8 WAYS TO EAT HEALTHY ON THE CHEAP

JUST VISIT YOUR LOCAL HEALTH FOOD STORE, AND THE PROSPECT OF EATING HEALTHIER MAY SEEM WAY, WAY, WAY OUT OF YOUR BUDGET.

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And, at times, it can be. If you trade your favorite packaged foods for healthier versions, you could see your grocery budget go up by at least a 1/3 (it might even double). You can’t stop paying rent, mortgage or bills just so you can eat exotic foods found in the health food store (or I would not suggest you do)…so that dietary change you’re aching to do (and your body might be hurting for it too…) might seem utterly impossible. To start making dietary changes (healthy changes) on a minimal food budget, begin by slowly removing packaged and processed foods from your daily food regimen, and as your willpower and budget allow, incorporate more whole, fresh foods. Before you know it, your grocery cart will be filled to the brim with healthy, whole foods and you will see that the dietary change you were aching to do, has come true!

Yes, in a perfect world this may happen, but then you wake up from your dream and remember that money doesn’t grow on trees! For a majority of us, we have to live on a budget. Sometimes that budget grows and sometimes, well, it shrinks. Just remember not to continue shopping with the “growing budget” when you are on the “shrinking budget” and drain your bank account. So, when you’re not dreaming, and in the real world, how do you eat healthy while on a teeny weeny budget? Is it possible to buy enough groceries to feed two people for a week for less than $20? If you are conservative enough, then yes, it is, and if you do it for long enough where it becomes a skill when you do get that “dream” budget, you will (or hopefully) continue to shop as you did on the “shrinking budget.” So, what are the frugal ways to eat healthier?

1. Make a grocery list.

This simple task can really help reduce a lot of extraneous spending throughout the week. One missing ingredient or staple can mean a few more take-out lunches or dinners. So make it as easy as possible, and have a notepad on your fridge. As soon as you notice a staple is running low (less than a week left), add it to the list. Therefore, when it’s grocery-time, you don’t have to search through the fridge and cupboards to find what’s needed. You will more than likely only need to add some fresh produce and voila, your list is made.

2. Have important staples on hand.

Meal planning can be challenging. You may do great at planning out the first few days only to find yourself throwing something together by the end of the week, with what’s left in the fridge. And this can work, why? Because you already have certain staples on hand, such as:

  • Good oils: Extra virgin olive oil, virgin coconut oil, and sesame oil
  • Frozen veggies: They fill in the gaps if you’re running low at the end of the week
  • Beans: Dried or canned
  • Canned tuna or canned wild salmon
  • Whole grains: Rice, oats, quinoa
  • Condiments: Mustard, soy sauce (low sodium), balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, miso
  • Nut butter’s and hummus (excellent protein options)

Many lovely dinners can be made from these ingredients. So if these are not common staples, you may consider adding them to your new healthy diet repertoire.

3. Buy Seasonally.

A $6 container of strawberries in January or $4/lb for apples in June is not budget friendly. Buying “in season” can really reduce your grocery bill and your body will love it. Buy berries and tomatoes in the summer and freeze for use all year long.

4. Buy Cheaper Cuts of Meat.

This will really stretch your budget, and it might also allow you to buy organic or free-range instead of conventionally grown meats. Buy bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs or legs instead of boneless, skinless chicken breasts. Buy stewing beef instead of tenderloin and pull out your crockpot that’s collecting dust (or find one at a thrift shop). It will make that tougher cut absolutely delicious.

5. Enjoy More Vegetarian Meals.

This one step can save you SO much money, and it can be better for the planet! Beans and lentils are significantly cheaper sources of protein than meat. If you’re a heavy meat eater, try just 1 or 2 vegetarian lunches or dinners and watch your grocery bill go down!

6. Buy Whole Foods.

Instead of packaged or processed “healthy” foods. The most expensive meals at health food stores are the healthier versions of packaged foods (cereal, mac ‘n’ cheese, pizza, veggie burgers, etc.). Buy whole foods and try some new recipes. Use these packaged foods as an occasional treat.

7. Buy Grains and Beans in Bulk.

Bulk stores or bulk sections at your favorite health food store is a great place to save lots of money on your grocery bill. This is especially true for the more expensive grains like quinoa. Organic spices are also a great find in a bulk section; organic quality for the price of conventional.

8. Cook at Home.

If you’re currently eating out or even just buying coffee a few times per week, keep track of how much you’re spending. $10 here and $30 there can add up over a month, and this extra cash can really go far at the grocery store. Once you know how much you’re spending, you can budget for take-out or coffee treats you really want and put the rest into your grocery budget. If your favorite treat is wine (then we really need to get together for a glass!), enjoy a few glasses a week but ensure to spend any extra money on food quality first, then the booze. Your body undoubtedly prefers a good breakfast omelet over a hangover. And once you have high-quality foods and there is still some “bucks” left, then go ahead and buy that extra bottle!food-plate-morning-breakfast.jpg

If YOU have additional tips and tricks on how to stretch your grocery budget, please send me your ideas and share them in the comments! Happy food budgeting.

Adapted from: Lisa Kilgour, nutritionist

Nutrition Nugget

Make it easy! Keep a bowl of fruit on your kitchen table or countertop. It makes it easier to choose a healthy snack when it’s in plain sight!

WOD Nugget

Picayune: A small coin of little value, especially a 5-cent piece.

Inspirational Nugget 

Don't be a beggar of love, be a donor of love, beautiful people are not always good, but good people are always beautiful.

“This path entails uncovering three qualities of being human, three basic qualities that have always been with us but perhaps have gotten buried and been almost forgotten. These qualities are natural intelligence, natural warmth, and natural openness. If we are not obscuring our intelligence with anger, self-pity or craving, we know what will help and what will make things worse. Natural warmth is our shared capacity to love, to have empathy, to have a sense of humor. It is also our capacity to feel gratitude and appreciation and tenderness. The third quality of basic goodness is natural openness, the spaciousness of our skylike minds. We can connect with that openness at any time. For instance, right now, for three seconds, just stop reading and pause.”

-Pema ChÖdrÖn

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Signs You Are Not Eating Enough

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With so much discussion about health problems related to being overweight or obese, the topic of undereating may not appear to a huge concern, but believe me, it is. Often, when individuals are working on weight loss, fitness gain or performance optimization, the issue of undereating comes up just as frequently as overeating does. We all know why it’s so easy to eat too much: portion sizes have expanded dramatically, bulk buying habits encourage us to keep more food around at all times, we’ve been encouraged to snack in between meals with little regard for hunger cues, and so many of our modern foods are less satiating than fresh, wholesome food we ate just a generation or two ago (low in fiber and protein, high in refined carbohydrates).

It’s not so easy to understand why so many people are chronically undereating for their health, but a major contributor is the emphasis on calorie math that leads so many people into risky dieting patterns. Don’t get me wrong, managing calories appropriately is critical for weight loss and body composition management. However, if we’re not careful, a calorie math-focused mindset can be a risk factor for a number of negative adaptations.

Logically, chopping a couple hundred calories out of your daily intake can seem like a no-brainer way to encourage your body to burn extra energy from fat stores. And it will probably work for most people – at least temporarily. As many internet calorie calculators would have you believe, if you want faster results you can choose a larger energy deficit and get a faster linear path to weight loss. So if eliminating 300 Calories from your normal day is good, dropping 500 or 1000 Calories is even better, right?

It’s just not that easy! Our physiology is smart. It likes balance and homeostasis. We’re wired for survival, not for six-pack abs. If you’ve found yourself in a place where you’ve followed “diets” below your true caloric needs for any length of time, you’ve probably begun to experience at least some of the negative consequences of not eating enough.

It takes a trained eye to spot the main indications of not eating enough. But once you learn these main signals, you’ll be more likely to enjoy continued progress towards your goals through more ideal eating patterns. Note: the downfalls of “not eating enough” discussed below are in the context of persistent or prolonged undereating (longer than a few weeks), not necessarily indicative of missing a single meal or eating too little for a couple of days.

Your diet changes who you are.

Irritable, anxious, mentally exhausted, foggy-brained, unable to focus, or mildly obsessed with or fixated on food? Sounds like what happens when you go on a diet, right? Most of us have experienced episodes of “hanger” or mustered through periods of difficult concentration on our mission to lose a few pounds of pudge.

It is not wise to take these mood or cognitive changes lightly though. They are serious signs that your metabolism is beginning to make negative adaptations to the caloric deficit you’re experiencing. Our brains consume about 20% of our total energy expenditure, which is why when you go on a lower-calorie diet by restricting total intake by 20 to 50%, you become a fundamentally different person. Whether it’s the frank energy shortage or insufficient intake of nutrients your brain depends on to maintain healthy neurotransmitter levels, undereating leads to significant brain changes.

If your brain is chronically deprived of energy to operate at full capacity, you’re eventually going to experience cognitive deficits including memory changes, impaired alertness, judgement or concentration. If the energy deficit is extreme enough – like the restriction experienced by subjects of the Minnesota Starvation Experiment of the 1940’s – the mental and cognitive changes can border on psychosis and perhaps even be permanent. Those subjects were fed an average of 1600 calories per day during the six month “starvation” phase of the experiment.

This was a 50% calorie reduction from their baseline, which sounds extreme, but compared to many persons, this is not an unrealistic difference between “normal” eating and their “dieting” intakes. The effects of “starvation” on these subjects were profound, and included changes in sense of humor, increased self-criticism, and altogether negative changes to social affect. Even without cutting calorie intake in half, conscious calorie monitoring or restriction increases cortisol output and perceived stress. In other words, consciously not eating “enough” automatically makes you less resilient against the stresses of daily life.

This shows us how important it is to complement any “dieting” efforts with a healthy amount of monitoring of our mental and social well-being through strong social support systems and consistent self-reflection or gratitude. Calories are not more important than character. If you sense your mood, cognition or personality changing, it may be one of the first indicators that your “diet” is leading to negative adaptations.

Your physical health suffers.

Often times, we ignore the first negative signs of not eating enough (brain changes) because we’re motivated by aesthetically-focused outcomes. So, we press on and suffer through the next set of negative adaptations that can arise from chronic under-feeding; physical breakdown. Sometimes it can be difficult to tell if these changes are completely negative or just part of the process of improving fitness. Because experiencing soreness, lowering resting pulse and blood pressure, and some fatigue are to be expected as we go through a training or weight loss program. However, one must continually evaluate their physical resilience to make sure their calorie intake is sufficient to maintain their health as their physique changes.

To lose weight the right way, you can’t just monitor your scale weight. You must measure other indicators of physical change such as body fat changes, lean mass levels, physical performance and physical health. Are your skin, hair, and nails looking healthier and are you feeling younger as you trim down or are you noticing visual and sensory signs of premature aging?

For example, if you’re losing more muscle than fat, you’re not eating enough. If you’re not gaining or maintaining your physical strength or abilities week to week, you’re probably not eating enough. If you’re noticing extended soreness after workouts, prolonged healing time, or your hair is falling out more easily, you’re definitely not feeding your body enough to positively adapt to your program.

Evidence suggests that eating enough calories to support progressively harder physical training (as opposed to cutting calories to induce weight loss) is the better way to promote physical health and physique changes (loss of body fat and gain of lean tissue). At least one study showed significantly poorer exercise performance capacity when subjects restricted their calories by an average of 12% from their baseline. The subjects experienced dramatic decreases in VO2, muscle size and muscle strength over the course of twelve months.

It’s commonly assumed that maximizing fat loss is often accompanied by performance plateaus and/or mild decreases, but this study suggested energy deficits created through smart training rather than dietary restriction ultimately results in both fat loss and performance improvement. That’s the holy grail of health improvement, and it happens when we’re fed well enough to physically repair from the exercise stress we encounter. Unfortunately, many people try to chronically diet and exercise to double up on the calorie math advantage. What happens after more than a couple weeks of this?

Your hormonal ‘soup’ sours.

The longer your body experiences under-nourishment, the more severely it will adapt. The adaptations are aimed at survival, so any system that’s not absolutely necessary to survival gets down-regulated. As mentioned above, our stress hormones elevate mainly to support the energy needs of our vital organs (at the expense of all other tissues like muscle).

Chronic elevations in cortisol can cause the hormones that control our metabolic rate to decrease significantly, sometimes in as little as a few weeks of being on an energy restricted diet. This decrease results in a decrease in our body temperature, brain activity, heart rate, digestive processes and just about every other system in our body. Reproductive hormones often plummet (mainly testosterone in men and progesterone in women) so much that libido, affect and reproductive cycles become severely or even permanently deranged.

It’s quite unfortunate, but the repeated cycles of dieting and weight re-gain often lead to significant alterations in hormonal balance, which are often combatted by even more extreme dieting patterns. It’s a vicious cycle.

What to do

You may not like this advice, but in order to optimize your fat loss and fitness, you probably need to abandon hopes of quick success and focus on the (slower) road to prolonged health. Ditch the use of internet-based calorie calculators that only account for your age, gender, height and weight. These calculators do not account for your dieting or exercise history, so they can only apply an overly-simplified calorie math equation that cannot predictably help you optimize your physiology. Consult with a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist who can provide an individual assessment of you metabolism and physiology needs. Happy Healthy!!

Adapted from: Paul Kriegler, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Find Time To Sleep! No amount of multivitamins, super foods or juices can help you if you are neglecting your REM cycle. Sleeping seven plus hours per night is required in order for the body to detoxify, repair and rebuild for the next day. When you are tired you will oftentimes opt for food that is high in sugar and caffeine to give you that temporary energy boost. Failing to ignore your body’s silent cries for sleep can result in potential health issues, as well as weight gain.

Daily Inspiration 

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