Last week I kicked off the Frugal Fitness Challenge with a post on frugal exercise options. This week I want to focus on nutrition. It can be really hard to eat healthy while you are on a small budget. Most of the cheap foods: ramen noodles, mac and cheese, etc. are not that healthy for you and not that filling. Here are a few nutrition tips and frugal foods to keep in mind as you plan your meals.
Many of you, like me, probably grew up with the food pyramid as the nutrition standard. Recently, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) shifted from using the pyramid to using the plate model on the right. This plate is a good image to keep in mind as you plan your meals.
You will notice that there are five groups represented: vegetables, fruits, grains, protein, and dairy. Half of the plate is fruits and vegetables, with slightly more veggies than fruit. Remember, veggies aren’t just greens. Try to eat red, orange, as well as dark-green veggies. Some frugal veggies are peas, sweet potatoes, winter squash, collard greens, kale, cabbage, and carrots. Some great frugal fruits are bananas, strawberries, apples, and frozen berries. To get the most bang for your buck, buy the fruits and veggies that are in season.
The other half of the plate is grains and protein, with slightly more grains than protein. At least half of your grains should be whole grains. Some frugal grain options are brown rice, whole grain pasta, oatmeal, and quinoa. Try to eat lean proteins, varying your food choices. Some frugal lean protein options are dried beans, nuts, eggs, lentils, and chicken. Dairy is in the corner. Add a cup of low-fat or skim milk or low-fat yogurt to your diet. Many typical dairy products such as whole milk, butter, ice cream, etc. are loaded with fat and extra calories. Look for calcium rich, low-fat options.
Watch out for excess sodium or sugar in the foods that you eat. Many prepared foods are packed with excess salt, all of that sodium adds up. Use flavorful ingredients such as onion, garlic, pepper or spices so that you don’t have to add a lot of excess table salt. Cut down on sugary drinks. Instead, drink water, low-fat milk, or 100% fruit juices. For dessert, choose less sugary options like frozen, low-fat yogurt or fresh fruit.
For more information on building a nutritious meal check out these tips or this healthy eating brochure. Looking for some help completing your fitness and healthy eating goals? Check out WebMD’s free food and fitness planner. Get healthy on a budget!
Join the Conversation: What are some of your favorite nutritious, frugal foods?