10 Tips to Help Make the Most of your Food Budget

Have you ever heard someone say it costs too much to eat healthy?  If you have a specific food budget and are trying to eat better or just overall healthier, there are ways to make the most of your food budget.

10 Tips to Help Make the Most of your Food Budget

*Plan and make a list.  Try to plan your meals for the week and prepare a list.  Look in your pantry and fridge to see what you have and what you need.  Making soups or casseroles are good for leftovers for lunch or to freeze for future meals.

*Compare prices.  Check around several stores or online to get the best prices.  I go to the same grocery store every week but I also go to Trader Joes and Whole Foods every couple of months and stock up on favorite items.  Coupons help as well.  It’s also worthwhile to check sales or specials and plan your meals around that.

*Look at the “unit price“.  At the grocery store, look at the unit price located on the shelf below the item.  I tend to do this most with paper products, but it’s helpful with any food item.  With all the different sizes, weights, and brands of products, you can easily save money by checking the unit price.

*Bulk foods.  Generally, it is cheaper to buy foods in bulk.  One downside though is having enough space!  Larger bags of veggies or fruits that you know you will use is a good choice.  I always get large bags of frozen blueberries since I use them daily.  One thing I’m leery of is buying nuts or grains from bulk bins because I’m never sure how fresh they are.

*Purchase in season.  Buying vegetables and fruits in season are definitely less expensive and taste better.  Check out this seasonal food guide.  Also buying local is usually cheaper as well.

*Beware of convenience foodsIt’s tempting to buy food pre-cut, seasoned, and ready to go.  These convenience foods cost more than preparing them yourself.  Frozen meals, pre-cut veggies and instant rice are nice and easy, but if you take the time to make or prepare your own you’ll save some money.

*Buy foods that are cheaper in general.  Some foods are just cheaper all year long.  Using beans for your source of protein in replace of meat, carrots or potatoes for your vegetables, and apples or bananas for your fruits are great options.

*Prepare large batches.  Make large batches of your favorites to use all week.  Many people do this on Sundays, prepare big batches of rice, quinoa, or roasted veggies.  Or when making soup or stews, double the recipe and freeze individual servings for quick lunches.

*Liven up leftovers.  Get creative with your leftovers.  Find new ways to use them, such as throw veggies in a soup, use leftover chicken to make a salad, or use rice for pudding or eat it for breakfast.

*Dine out strategicallyGo out to lunch instead of dinner, drink only water with your meal, skip the appetizers, share a meal (there’s usually enough for two!), or order a couple of sides for your meal.

If you ever feel you can’t afford to eat healthy, I hope these tips will bring awareness to the many ways to save money.  Although we always want the best deal, keep in mind that we still want to purchase quality items with optimal nutritional value.

Do you have any tips to add? Please share!


(Source:  Ace Fitness Nutrition Manual)

10 Tips for Building Healthy Meals

Do you struggle with making a healthy meal plan?  I know I do!  I look at the day ahead and try to plan balanced meals for me and my family.  What exactly is a “healthy meal”?  This could mean different things to different people depending on their lifestyle and food preferences.

Basically, a healthy meal helps meet nutrient needs by containing a balance of food groups.  Building a healthy meal isn’t difficult once you have a basic understanding of nutrition.

10 Tips for Building a Healthy Meal

  • Try to make half your plate vegetables and fruits.  Veggies and fruits are very nutrient dense and have many health benefits.  Get a variety of colors such as red, orange, and dark green vegetables. (tomatoes, sweet potatoes, and broccoli)
  • Include lean protein.  Choose proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu, turkey, chicken, or lean beef.  If you eat fish, try to include it twice per week as your protein source.
  • Add whole grains.  Try to make all (or at least half) of your grains whole grains.  Compared to refined grains, whole grains supply more nutrients like vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Some good sources are oats, brown or wild rice, millet, and barley to name a few.  Look for 100% whole grain or 100% whole wheat on the label.
  • Get some calcium.  If you drink milk, add a cup with your meal.  You could also choose soymilk or another nut milk with calcium.  Some non-dairy foods high in calcium are:  kale, broccoli, watercress, bok choy, okra, and almonds (source).
  • Steer clear of extra fat.  A little lemon, sprinkle of parmesan cheese, or additional spices add extra flavor without added fat.  It’s easy to turn something healthy such as broccoli or potatoes into a not so healthy option by adding a cheese sauce or heavy gravy.
  • Don’t eat too fast.  Take your time and enjoy your food!  Eat slowly, be mindful, and pay attention how the food you’re eating makes you feel.  If you eat too fast, you’re more likely to overeat.
  • Portion control.  Using smaller plates will help control portion sizes.  Bigger plates tend to make us serve more and eat more food.
  • Take control.  Eat most meals at home (or pack your lunch).  Making your own meals allows you to know exactly what you’re eating.  If you do eat out, most restaurants have their nutritional information online.  You can check and compare beforehand to help pick healthier options.
  • Try something new.  Pick out some new foods to try.  You just might discover a new favorite!  Even cooking a food in a different way will add variety.  Roast your veggies instead of steaming or try baked spaghetti (a family favorite).
  • Have a “healthy” dessert.  Fruit is a perfect naturally sweet dessert.  Fresh, a parfait, or even baked apples.  If you have to satisfy that sweet tooth each night, keep portions in check.
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Getting a balance of nutrients is important for maintaining health.  You can always modify the portions of your meals to get the proper balance of food groups.  And when eating out, don’t forget about Portion Distortion!

I hope these tips will be helpful when planning meals for yourself or for your family!

5 Popular Nutritional Mistakes made by Athletes

It’s probably no surprise that physical activity, athletic performance, and recovery from exercise are enhanced by optimal nutrition (source).  When we select the proper foods and fluids at the right time, it will lead to better health and better exercise performance.

Knowing these benefits, studies have shown that many athletes do not get adequate amounts of many nutrients, including calories, carbohydrates, and several micronutrients.  A lot of athletes find it difficult to get the right nutrients to fuel performance.  Along with optimal fitness, proper nutrition will help us reach ultimate performance.

5 Popular Nutritional Mistakes made by Athletes

  1.  Fixating only on weight instead of lean mass.  In terms of athletic performance, strength-to-weight ratio is what’s important, not total body weight.  A balance of energy intake which supports muscle mass and spares protein can enhance athletic performance, appearance, and even bone health (source).
  2. Not eating on a regular basis.  We can only use a limited amount of “energy” from food we eat and any macronutrients (fat, carbs, protein) that we get too much of are stored mainly as fat (source).  On the other hand, when we don’t eat enough food, our body breaks down lean muscle, the tissue that requires energy.  Apparently, many athletes don’t get the basic nutrients needed, such as proper amounts of calories and carbohydrates.  Eating meals more often, while decreasing the meal size may help improve daily energy balance and body composition.
  3. Unnecessary use of supplements.  Vitamin and mineral supplements are used for a variety of reasons, such as to help with a deficiency or to “fill in the gaps” of a poor diet.  Although athletes tend to require more vitamins and minerals, a minimal amount can be absorbed a one time.  High-dose supplements are generally not used efficiently. For the most part, everyone (not only athletes) should eat a diet that supplies necessary vitamins and minerals from food.  Going beyond the requirements for vitamins and minerals doesn’t improve performance and can potentially have a negative affect on fluid balance and health.
  4. Not maintaining proper hydration.  Most of us realize how important hydration is for exercise.  The balance of fluid has a direct affect on our ability to maintain sufficient blood volume, which is crucial during prolonged physical activity.  Not replenishing both electrolytes and fluid during exercise can cause blood volume to drop, can cause early exhaustion, and can lead to dehydration.  In order to keep proper hydration and blood glucose levels, it’s recommended that athletes have a sip of sports drink that has electrolytes and carbs about every 15 minutes while participating in high-intensity exercise.
  5. Cutting too many calories.  Restricting too many calories while trying to lose weight can actually cause a loss of lean mass and fat mass to increase (source).  Not getting enough calories can lead to reduced lean muscle.  A reduction in muscle mass can result in a decreased resting metabolic rate and increased fat mass.  In order to keep metabolism up and stay lean, athletes need to eat enough calories to support physical activity and keep lean muscle.
5 Popular Nutritional Mistakes made by Athletes (and how to beat them!) Click To Tweet

In the end, when the right amount of calories are eaten, hydration is properly maintained, carbohydrates are highly available, and enough nutrient-dense foods are consumed, all athletes (anyone who participates in physical activity) will benefit.  Performance will improve, you’ll notice quicker recovery, see adaptions to training, reduce injury risk, and see an overall improvement in health.

Do you make any of these nutritional mistakes?