How to Eat Healthy on a Budget: 4 Healthy Tips

It doesn’t have to be hard to eat healthy on a budget. I think a lot of us are scared of healthy eating because we see the price tag on organic food and think “no way.” In my opinion, the creation of ‘healthified’ products has complicated the very simple rule of healthy eating: eat real food. This can be accomplished by avoiding all junk food, eating less meat, adhering to the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15, and meal planning. This post is meant to simplify healthy eating. I understand that not everyone will be able to eat fully organic. While I do believe that eating organic is important, what is more important is eating real foods.

eat on a budget

Healthy junk food is still junk food.

When I walk through health food stores, one of the first things I notice is they still have sweets. There’s candy, cakes, sodas, etc. The only difference is these sweets are organic. Or maybe gluten-free or vegan.

Newsflash: junk food is junk food. Want to know the easiest way to eat healthy on a budget? Stop buying junk food. Eat REAL food. Real food is stuff like fruit, meat, eggs, vegetables, butter, grains. Cut out sugar and flour and you will be healthier than the majority of people.

Think of how expensive alternative flours are. There’s nothing wrong with trying to make almond flour cookies, but it isn’t always in the budge. Instead, try making a stir fry, soup, or salad. None of those require flour. Just real, whole foods.

As for sugar, we know that it is one of the worst things we can put into our bodies. Yet for some reason, if we label it organic we feel a little less guilty about it. Wellness Mama is one of my favorite bloggers to read (she also has a great podcast) and she’s written some about the dangers of sugar. In this article of hers, she provides a source comparing sugar to cocaine. I encourage you to check it out.

I don’t know about you, but to me, it’s clear: Focus on eating real food and you won’t have to worry as much about the cost.

Eat less meat

From what I’ve read, it is best if your animal products are organic or grass-fed. Unfortunately, eating organic animal products is one of the more expensive things when going healthy. If you are wanting to save money but still eat healthily, I suggest eating less meat. Organic meat is expensive! By eating less meat you can make it easier to eat healthy on a budget.

A goal I have is to stop eating so much meat and to replace it with vegetables. I’m about to start a new meal plan (more on that later) and I’m going to make dinner my veggie meal. That means no meat or animal products after lunch. I’ve seen different people suggest making dinner your lightest meal. Since you’ll be heading to bed in a few hours, it’s best to give your body something easy to digest. So, if you decide to make one meal meatless, I would suggest it be dinner.

If you are worried about not getting enough protein, don’t. The truth is you probably are getting enough. In fact, many doctors and nutritionists agree that we are probably consuming too much protein. Dr. Mercola writes in his article about the risk of too much protein. Did you know that most Americans consume three to five times more protein than needed? He goes on to explain the effects, which include weight gain and stimulating cancer cells.

eat on a budget
Photo by Nadine Primeau on Unsplash

Dirty Dozen vs. Clean 15

Let’s be honest. Most of us can’t afford to eat one hundred percent organic all of the time. If you are a perfectionist like me, it can be easy to adopt an all or nothing mindset. That’s not what we want, though. We want small, manageable steps. That is why I appreciate the dirty dozen and clean 15 lists so much. They make it easy to eat healthy on a budget

Now, you’ve probably seen these lists. But if you haven’t, I will give a quick explanation. The Dirty Dozen are twelve crops with the highest amount of pesticides. If you buy anything organic, you’ll want it to be from this list. One of the items on the Dirty Dozen is apples. I have a friend who has to eat organic apples. If he has conventional, the pesticides on it will give him an allergic reaction.

Dirty Dozen:

  1. Strawberries
  2. Spinach
  3. Nectarines
  4. Apples
  5. Grapes
  6. Peaches
  7. Cherries
  8. Pears
  9. Tomatoes
  10. Celery
  11. Potatoes
  12. Sweet Bell Peppers

The Clean 15 is a list of produce with the lowest levels of pesticides. If you are trying to save money, these items are generally safe to buy conventional.

Clean 15

  1. Avocados
  2. Sweet corn
  3. Pineapples
  4. Cabbages
  5. Onions
  6. Sweet peas
  7. Papayas
  8. Asparagus
  9. Mangoes
  10. Eggplants
  11. Honeydews
  12. Kiwis
  13. Cantaloupes
  14. Cauliflower
  15. Broccoli

Meal plan

Eating healthy on a budget is so much easy when you meal plan. Meal planning can help you make sure that you are making the most of all of your groceries. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve bought a vegetable and used it part of it for one meal then let the rest go to waste. Meal planning can also ensure that you aren’t going to overeat. If you’ve already decided what you will be eating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, it’s going to be harder to eat whatever you are craving.

Now, I have decided to start following the Bright Line Eating plan. Bright Line is a plan by Susan Pierce Thompson, Ph.D. I personally found the diet very easy to understand and also very doable. You don’t eat any sugar of any type of flour ( I’m looking at you coconut flour). You eat three meals each day. No snacking.

For breakfast, you have one protein, one grain, and one fruit. Lunch consists of a protein, a fruit, a fat, and six ounces of vegetables. For dinner, you have an eight-ounce salad, six ounces of vegetables, a protein and fat. I suggest getting the book because she explains it much better than I could.

I like this diet better than others because it isn’t restricting whole food groups like fruit. Instead, it focuses on balanced eating. And of course cutting out the known culprits, flour and sugar.

If you don’t think this is the right method for you, I would just advise doing something that encourages eating real food and that you feel is doable for you.

I hope that I have in some way simplified healthy eating. For me, the most important thing is to be sure that I am eating as much real food as I can. Being balanced is the most important thing. The truth is a lot of the foods that we are eating, like sugar and flour, are making us sad, sick and sluggish. Let’s all decide to focus on eating real food. Fruit, meat, veggies, healthy fats, and grains. It’s not about eating perfectly. It’s about taking small manageable steps.

Do you have any suggestions on how to eat healthy on a budget? Tell us in the comments below.

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