Living in such a busy, on the go world things can often get forgotten, such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle and eating well. With so many temptations out there it often seems like the cheaper and easier option is to go for convenience or fast food. However this is of no benefit to health, and eating healthy while maintaining a budget really isn’t as hard as you may think!
What is healthy eating?
Healthy eating means consuming a well-rounded and adequate diet that meets your nutritional requirements as well as providing your body with energy to keep it going throughout the day. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating has developed specific guidelines about what and how much we should be eating of each of the main food groups, to ensure optimal health. The latest guidelines were released in February 2013 and split up each food group by gender and age group, so that it is easy to follow.
The grains food group includes items like breads, cereals, pasta, oats and rice. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that wholegrains should be the preferred choice and that both males and females between 19-50 years old should consume 6 serves from this food group per day.
The dairy food group includes milk, cheese, yoghurt as well as milk-alternatives such as soy milk or rice milk. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends choosing low-fat dairy options and that 2.5 serves of dairy should be consumed by males and females between 19-50 years old per day.
The vegetable food group includes both fresh, frozen and canned vegetables as well as legumes and beans. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that a variety of different coloured vegetables are consumed so that many different vitamins and minerals can be obtained from them. 5 serves of this food group per day for women, and 6 for men aged 19-50 years old will ensure adequate vitamin, mineral and fibre intake.
The fruit food group includes fresh, canned and dried fruit, as well as fruit juice. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that like with vegetables, a variety of different coloured fruit is eaten. Both males and females aged 19-50 years old are recommended to eat 2 serves from this food group per day.
Meats and poultry
The meats and poultry food group includes red meat, chicken, fish, eggs as well as nuts, legumes and beans.The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that meats are trimmed from fat and that meat makes up approximately a quarter to a third of a meal. It is also recommended that 19-50 year old males consume 3 serves and females 2.5 serves from this food group per day.
‘Sometimes’ foods include food items that are high in saturated fat, sugar or salt and can lead to negative health outcomes such as obesity or heart disease. The Australian Guide to Healthy Eating recommends that these foods should be limited in the diet, and not consumed in excessive amounts.
How do I meet the Guidelines on a budget?
Although it may seem like there are a lot of food (and costs) associated with eating healthily, it really doesn’t have to be expensive!
- Simple things like eating breakfast can really make a difference so you don’t pick on things or are tempted to buy things during the day.
- Adding chopped vegies to a stew or stir fry will increase your daily serves of vegetables and will also help increase the bulk of the meal and keep you fuller for longer.
- Going for high fibre options such as wholegrains will boost your fibre intake as well as your cereals and grains daily serves, and will keep you feeling satisfied for longer. Instead of choosing your regular high sugar cereal or white toast, try wholemeal bread as it provides double the fibre content of white bread.
- Making a smoothie out of frozen berries and yoghurt if you’re rushed for time will instantly increase your daily fruit and dairy intake. And frozen berries are usually much cheaper and last for much longer than the fresh variety, and still have the same amount of nutrients!
- Adding nuts and seeds is a good way to get a nutritious kick to a breakfast or snack. They will increase your protein intake, as well as providing your body with the good fats that it needs.
Top 5 Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget
- Buy foods when they are on special or in season.
If you can’t purchase fresh food in season, buy frozen fruits and vegetables to have ready to go in the freezer. Or if not on special, the generic or supermarket brands are often cheaper than the better known brands anyway, and the quality is almost identical.
- Buy fruits and vegetables from a green grocer or farmers market, not the supermarket.
Supermarkets have a higher price on fresh produce compared to local green grocers and farmers markets, so it is worth looking around your area to find a good one.
- Buy items in bulk.
It is often cheaper to buy something in a kg or L tub than in small serving sizes. This way it is cheaper, and will last longer too, especially if it is something you can freeze.
- Cook in large quantities and freeze food for later in the week.
This way you can just grab it out of the freezer, re-heat and eat. And you know that it is healthy and much cheaper than calling your local take-away shop when you’ve come home and can’t be bothered cooking.
- Avoid shopping on an empty stomach.
The shopping cart will soon fill up with unnecessary, and often unhealthy items that you just didn’t need.
- NHMRC, Department of Health and Ageing 2013, Australian Dietary Guidelines. NHMRC: Canberra
- NHMRC, Department of Health and Ageing 2013, Healthy Eating for Adults. NHMRC: Canberra. Retrieved from: http://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/sites/default/files/files/the_guidelines/n55g_adult_brochure.pdf.
- Whitney, E., Rolfes, SR, Crowe, T., Cameron-Smith, D. & Walsh, A. (2011). Understanding Nutrition: Australia and New Zealand Edition. South Melbourne, Australia: Cengage Learning Australia.