Eat healthy on a budget



“I want to eat healthier, but it’s too expensive. I can’t afford it.” It’s a common mantra.

There’s no denying the fact that finances are getting tighter and tighter for today’s families. Seems we have to do more with less, and trying to balance needs and demands on what cash you have available is a constant struggle for many.

But eating well on a shoestring budget may be easier than you think.

And according to registered dietians and the founders of Bajan Diet Designs, Julian Rowe and Karen Griffith, if you consider the added benefits, including maintaining a healthy weight and reducing your risk of chronic diseases then it’s worth it.

karen and julian
Founders of Bajan Diet Designs, Julian Rowe and Karen Griffith

“What you eat makes a big impact on your quality of life; it also makes a big impact on your whole approach to life and your appearance because we know that healthy skin, healthy hair is a reflection of what you put in rather than what you put on,” Rowe says.

Griffith adds there’s no mistaking that we all love food, but oft-times, we think about what we fancy rather than focus on what we eat and how it will impact our health.

She readily agrees with Julian that eating right is much easier said than done given our ever changing and hectic lifestyles and for some, eating healthy is a real challenge and not simply because they don’t want to.

“Life today is so much more than thinking about just planning healthy meals.”

“People are in such a hurry these days! You leave home you’re rushing to get ready to beat traffic so you stop in the gas station to buy a pastry, a hot dog, then it comes to lunch time you may buy again and then after a day’s work and again rushing through traffic, sitting on the bus forever, getting home late to start thinking about cooking is rough.”

Still, both women who provide nutritional counselling for individuals and families in a range of areas caution that in our society where lifestyles diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure, strokes and cancer are taking a toll, caution that we can’t afford not to make practical, gradual changes to improve our diet.

Changing your mindset about healthy eating is a good start, says Griffith.

“People are afraid of change and the thing is most people believe that healthy eating is giving up all your familiar foods, all your favourite foods, going on a diet with bland, tasteless food. It is a like a sentence and so now people that hear they have diabetes they immediately start out by thinking they are not going to be able to have any thing sweet again so it’s like an immediate barrier, so they are perhaps not going to want to investigate because they are not ready to make that change.

“As dieticians we aim to show people that healthy eating is not giving up your favourite foods. This is not about being bland or tasteless because taste is important. Research has shown that if the alternative doesn’t taste good, people are not going to be into it. There are those health conscious types who will eat stones if they know it’s good for them but the majority of us want to enjoy what we are eating,”  she says.

Rowe suggests that watching your portions and preparing your own meals are big steps in the right direction.

“I think that it is going to be an individual thing because you have to work with what times are available to you and of course when it comes to trying to stay healthy you have to be able to determine how much time you have to cook so that if you have half an hour, then you have to determine that’s all I’ve got to look for in a healthy meal, which is something that we do because we are working wives and mothers and we have the same challenges. So we look at easy recipes that we can work with and this is what we encourage our clients to do to be realistic.”

Her partner agrees and further points out that preparation is key to healthy eating and achieving your goals. She advises that meals be prepared in advance to avoid resorting to foods on the run that are often unhealthy.

“So you have to take the time to think about what sort of meals you are going to want during the course of the week, what things can be prepared before hand. So if you are person that does a traditional Sunday lunch you are going to be spending some time in the kitchen, then you can put some extra pots on, the meat or something else. During the course of the week you can just add to that to make another meal.”

With your new mindset and a plan detailing what you’re going to eat you can make that trip to the supermarket.

Griffith and Rowe assure it may not be costly as you think to buy what’s best for you.

“Meat is one of the most expensive food items but in our environment food is not complete unless there is meat but if you want to substitute use a lot more peas and beans.”

If you’ve got a family of four and you are doing baked chicken everybody will want at least two pieces so that will cost you at least $25. Instead of spending the $25 on the two trays of chicken, buy one tray of chicken chunks or chicken tenders and cut that up and add some chickpeas, which basically cost cents and you could make a curry or a stew to feed your family at half the price.

“Everybody likes baked lamb, but let’s say we do something with tuna, we have a baked tuna recipe that you only need two cans, so instead of a piece of lamb at $6 each, you can use two tins of tuna. So again, that’s half the price but there are nutritional advantages.”

The dieticians also recommend that families opt for more local vegetables, or better yet start a garden, cut down on expensive sodas and beverages and buy fruits to make their own juices.

In addition, Griffith and Rowe urge families need to work together and commit to eating better and being active.

They stress that while you can’t always earn more money, you can’t put a price on your health.

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