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04/25/2018

A Healthy Diet on a Low Budget

You are studying and you have to budget carefully. How will this affect your diet? Many of the most nourishing foods are inexpensive. What are they and how do you prepare a tasty meal?

Diet is the main contributor to your health and well-being. Your clarity of mind and energy levels are affected by what you eat. This does not mean your diet has to be complicated or expensive. Simple meals made with the right ingredients can provide you with all you need nutritionally. The clue to a good diet is to remember the body’s basic needs and to think whole meal.

Carbohydrates

This is what our bodies need most and the various foods that contain carbohydrates need to form the basis of a good diet. However, the provision of energy to the body through carbohydrates happens differently according to the qualities of the food. Fruits, whole grains, and vegetables are good carbohydrate providers. Carbohydrates are broken down in the body into sugar molecules that can be absorbed into the bloodstream. Fiber is not digested; it simply passes through the body and aids elimination. The speed at which the conversion takes place is what must be considered when writing a shopping list. All processed carbohydrates such as white bread, pastries, white sugar etc. are converted at a faster rate than carbohydrates which are unprocessed and contain fiber. It is the fiber that slows down the conversion rate and helps to provide you with an ongoing energy supply rather than a quick burst. Always make sure you have a good supply of fiber. If you prefer to eat white rice then make sure you eat whole meal bread as a balance, or whole grain cereals for breakfast. A packet of oats to prepare your own muesli mix is not expensive. Soak in fruit juice overnight and add grated apple and yogurt in the morning and you have a cheap and healthy breakfast that contains plenty of fiber and healthy carbohydrates. Another healthy and cheap addition to your breakfast, rich in good carbohydrates and fiber, is whole meal toasted bread. Although whole meal bread may be more expensive to buy than a loaf of sliced white bread, the whole meal option will last longer, provide more nutrition and energy and therefore see you less likely to be snacking during the day because your energy is flagging.

Protein

Most of our body is built on protein. The basic building blocks of protein are amino acids which are found in a variety of foods. Meat, fish, and dairy products provide the most complete combination of amino acids for the body. Vegetables, pulses and nuts are also good sources but if you are vegetarian you must ensure you eat a good variety of plant sources to provide all the amino acids needed by the body. The whole range of Soya products are good, from Soya milk, yogurt and tofu, many delicious meals can be prepared which have the added bonus of being low in fat. Whether vegetarian or not, on a low budget you may well be eating less meat and the addition of pulses such as lentils and beans is both healthy and cheap. The red Egyptian lentils are the easiest to use as they do not require overnight soaking. Hummus, which is made from garbanzos, can be spread on your whole meal bread and together with a salad provide a cheap, fast, and nourishing meal. When eating meat on a low budget first consider eating less. If you buy cuts for stewing and casseroles you do not need a lot as here you can also add beans and plenty of vegetables. Minced meat is also cheap and very diverse in its uses. One of my favorite meals, especially during the winter, is a lentil and root vegetable soup with the addition of small pieces of tofu, dipped first in Soya sauce and then fried. This is cheap and very nourishing with plenty of good carbohydrates, protein, and fiber.

Fats and Oils

It is not about how much fat you consume that constitutes a healthy diet but the quality. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Margarine is definitely out. Butter is better but you can try dribbles of olive oil, or if you are spreading peanut butter, hummus, or jam on your toast you do not really need butter as well. Olive oil, peanut oil, nuts, and avocados are all examples of good oils that will not adversely affect your health, quite the opposite. Remember to buy unrefined oil when you can. It is not the cheapest and is therefore to be used with moderation on a cheap budget but you will have enough cheap ingredients in your diet to allow spending a little more on food that is essential for your health. One solution to paying less is to club together with a group of friends and to buy larger quantities, which always comes cheaper. This can be done with other foods as well such as lentils, oats, spices, and all the pulses.

Fruit and vegetables

The list of benefits from eating more than five portions of fruit and vegetables a day is long. Some fruit and vegetables are more expensive than others. Find what is cheapest in your area and buy some staples such as carrots, apples, and cabbage, then add a few others for variety. The local market is probably a cheaper place to buy than a supermarket.

Drinks

Avoid sugary, fizzy drinks. Water and herbal teas are cheap and healthy. Hot milk and honey is a good warmer in winter and home-made lemonade is a great refresher in the summer. One of my favorite drinks which is also a good protein provider is Soya milk mixed with fruit juice.

Snacks

We all like snacks between meals and this is probably when the greatest temptation to eat junk food arises and rapidly depletes your budget. Make your own mixes with nuts and raisins, they are filling and healthy.

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