Healthy eating is about getting the right balance. Here are some tips and advice from our nutrition team so that you can take care of your eating and your bank balance at the same time…
Bread, other cereals and potatoes
Starchy foods like breads, pasta, rice, cereals and potatoes should form the bulk of most of your meals and snacks.
These foods are a valuable source of carbohydrate, which gives us energy. They are filling but provide a lot less calories than fatty foods. Just be careful not to add lots of fats like spreads, dressings, sauces and fillings or cook them in added fats (like chips, for example). They also contain vitamins, minerals and a little protein. What’s more, they provide fibre to keep our digestive systems healthy. Wholegrain breads, pasta, rice and cereals have more fibre so try to eat these more often.
These foods are usually quite cheap but here are a few ideas for keeping the costs down even more:
- if you shop late at night, supermarkets often reduce the price of breads, which is great if you use them quickly or have access to a freezer
- buying foods in bulk, like potatoes for example, will cut costs considerably
- if you cook too much pasta don’t throw it out. You can easily make a salad the following day by adding a low fat dressing, some salad vegetables and a little imagination. Leftover rice can be used in risotto.
- buying pancakes or a scone as a snack is just as cheap as a packet of crisps or some chocolate. If you’re at home, toast or cereal are quick, cheap and healthy options.
- why not use soda farls or English muffins as pizza bases?
- it’s cheap and easy to make your own bread, scones, pancakes etc
Fruit and vegetables
Fruit and vegetables contain a huge variety of vitamins, minerals and other substances, which help keep your body healthy from day to day. It is also possible that eating plenty of fruit and vegetables may protect against some diseases later in life, like heart disease or cancer. Try to eat at least five portions of fruit or vegetables a day to boost your health.
It’s true that some fruit and vegetables can be quite expensive but there are plenty of less expensive options available:
- remember it doesn’t have to be fresh fruit or vegetables, tinned, frozen and dried are just as good and may be cheaper.
- again, buying in bulk is usually cheaper
- look out for fruits and vegetables in season
- an apple, orange or banana as a snack is handy and just as cheap as less healthy options
- making soup is an inexpensive and easy way to increase your vegetable intake
Milk and dairy foods
These foods are rich in calcium as well as being a good source of protein, B vitamins and other minerals. 3-4 portions of milk, cheese or yoghurt should provide you with all the calcium you need for one day. When you are trying to lose weight it’s better to stick to the low fat versions. They are generally no more expensive than the full fat alternatives.
- a pint of skimmed or semi-skimmed milk is both less expensive and more nutritious drink than most soft drinks
- add low-fat milk to soups, sauces or mash as a cheap way to improve the nutritional quality of a meal
- using strongly flavoured cheeses like mature cheddar and grating them will make them go further
- yoghurt makes an inexpensive snack or dessert. There are often special offers in the supermarket so look out for these. Check out the prices on the multi-packs which tend to be cheaper
Meat, fish and alternatives
This group includes foods like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, peas, beans, lentils and meat alternatives like soya mince or quorn. They are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals, especially iron, but you don’t need huge amounts.
- meat can be expensive but there are cheaper options available like mince, bacon or sausages, for example. However, these cheaper options tend to be higher in fat so take care to grill rather than fry when cooking. Buy the leanest cut that you can afford.
- you can also use less meat and bulk out dishes such as shepherd’s pie by using beans or lentils.
- peanut butter also makes a cheap, quick and easy sandwich filling.
- eggs are an affordable and versatile food for breakfast, sandwiches or a main course.
- chickpeas, beans and lentils are great for soups, casseroles, curries and chillies. Buying them dried is cheaper but requires more cooking.
- tinned fish can be used for sandwiches, pasta bakes and pies without breaking the bank.
Fat and sweets
One of the healthy eating guidelines is ‘enjoy your food’ and this is where these foods come in! While not essential for health, these foods add to the taste, variety and the enjoyment of food. Some can be used in small amounts every day like butter, spreads and cooking oils. It‘s okay to eat other foods containing fat and sugar like biscuits, cakes and chocolate now and again, just not too often.
- since these foods are not essential and can be expensive, try not to spend too much of your cash on them. You don’t have to sacrifice taste to choose healthier options, which may be better value.
- check your fridge and cupboards before you start cooking to see what can be used up and to prevent wastage.
- try to cook as many foods as possible using the same cooking method. For example, if you having a baked potato, have it with roasted vegetables and make full use of the oven. One-pot cooking is also a good way to save on energy costs.
- cooking more than you need and freezing the extra portions can also save on cooking costs.
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