Athletes who eat healthy feel better and are able to perform at their peak levels. However, eating healthy doesn't mean you have to spend big bucks on organic foods or pricey supplements. It is possible to maintain a balanced diet on a budget by implementing a few simple strategies.
Below are three tips for eating healthy on a budget, so you can save money without sacrificing performance.
Prepackaged items such as 100-calorie snack packs, chopped vegetables and energy bars are more expensive than making your own. Buy more food at the grocery and make your own snack packs. Purchase a large container of plain yogurt, create single-serving portions in reusable containers and add your own fruit and nuts rather than buying smaller cartons of yogurt with fruit already mixed in.
The best way to save money is to control what goes into your meals. This doesn't mean taking cooking classes or making gourmet meals. Just browse a few online cooking sites, such as Cooking Light, for easy meals or snacks with a few ingredients. Instead of buying energy and protein bars, learn to make your own homemade ones. Plan your snacks each week so you have enough prepared for busy days.
Use meat as an accent instead of a main dish. A serving of meat or chicken is four to six ounces; a serving of lean fish is five to seven ounces. Another quarter of your plate should include healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grain pasta or rice, a small sweet potato, corn or a roll. Fill the other half of your plate with vegetables. Try to eat a variety of colored fruits and vegetables throughout the week to make sure you are getting adequate vitamins and minerals. When you eat out, choose an appetizer-sized portion or share an entrée with a friend to save money.
High protein items, such as kidney beans and chickpeas, are a healthier, cheaper meal replacement, and they make a great addition to stir-fries, soups and salads. Pantry proteins are easy to store and quick to prepare. Raw chickpeas are a great addition to salads. You can also roast chickpeas for a new side dish or blend them into humus or a vegetable dip. Beans are a healthy, inexpensive alternative that can easily replace ground beef in tacos, burgers and casseroles. Peanut butter is another cheap, high protein item that includes healthy fats. Add a tablespoon to a breakfast smoothie, spread it on an apple for an afternoon snack or spread it on wheat bread for a healthy sandwich at lunch. You can work more protein into any dish if you're willing to get creative. Check out STACK's power salad for inspiration.
More delicious recipes, suggestions, and guidance can be found at the STACK Athlete Meal Plan page.
Kait Fortunato earned her bachelor’s degree in dietetics and completed her internship through the University of Maryland. She focuses on individualized nutritional recommendations for athletes of all ages and activity levels, and she is an active member of the Sports Dietetic Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Visit dietitianindc.blogspot.com for running and recipe updates.