Mitch Felipe Mendoza
ANN/INQUIRER – Food prices are still rising due to uncontrollable factors.
But this should not stop you from achieving your lifestyle goals of eating healthier food and staying more active.
You can still eat healthy even if you are on a tight budget. Being more aware of your food consumption behaviour can motivate you to spend money wisely, choosing only the food that can greatly contribute to your health and well-being.
ANALYSE YOUR CURRENT FOOD EXPENSES
How much money do you usually spend on sweet snacks and drinks from coffee shops in a day? How often do you eat out or order restaurant food online? How many high-calorie ultra-processed food do you buy from the supermarket on a weekly basis?
Just imagine how much money you can save if you can just lessen or eliminate the food that your body doesn’t need.
Extra expenses that you usually spend on junk food, and sweet drinks can be allotted instead to healthier food, fitness needs (online fitness subscriptions, personal trainer, fitness equipment, and gym membership), vitamins and supplements, and health check-ups.
Stick to a monthly food budget (from grocery shopping to eating out), making sure that you mainly focus on buying healthy and satisfying food that can help achieve your goals of having a strong and disease-free body.
Your total budget will depend on your income, food preference, lifestyle, weight and fitness goals (weight loss, maintenance to gain). Healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive. You just need to be wise and systematic when it comes to food planning.
MAKE EFFORTS TO PREPARE HOME-COOKED MEALS
Prepare your simple meals at home to save money. Give time for food planning, grocery shopping (which can now be easily done online with a minimal delivery fee), and cooking.
Set your health goals and create your budget so you can manage your healthy eating well.
I eat home cooked-meals six days a week and eat out once a week. For the past 2.5 years, on average, I spend PHP300 a day on three meals and two light snacks, consisting of vegetables, quinoa, brown rice, oats, Shirataki rice, fruits, seafood, some red meat, nut, seed, eggs, yogurt, cheese, nut milk, herbs, spices, and other important cooking ingredients.
Restaurant food are expensive and usually contain more ingredients that can cause bloating and weight gain. Try to limit restaurant food (food delivery or eating out) to once or twice a week and see how much money and calories you can save.
SPEND MONEY ON HIGH-QUALITY FOODS
Prioritise whole, nutrient-rich food that can improve your health, immune system, physical strength, and mental performance.
Allot your food budget to whole-natural food such as fruits, vegetables, seafood, egg, seeds, nuts, lentils, brown rice, quinoa, chicken, fish, lean meat, herbs, and spices.
Try your best to lessen or eliminate the ultra-processed (added with sugar, fat, salt, preservatives, additives, and artificial colours) food such as potato chips, cookies, artificially flavoured crackers or biscuits, sweetened cereals, candies, sweet juices, energy drinks, and processed meats.
Keep in mind that these food give rise to health issues, leading to more expenses in the future because of medications, health professional fees, and hospitalisations.
Spend a bit more for healthy whole grain carbs containing more fibre such as oats, brown rice, whole wheat bread, and pasta.
Refrain from buying flavoured food that contain added sugars and calories such as flavoured cereals or oats. Just look for plain steel-cut, instant, or rolled oats that are high in protein, healthy fat, and fibre.
Are you cutting back on carbs to address health issues and/or lose weight? Try shirataki (or konjac) rice and noodles, made from the fibre of a Japanese Konjac plant called Glucomannan, which is low in calories (20 calories containing three-five grammes of fibre
per cup/200 grammes) and high in fibre (the same fibre amount you get from a cup of brown rice).
These products can be bought from popular online shopping sites and healthy food stores.
This is quite expensive (PHP50 – 120 per pack) as compared to brown rice or quinoa. So you can combine 100 grammes (half a cup) of shirataki rice with half a cup of brown rice or quinoa for some light meals (dinner or lunch) during the week.
Green leafy veggies should always be a part of your main meals.
Kangkong, pechay native, malunggay, kamote tops are cheaper vegetable alternatives that you can readily have, containing the same amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients that you get from some expensive leafy vegetables such as kale, broccoli or kailan, bokchoy, and spinach.
Try frozen fruits and vegetables. Fruits like strawberries and blueberries are really expensive and not always available in the market.
You can look for healthy frozen strawberries, mixed berries, and broccoli in the supermarket that you can readily mix with your healthy smoothies and meals. Get two-three fruit servings of nutritious fruits such as saba banana, papaya, melon, apple, pineapple, orange, mango, and grapes. Check fruits in the market that are available in season, and sold at cheaper prices.
It is always best to get whole food mentioned above, but you can still buy minimally processed healthy food that are worth spending on. Yogurt, some canned fish (tuna or salmon) some cheeses, milk, tofu, whole wheat bread, and nut or peanut butter can always be incorporated into your diet to complete your nutrient requirement and satisfy your hunger and overall eating experience.
Just make it a habit to check the nutrition facts, just to make sure that you are getting good quality food products that contain less artificial flavouring, additives, saturated fat, salt, and sugar.
Use plant-based food as extenders to your dishes. You can lessen the consumption of saturated fat and cholesterol from your meat dishes by adding plant-based food high in protein such as tofu, mushroom, chickpeas, and kidney beans, which are usually cheaper and healthier.
Try to combine finely chopped shiitake mushroom with lean ground beef for a hamburger meal and firm tofu cube slices with some meat dishes.
Look for healthier carb snack alternatives that are high in fibre and protein, but low in fat, sugar, and sodium.
Whole wheat crackers and multi-grain bread are a bit more expensive, but can effectively satisfy your hunger because of the fibre and protein content, as compared to cheaper ultra-processed food (sweet biscuits, cookies, and pastries) that easily raise your blood sugar, causing you to crave for more food within a short period of time. More food cravings for unhealthy snacks will result in more food consumption (and weight gain), adding up to your total food budget.
Instead of buying pricey (can cost PHP30- 300 per piece) cakes or savoury and buttery pastries, which are loaded in fat, sugar, and calories, prepare simple, cheap, healthy, and unprocessed snacks that you can readily eat at home and even bring to work such as boiled egg, boiled corn, boiled sweet potato.
Nuts (almonds, cashew nuts, walnuts, and pistachios) and seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, and chia seeds) are excellent sources of good fat, fibre, and protein and can be incorporated regularly into your breakfast, snack, healthy desserts, salads, and some viands. Instead of going to the supermarket, you can buy your supply of nuts and seeds in bulk from online shopping sites to save time and money.