As a detox health resort, we take nutrition seriously and before any guest leaves, we give him or her tips and advice which will help to maintain a healthy diet once back at home and start eating healthy on a budget. Part of this advice is to start eating healthy, but sometimes a person says “well I don’t have the money or time to always practice this.” Understood; after all, fresh food prices are constantly rising as is the average person’s workload. Most likely, that number on your paycheck is not.
Rather than just telling an individual to “make it work”, we set out to determine a few different ways to overcome the lack of money and time. It took some in-depth consideration; especially, when here in Thailand, eating healthy, on even the smallest budgets, is fairly easy. Armed with direct feedback from our guests, nutritionist and New Leaf General Manager, Air, here are the best solutions we came up with to eating healthy on a budget with very little free time.
In Thailand, fast food restaurants are growing in popularity within the cities, but are rare beyond them. However, in the west, they are nearly as abundant as petrol stations. This easy access targets a lot of people who lack time, but also think they are getting their bang for their buck. All too often, I hear “fast food is the cheapest eating option in my neighbourhood” and when I do, I try to break this down in a logical and factual way. Say the average meal at a fast food restaurant is $5; therefore, a dinner for two costs $10. Now, take this same $10 and head to a local grocer. You could easily get a bag of brown rice, a few carrots, beans, a head of broccoli and chicken breasts for $10; you may even have some money left over.
Head to the discount section and you’re golden. Now you might be thinking, “Well that’s great, but I still don’t have the time”. Okay try this, get out an oven dish, cut up the veggies, add them with the chicken to the dish. Sprinkle on olive oil and seasonings. Pop it in the oven and while that’s cooking, make your rice. Preparing a meal like this will take about 15 min. which is sometimes the amount of time you spend in the restaurant’s line. There is no arguing that this meal is far healthier than any fast food meal and can be eaten, even on a budget!
“I just don’t enjoy the taste of cooked vegetables”. It’s not only kids who say it; fortunately, there are ways to overcome this. But first, it’s important to note that a lot of these people are accustomed to eating canned or frozen vegetables. I don’t know about you, but I have never tasted fresh cooked green beans that taste like the ones in the can and when it comes to dehydrated beans, well all I can say is ‘impossible’. People, who eat a lot of processed foods, including canned goods, may not like the taste of fresh produce simply because they’re not used to the flavour.
To overcome this, there are two things you can try. The first way is to just allow your taste buds to get used to this big change in flavour; trust me, they will and you won’t ever want to revert to eating from a can again. The second way is to not believe the hype in that healthy food cannot be delicious. The fact is that healthy food is so good and unhealthy food, the stuff which comes in colourful packages, is actually very bland and has to be coated in artificial flavours to make it edible. Without these, often harmful, additives, no one would be eating this stuff. My point, taste and preferences can change.
Sometimes 24 hours a day is just not enough, or at least it seems that way. If you are not eating healthy because you lack the time to do so, try to start planning ahead. Workout what food items you want to buy at the store; if you’re trying to eat healthy on a budget as well, look for foods that suit this budget. For example, lentils, legumes, brown rice, oats and staple vegetables like carrots and cucumbers are, almost always, very cheap. With these things and a few spices, you could make an incredible soup or stew which will last for 3 or 4 days.
If you’re short for time, but trying to eat healthily, make things that you can store in the fridge and warm up throughout the week. You can also consider using a slow cooker. All you need to do is put everything in it before work and when you come home, dinner is already finished.
I cannot emphasize the importance of, at the least, reducing your intake of processed foods. Now, sometimes just because it comes in a bag doesn’t mean it’s bad. Take for example the lentils I just mentioned, you’ll find those on a shelf and in packaging, but they are loaded with nutrients and 100% natural. That being said, in most instances don’t go for the processed foods, especially if it has ingredients which cannot be pronounced or look something like ‘BHA’.
If you’re trying to eat healthy on a budget, aim for produce which is local to your area and in season; these will always be the cheapest, and freshest, foods available. Farmers markets are a great place to start; not to mention, that many offer organic veggies and fruits.
How many sodas, coffees or boxed juice do you consume in one week? Most people will be shocked to realize that a large amount of their spending is going to these beverages. They’re not good for the body; plus eliminating them will free up a lot of cash for healthier options. If you are not into only consuming water, there are cheaper and healthier options such as kombucha, herbal teas, coconut water, nut milk or fresh pressed juice.
Let’s face it; we all crave a dessert every now and then. Rather than telling you to avoid treating yourself to a dessert, I prefer to have you consider opting for healthier dessert options. Yes, it’s possible and best of all, can be done on a budget! A few easy ideas include a variety of raw desserts, as well as, one of our favourites, Air’s Frozen Whip. It tastes like ice cream, but could be eaten for breakfast; it’s that healthy.
With these solutions to eating healthy on a budget and with little time, you will no doubt find yourself regularly eating good, nutrient-packed food, while feeling great.