Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD
How to eat healthy at home
Updated: May 4, 2021
With the pandemic keeping most of us at home most days, it can be difficult at this point to find ways to be creative with meal time, let alone stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. Also, with many budgets tight, eating healthy may seem impossible at this time. Keep reading to learn tips on how to eat healthy at home on a budget. No cooking experience necessary.
What is eating healthy?
Healthy eating is a bit different for everyone depending on your food allergies or intolerances, your health status, and your food preferences, to name a few. For example, someone with diabetes may need to limit carbohydrates per meal or someone with irritable bowel syndrome may need to limit fat in their diet.
However, for most people, healthy eating can be summed up in the following tips:
Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables
Fruits and vegetables contain a variety of nutrients like potassium, fiber, folate, and vitamins A and C, to name a few. Try to eat at least 2 cups of each fruits and vegetables each day to reap the most nutrients from each day. Enjoy fruits and vegetables as snacks like raw baby carrots with hummus or an apple on the go. Or enjoy produce with meals like in salads, steamed or roasted vegetables, or in soups.
Consume enough protein daily
Protein is important for many reasons including the maintenance of lean muscle mass you need for mobility as well as for producing enzymes that your body processes need each day. The average adult should consume about 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight. So, if you weigh 200 pounds, then divide this by 2.2 to obtain your daily protein goal, which in this case would be about 91 grams daily.
You may need more protein daily if you are ill, injured, or if you are very active. The following portion sizes of protein-rich foods contain about 6 to 9 grams of protein each.
One ounce of chicken, beef, turkey, or pork
One large egg
One ounce of salmon, shrimp, or tuna fish
One-half cup beans or peas
One cup cooked spinach
One cup cooked quinoa
One ounce of peanuts or pumpkin seeds
Two tablespoons peanut butter
One ounce cheese
One cup milk or yogurt
One-half cup cottage cheese
Reduce intake of added sugar daily
There are some sugars in dairy products (lactose) and sugars in fruits (fructose) that are naturally occurring, which are fine in moderation. However, you should try to reduce the amount of added sugar in your diet each day like that from high fructose corn syrup found in food products like candy, colas, and certain sauces, for example. You can find the amount of added sugar on the nutrition label of foods under the total carbohydrate section.
Drink plenty of fluids daily
It's important to stay hydrated each day by drinking plenty of low to no-calorie fluids each day like water, unsweetened tea, coffee (four cups daily or less), flavored water, or seltzer water. Experts suggest that most adults drink around 11 to 15 cups of fluid each day for optimal health.
How can you eat healthy on a budget?
When you think of eating healthy, you may imagine it has to cost a lot to do so. However, there are tips to help you eat healthy every day without breaking the bank which include:
Buying in bulk
Even if it's only one or two people that you're cooking for, buying certain foods in bulk can save you money in the long run. This includes meats, frozen vegetables and fruits, as well as whole grains like oatmeal and brown rice. With meats, just keep out what you're cooking for the next few days and place the rest in freezer bags and place in your freezer for later use. Be sure to write the date on the bags so you use them within three or four months for most meats and about nine months for chicken and turkey.
Purchasing frozen vegetables
You may think that frozen vegetables are not as good as fresh, so you don't buy them. However, research reports that in a study of common produce items (corn, carrots, broccoli, spinach, peas, green beans, strawberries, and blueberries), the vitamin content of the frozen commodities was was about the same, and in some case higher than that of their fresh counterparts. Therefore, just buy certain produce items fresh like salad greens, fruits like bananas and oranges, and herbs when you need them. And for the rest, choose frozen produce items in bulk to save money and prevent waste.
Finding out what day manager's specials are released
Certain grocery stores have what is called manager's specials or something similar. basically, it means that they place items almost to their sell-by date on sale for about 30-percent or more off the regular price. You may want to ask staff what day their special items are placed on the store shelves so you can have first pick at them. You may have to use or freeze these items within a few days of purchase however, so be sure you make room for them on your daily menu before you buy them.
Taking advantage of daily specials
and check out their weekly specials. You can plan your meals and snacks around these specials to save money.
Eating seasonal produce
Choose produce that is seasonal since it is more plentiful and in turn less expensive and more flavorful. You can find out which produce items are in season by checking out this list created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). And if you want to grow your own produce, use this planting calendar by Your Yard Guru to help you reap the most harvest from your garden.
How do I prepare healthy food?
Once you buy the healthy food, you may wonder how to prepare it to make quick and easy meals during the week. Read below for some tips on how to create delicious, healthy meals no matter how much time you have or how much cooking experience you have.
Roast vegetables with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper for an easy recipe with lots of flavor. Roast vegetables like diced sweet potato, baby carrots, green beans, or Brussels sprouts at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 25 to 35 minutes, or until slightly browned.
Boil chicken tenders for about 30 minutes for a quick and easy to prepare meat. This cooking method helps maintain the juiciness of chicken breast, which can usually dry out during baking. After it's cooked, sprinkle on herbs and seasonings like basil, oregano, rosemary, garlic powder, salt, pepper, or seasoning salt for a simple and delicious flavor.
Cook up ground turkey or lean ground beef in a pan until browned after about 7 to 9 minutes. Drain any fat into a can and add seasonings like cumin, chili powder, sage, or ginger to the meat with a bit of salt and pepper for a simple and delicious flavor. Use the meat in tacos, wraps, or on top of steamed rice or veggies in a bowl for an easy, healthy meal.
Cook shrimp by boiling one cup of water and a few tablespoons of apple cider or white vinegar or medium-high heat. Bring water to a boil and add frozen or fresh shrimp. Add cover to pot and cook shrimp until pink for about 4 minutes or so. Drain water and enjoy with your favorite steamed vegetables and/or rice.
This is a challenging time for everyone and for many of us, meal time is the one time of day that can provide some bit of comfort. Over time though eating a lot of comfort food full of fat and sugar can have a negative impact on your health. However, it can be comforting to know that eating healthy can fit within your budget and doesn't have to take a lot of time and effort to cook.
Keep following Lighttrack Nutrition for more tips on eating healthy and if you prefer recipes, pick up Lighttrack Nutrition's cookbook today for protein-packed recipe ideas for post-bariatric patients or for those who just want to eat more protein and less carbohydrates in their daily diet. Also, check out this Healthy Eating Guide by Lean with Style that gives you more simple tips to create a healthy, balanced diet and lifestyle.