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How to Optimize Healthy Budget Eating

December 2, 2012 | Gary Mullen

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Eating to achieve the ideal body doesn't require you to buy the latest organic products. Those food items are usually expensive, and they're often not even the best choices for your diet. It's possible to eat healthy with minimal cost, but it does require diligence (not like spending 10 hours a week clipping coupons, waiting for double coupon days or exhaustively counting calories).

With Thanksgiving over, it's time to make some dietary adjustments for a healthier and more productive life, specifically eating healthy on a budget. Here's how:

Understand proper nutrition

As a society, we eat too much sugar and fat and too many simple carbohydrates. This combination promotes obesity and overeating. Minimizing carbohydrates, sugar and certain kinds of fat is essential for improving body composition. To "eat lean," you should make eating vegetables a top priority.

You've probably read about the importance of eating organic, locally grown vegetables and consuming nutritional supplements. But if you're on a budget, here's a secret: all that hypothetical extra benefit is not worth the extra cash. You can reap the same benefits from non-organic vegetables and fruits. Just wash them before eating. If non-organic really bothers you, try frozen vegetables. They provide the same nutrients.

Eat enough protein

This is essential. Luckily, inexpensive sources of protein are available in any supermarket. Eggs are a great source of protein, as are frozen chicken and canned tuna.

Consume healthy fat

Ditch simple carbohydrates like donuts and bagels. But go for good fats; they increase satiation and improve metabolism. Low-cost options include cooking with extra virgin olive oil or using it as salad dressing. Slightly more expensive choices are raw nuts and avocados.

Sample plan from Tim Ferriss's book, The 4-Hour Body

Here's a great example of how to put a cost-efficient plan into action. Each meal costs around $1.34, for a total of approximately $40 per week. The shopping list shapes up like this:

  • 
1x eggs (1 dozen), $1.20
  • 2x grass-fed organic beef (0.5-lb cuts), $4
  • 4x mixed vegetables (1-lb bags), $6
  • 2x pork (1-lb cuts), $3
  • 1x chicken breast, $2
  • 2x asparagus bundles, $2
  • 1x organic peas (2-lb bag), $2
  • 1x pinto beans (1-lb bag), $1.50
  • 
2x spinach (3-lb bags), $6
  • 
1x black beans (1-lb bag), $1
  • 3x chicken thighs, $9

Breakfast: Egg white omelet mixed with one whole egg, vegetables and chicken breast

Lunch: Spinach salad with mixed vegetables, chicken thigh and black beans

Dinner: Beef or pork with asparagus and pinto beans

It's a simple diet at a reasonable cost. Just remember to get into a routine and form smart habits. Weight loss will follow. After the excessive consumption of Thanksgiving, try this simple, cost-effective adjustment to your nutritional program to eat healthy on a budget.

Check out two other articles with tips for eating healthy on a budget: Eating Healthy on a Budget: Tips for Student-Athletes; and Three Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget.

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