Eating Clean on a Budget

living well on a budget“I can’t afford to eat healthy”… That, my dear friends, is total BS.  The truth is you can’t afford NOT to eat healthy.  A recent study done by Harvard School of Public Health showed that the difference in cost between healthy & unhealthy eating habits was only $1.50 a day.  But let’s face it, if you have a really, really tight budget, $1.50/day might as well be $50.  So here are some very realistic ways to eating clean on a budget without totally ripping apart your wallet.  Here are some of the most common ways to save some dough:

  1. Reduce the amount of spending you do on convenience foods:  those 100 calorie snack packs might be easy but they are certainly way more expensive than a DIY project of pre-packaging those same snacks yourself.  Dressings and sauces fall in this category too.  Do some research and learn how to make your own in a tasty, healthy, and more economical way.  Fresh is always best!
  2. Be wise with your organics:   Not EVERYTHING you buy needs to be organic.  Be picky and choosy when it comes to your selections and you’ll save some cha-ching in the process.  Have you heard of the “Dirty Dozen”???  These are produce that tend to absorb the most pesticides, so they’re the ones you should concentrate on purchasing organic.  Then we have the “Clean 15” which is where you really want to focus your savings.  These are produce that absorb the least amount of pesticides and are therefore, not as urgent on the list of “must haves” when it comes to buying organic.
  3. Buy in bulk:  It’s true that many items can be purchased in bulk to save you quite a bit of cash.  But only buy in bulk if you’ve got the storage space for it.  Otherwise, you’ll end up wasting all those extra goodies if the mice or other varmints get into them!
  4. Buy in season:  When your produce is in season, it’s much more readily available and therefore, often times cheaper.
  5. Fresh is best. Frozen is next:  Can’t find something in season?  Don’t be afraid to buy the frozen version, especially for veggies.  Just avoid the stuff with added sauces or ingredients.  All that stuff just adds sodium and calories that you just don’t need.

Anywhere you do research on eating clean on a budget, you’ll see some version of those items listed above.  But what else can you do to curb your spending on healthy foods?  These are some of the items I find the most helpful in my house:

  1. Plan ahead:  Nothing will save you more time and money in the long run than having a plan and sticking to it.  Start your week off right by putting together a menu, writing out your grocery list based on that menu, and then prepping ahead of time.  Chances are, you’ll be less likely to pick up that extra something-something from the convenience store or vending machine because you’ll already have healthy snacks/meals right at your fingertips.
  2. Organize, organize, organize:  Take a weekend to clean out your spice rack and re-organize it.  Put them in alphabetical order or sort them by savory vs sweet.  Whatever floats your boat, just make a mental note of what seasonings you have available, how long have they been sitting in there, and what you can use them all for.  (not sure how long those spices are good for?  Check THIS OUT.)  Now what about your fridge?  Do you know what’s lurking in that back corner or how long it’s been there?  And how about that pantry?  Go through it and know what you already have.  Now use all of this information to develop a menu that uses all of these resources before going out and buying more stuff.
  3. Technology can be a lifesaver:  And it can save your wallet too!  I’m sure you’ve heard to “Shop the Sales”, right?  Well, these apps take this concept to a whole new level:
    1. Did you know that specific stores have their own apps to tell you what’s on sale and at what price?  Check out Whole Foods, Aldi, and Target as some examples.  Do a Google search of your favorite store(s) to see if they offer an app too!
    2. Key Ring is another fantastic app that shows you sales at a variety of stores, no-clip coupons, a place to put in your shopping list, AND it holds all of those stupid loyalty key cards all in one place.  No more bogging down your car keys with those little plastic cards!
    3. Ibotta is another that touts its ability to save you money thru cash back rewards.  It supports a variety of big and small supermarkets including Target, Walmart, Kroger, Price Chopper, and Stop & Shop.
  4. Eat leftovers: Waste not, want not!  Eating leftovers saves you tons of time AND money by having foods readily available for times when you’re on the go.  I find life so much easier when we plan ahead and make enough food the night before to pack away into my lunch for the next day.  Don’t want to eat exactly the same thing 2 days in a row?  Consider taking the main ingredient from dinner and transforming it into something new the next day.  Here are some examples:
    1. Take a whole chicken roaster and make chicken salad or pulled chicken sandwiches from it for lunch.  Depending on how much chicken you have left over, this could give you lunches for days!
    2. Grill a steak for dinner then slice up the rest for a steak salad or steak fajitas the next day.  Just by adding a few ingredients, presto chango, you have a whole new meal!

Now, how are you feeling about eating clean on a budget?  Is it doable?  What tricks and tools do you use to get you and your family eating clean on a budget?

Tips for Eating Healthy on the Road

eating healthy on the roadThe key to success at ANY TIME is to plan ahead and be prepared.  That doesn’t change when you’re heading out on vacation or to a party.  In fact, it’s even more important to plan healthy eating on the road.  Here are some tips that we use to keep on track… well, at least 80% of the time!

1.  Pack snacks that make sense:  I’m not talking about 100 calorie snack packs of crap here.  Just because they’re “only 100 calories” doesn’t mean they’re good for you.

  • Oatmeal is the perfect breakfast.  Pre-portion out 1/2 cup oatmeal with a little bit of raisins, some cinnamon, and add a little flaxseed or chopped nuts for a protein punch.  Put this heavenly mixture into a snack bag and it’s a perfect portable for breakfast or a mid-day snack.  Any place you stop along the way will have hot water and a coffee cup to do your mixing and eating.
  • Nuts and fruit go hand in hand.  Measure out a small handful of unsalted almonds, cashews, or peanuts into snack baggies and keep some fruit on hand to pair it with.  Apples, oranges, or bananas work well.  Mixing the protein and healthy fat from the nuts with the carbs from the fruit will give you energy that lasts.
  • String cheese and fruit is another great combo if you’re not into the nut scene.  But note, I only mention string cheese here.  It’s lower in sodium and in fat then it’s hard cheese counterparts which makes it a healthier option to choose from.
  • Don’t like string cheese?  What about Greek yogurt?  Pair some of that with some fruit and a smidge of cinnamon and a sprinkling of stevia and you have another wonder snack on your hands.

2.  Pack & drink plenty of water.  I know, this may mean a couple extra pit stops along the way, but staying hydrated will help you feel fuller longer, you won’t mistake the thirst you’re actually feeling for hunger signals, and it will keep you energized for the trip.  (who can sleep when you have to pee???  just kidding… not really)

3.  Stay committed to your exercise plan. No EXCUSES!  There is really no reason for you not to workout to the programs you’ve committed to.  With streaming access through any WiFi enabled device and your BOD account, you can take your workouts on the go.  Even if you’re doing a strength training based workout, bring that resistance band with you instead of lugging around heavy weights.  Believe me, those bands work!

4.  Skimp on the alcohol.   I’m not saying NEVER have it, but limit yourself and select alcoholic beverages that are low in sugar and empty calories.  Alcohol is also a diuretic (which means it makes you pee!) so be sure that for every alcoholic beverage you drink, you’re adding another full glass of water as your chaser.

5.  Ask for what you want.  It’s no secret that restaurants add salt and saturated fats to their foods to make them taste good.  But those fats add way too many extra calories which means you’re more likely to pack on the pounds while you’re away.  Don’t be afraid to ask for substitutions – steam your veggies instead of sauteing them. Ask for dressings and sauces on the side so that you can control how much goes on your food.  Stick with baked, grilled, or broiled main dishes.  Ask for more veggies and less starchy stuff – like skipping the bread basket or loading up on pasta.

What about special events???  The same 5 items listed above pertain to these fun gatherings too, but here are some other tips to keep you sane and in control while still partying it up with friends and family:

  • Eat before you go – fill up on healthy stuff so that you’re less likely to be tempted once you get there.
  • Got your eye on a sweet surprise?  Then choose just ONE happy ending and make the portion match your goals.  Savoring every single bite will make that smaller portion seem like it’s much bigger and is lasting much longer.  It also gives your tastebuds time to register with your brain and stomach to say when enough is enough.
  • Select from healthier fare first – go ahead and fill your plate up with the healthier stuff first.  If you’re still hungry and want to dabble with the other stuff after that, go ahead… but again, keep those portions in check.
  • Be social – the whole point behind going to these types of events isn’t to get sucked in by the buffet table; it’s to spend time with friends and family and socialize.  So go ahead, be that social butterfly you always wanted to be.  Spend time catching up with the people in your life and you’ll end the night realizing it wasn’t all about the food.
  • Nobody will notice what you are/aren’t eating – when you’ve been busy flitting about the room talking with one person after another, no one is going to be paying attention to what you did or didn’t eat.  Even if they did, you have to decide what’s more important – the dessert table or that smokin’ hot body you’ve been working so hard towards.

Eating healthy on the road won’t be easy but you’ll feel so GREAT knowing you were able to stick to your goals at least 80% of the time!

Emotional Eating – Gaining Control

Emotional eating

I don’t know anyone who isn’t guilty of doing this at one point in their life or another!  And it’s not just women who have this issue – there are plenty of men out there too that struggle with eating their emotions.  So let’s talk about the primary reasons why most of us eat for emotion or comfort:

1.  It’s habit.  You just do it without thinking about it.  Before I started getting serious about my health and what I put into it, I didn’t think much about popping a cookie (or 7) into my mouth just because they were there.  And I didn’t track how many times a day I did it so those extra “little” calories ended up being huge problems for my girlish figure.  So what do you do about it?  First, if you don’t buy it, it won’t be there to tempt you.  Second, if it’s there because someone else bought it, then you have to stop and ask yourself WHY you’re eating it.  Are you truly hungry?  Is it just because it’s there and sounds good?

2.  You’re a social butterfly.  And wouldn’t it be rude to not eat?  My big one is not getting popcorn when I go to the movies.  I mean really, who goes to the movies and doesn’t eat popcorn???   Nobody’s saying you can’t have ANY but we all know there’s no good reason to buy the humongous tub o’ popcorn.  Why not air pop and pack your own?  And bring other snacks with you while you’re at it.  Do the same thing when you’re at a party.  Bring something you know won’t sabotage all the hard work you’ve put in!  Preparation is what will save you.

3.  You think you’re smarter than the average bear and that sugar has no hold on you. If that’s true, then you should have no problem cutting crap from your diet.  But if you’re like most people, it’s gonna be a problem on some level unless you do a few things differently.  First, when you’re having a craving or feel hungry, try drinking water first.  Sometimes hunger is mistaken for thirst.   Second, eat at least 3 regular meals every day – even on the weekends.  Even if you’re “too busy” at work.  If you don’t take the time to feed your body, it’s not going to take the time to reward you by feeling great and having tons of energy.  Trust me, this works.

I want you to read through this list of reasons why people eat other than hunger and put a check mark by the ones that apply to you:

1.  To alleviate boredom
2.  To socialize
3.  To recapture a feeling or memory
4.  To celebrate a special occasion
5.  To fill a void or missing need
6.  To feel good
7.  To feel safe
8.  To feel comforted
9.  As a reward
10. Out of habit or ritual (i.e. bedtime snacking in front of the TV).

So every time you start to feel yourself saying, I deserve this!  Stop and ask yourself what exactly it is you think you deserve.  Do you deserve to feel miserable 5 or 10 minutes from now?  Do you deserve that muffin top or thunder thighs?  Do you deserve the verbal lashing you’ll give yourself because you caved in again?  You are working so hard in the physical arena by exercising regularly so why not have your nutrition match those efforts?   Is cake, chocolate, chips, fries, or [insert your go to junk food here] going to be your long term solution?  Or is it just covering the surface of a deeper emotional issue you’re struggling with today?

Think about things you can do instead of eating.  This lifestyle change isn’t a fad.  It’s not going away and it’s not meant to starve you.  It’s meant to help you think BEFORE you react with food.  To give MORE THOUGHT to what you truly want out of life and whether or not food will continue to be your master.

How to tell the difference between Physical and Emotional Hunger:

(from Jaclyn Stokes)

  • Physical hunger builds up gradually, starting with a tiny grumble in the stomach, growing to full blown hunger pangs.  Emotional hunger develops suddenly.
  • With physical hunger you can wait to have it.  Emotional hunger seems to demand immediate satisfaction.
  • Physical hunger usually appears about 3 hours after the last meal or snack.  Emotional hunger can happen at any time.
  • Physical hunger is usually a general desire for food.  Emotional hunger is usually a desire for a specific food.
  • After eating for physical hunger, the hunger goes away.  After emotional eating the hunger persists.
  • After eating for physical hunger, you get a sense of satisfaction.  After eating for emotional reasons, you feel guilty!

If you are hungry then drink a big glass of water.  Quite often hunger is disguised as thirst.  Wait 20 minutes and if you are still hungry then ask yourself.  “Has it been 2 1/2 to 3 hrs since I ate last?”  If it has then go ahead and have a small meal.  If it hasn’t been that long reach for some fresh veggies!

Try keeping your mind busy, go outside, play with the kids, take a walk, read a book or call a friend!  Keep you mind out of the kitchen and on other more important tasks!

When you do eat, eat slowly and take your time.  Savor each bite and allow your brain and your stomach to catch up to each other.  Really appreciating how that food tastes and feels in your mouth makes the smaller portions more satisfying.

Make the choice today to end emotional eating!  Join a group for support like mine and together we can work through emotional eating, what to eat and how much food to eat!  You are not alone in this battle and it doesn’t matter how little or much weight you have to lose it can be done!!!