your macro fat loss goals. Note: they aren’t always accurate and do keep in mind a variety of factors go into determining your specific nutrient needs and there is no one-size-fits-all equation. You will need to make some adjustments along the way and fine tune your diet to your specific needs as you progress.
WholeBod Step 2: How to Lower Cost: Note that grocery stores may alter their prices of foods weekly based on supply and demand, so you should look for sales and weekly ads which our mobile app will be able to provide for you later this year! (shameless plug). Shopping hack, stores will short-sale certain foods that are nearing expiration and this can be a great opportunity to stock up on foods that normally would be a bit out of budget. Now, we’ll break food groups down to make it as easy to follow as possible.
Animal Protein: Beef, turkey, pork, and chicken are generally the most expensive grocery store item of a gym-goers food bill. Poultry and pork tend to be most affordable, whereas beef, lean cuts, are on the costly end. Want to save a few dollars? Look for organ meats, such as beef liver, which is high in both fat and protein (stretching your dollar bit more for nutrients). Chicken breast tenderloins are great as well, you can even boil them until fork tender and create shredded chicken to really extend the nutrient count for your dollar.
Plant Protein: Tofu, tempeh, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa and plant-based “meat”. Prices on these items vary, although plant based “meats” tend to be a bit more costly, new players entering the market are competing for shelf space so you’ll be able to find choices for similar prices to meat or even a little less. Quinoa, lentils and chickpeas are much less expensive than meats or plant-based “meats”.
Fatty Protein Sources: As mentioned earlier in the protein source section, certain fattier cuts of animal products and things like cheese and whole eggs can be good sources of fat as well. This is actually a great way to go on a budget since you can get a solid source of several macronutrients from a single food item
A few more sources of protein are found within low-fat dairy products. They are great, cheap sources of protein, such as cottage cheese, yogurt and milk. Consider plain nonfat Greek yogurt to avoid the extra sugars. Food hack: If you really want to save a few bucks, buy higher-fat dairy products so that way you get your proteins and fats from one source. Eggs have a long shelf life and are cost effective when buying in bulk. Caged-free and Organic eggs will run a bit higher, but most grocery stores run sales on these as well.
Legumes: Legumes (especially beans) are probably the most overlooked fibrous food source and are exceptionally cheap. Aside from being cheap, legumes are packed with essential micronutrients and protein. One major advantage to eating legumes, is they keep you feeling fuller for longer. When you feel satiated for longer it eliminates snacking which can be a culprit to cutting fat.
Fruits and Vegetables: Want to be frugal? Eat plenty of vegetables and fruits. Don’t worry, the frozen versions are still full of fiber and vitamins/minerals, and they stay fresh longer. Foods with roots, like turnips, kale, collards are also good, cheap carb sources.
Grains: I want to stretch my dollar! The solution? Buy plenty of grains (e.g. rice, oats, pasta, etc.) in bulk quantities. A lot of stores have a section that lets you bag grains separately and charge you based on weight. Even better, when on a fat-loss eating lifestyle you probably won’t go through grains nearly as quickly as you would on a muscle-building eating lifestyle. Bread products and cold cereals can also serve as a decent, cost-effective options when you’re looking for higher-carb products. Be cognizant of the sugar content in some of these foods though as they can get a bit high.
Dietary fat plays a major role in your cholesterol levels. HDL cholesterol is the “good” kind of cholesterol found in your blood. LDL cholesterol is the “bad” kind. The key is to keep LDL levels low and HDL levels high Nut butters and raw nuts are solid food sources, low-cost options healthy, essential fats. Peanut butter is generally running the cheapest. Cashew, walnut and almond butter tends to be much pricier. Buy nuts in bulk from grocers for a cheaper alternative, in case you don’t want to go for nut butters. Some more good sources include:
- Olive, grapeseed and sesame oils
- Peanut Butter
- Sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds
- Fatty fish (salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, trout sardines)
- Soybean and safflower oil
- Soy milk
AVOID trans-fat primary sources include
- Fried foods
- Packaged snacks
- Commercially baked pastries
If you follow these above guidelines, you’ll be one step closer to a cost effective and heathier eating lifestyle!