Planning healthy meals that are enriched with nutrients and yet easy on the wallet may seem like a challenging endeavour. ‘Nutritious’ is often labelled as ‘expensive’ and to a certain extent, are rightly so. The much revered healthy foods suggested on a weight loss diet plan like multi grain breads, almonds, olive oil, organic foods etc are all quite steeply priced. What makes healthy budget eating even more difficult is that cheap and ‘unhealthy’ foods (such as white bread, fries, instant soups and noodles or wafers) are readily available and taste great too.
No need to give up on your healthy eating intentions and dieting plans. No need to get ready to drop big money on fancy and pricey foods. Not yet…. as there are plenty of inexpensive healthy foods around us which when added to our daily diet are sure to bring us closer to our health goals without burning the pockets. A little knowledge and careful meal planning is all that we need to avoid calorie laden diet disasters and eat healthily, even on a tight budget.
Add these Ten low cost health foods in your slimming plan and reap their vast benefits whilst staying lean on your budget.
- Beans– An excellent source of protein, calcium and fibre, beans are one of the most versatile and nutrient rich low cost foods. The beans are easy to cook, good in taste and almost completely free of fat (or cholesterol) and sodium. In addition to these benefits, beans such as kabuli chana( chickpea), rajmah(kidney beans) , green moong, whole lentils, soybean also contain certain anti carcinogenic compounds, namely isoflavones, lagnins, phytic acid ,sapopin and protease inhibitors. Sprout them to further increase the nutrient quotient.
2.Whole grains– The role of whole grains in providing us with sustained energy, dietary fibre, B complex vitamins and essential fatty acids is widely known. While one may choose to add them in the diet by shopping for fortified attas or branded cereal mixes; the cheaper and natural sources such as jowar, bajra, nachni( or ragi), oatmeal and whole wheat flours work equally well. Whole wheat chapattis, jowar bhakris, oat porridges, brown rice khichdis and nachni upma are healthy and economical options that will keep you slim on a budget.
3. Green leafy vegetables– The flavorful leafy greens are undoubtedly a wallet friendly nutrition storehouse and it is not just about being low in calorie and rich in fiber. Greens like spinach, radish leaves, methi, cauliflower and mustard greens are packed with free radical fighting potent antioxidants like Vitamin A, C, E and B complex and growth promoting minerals like calcium, iron, and zinc.
4. Guava– Though it is said that ‘an apple a day can keep a doctor away’; cheaper fruits such as bananas, papaya, Indian plums, melons and guavas don’t really lag behind nutritionally. Fresh fruits are high in soluble fibre, pectins, natural sugar, magnesium and potassium and can be enjoyed as a breakfast accompaniment, healthy snack, or dessert alternative for weight loss seekers.
5. Amla– This incredible health food is abundant in vitamin C, a core nutrient needed to maintain heart, digestive and skin health. Amla (or Indian gooseberry) contains good amounts of fibre, vitamins and tannins. Drinking a glass of amla juice every morning has been shown to boost immunity, cleanse liver, and get rid of constipation and hair fall problems. Amla can be made into chutneys, powders or eaten after meals in dried forms. Avoid the sweetened or overly salted amla products, if you are trying to lose weight or cut sodium in diet.
6. Curd– Curd is yet another slimming food in budget eating routine. Rich in calcium, protein and Vitamin B12, low fat curd houses live bacteria (probiotic) which help in improving digestion. Enjoy curd as a quick snack, as refreshing buttermilk or as salad dressings, instead of white sauce or mayo.
7. Flax seeds– Studies show that omega 3 fatty acids and insoluble fibre present in flaxseeds help in lowering of blood cholesterol levels and triglycerides and improve satiety. Include 1-2 tbsp per day to reduce risk for breast cancer and heart problems. Sprinkle them on salads, smoothies or breads or grind them after roasting to prepare dry chutney with garlic and black salt.
8. Eggs – When it comes to ‘all -in –one’ health foods, it is hard to beat eggs. Eggs offer a low cost source of good quality proteins with high bioavailability and we already know that perking up protein content in any slimming diet helps to stay fuller longer, build muscle strength and boost metabolism. Their contribution as a food source for choline (needed for nerve transmission), carotenoids (lutein present in eggs may prevent cataracts and macular degeneration) and vitamin B 12 is also profound. Though a healthy adult with moderate activity can eat an egg every day, the people with history of heart troubles may restrict themselves to egg whites. Vegetarians may opt for soybean or cottage cheese as healthy protein sources.
9. Peanuts– Being able to tame mid-evening cravings and hunger pangs is crucial for the success of any dieting effort. A handful of unsalted peanuts thrown on a bed of fresh salad are an excellent way of sprucing up the total protein, fibre and ‘good’ mono unsaturated fats in the diet. Peanuts are high on energy quotient, so restrict your indulgence to only a handful, if you are watching calories.
10 Water– Finally the cheapest and perhaps one of the most important components of any slimming diet plan is water. Drinking water often takes a backseat as we don’t consider it worthy to be included as a nutrient. However, water must form the mainstay of any eating regime as it works as a detoxifying, hydrating and cooling agent. Aim for 8-10 glasses of water per day to improve digestion, physical and mental performance, and skin glow and also to lose weight faster.
- Furthermore, try to buy fruits and vegetables in season as they are much cheaper, fresher and richer in nutrients. Shop in local shops or vendors and prefer fresh and unrefined foods over frozen, canned and processed foods. Home cooked food is definitely healthier for both our pockets and waists than restaurant meals, so make cooking a fun and regular family event.
Eating healthy foods need not be an expensive affair. If we choose wisely, the foods that cost the least may actually become the best foods for our waist and our wallets too.
Originally written for Complete Well being magazine by Panchali Moitra