During stressful times, dieters often reach for calorie-rich foods, skip the gym after a rough day, or indulge in other bad-for-you behaviors. Never go shopping when hungry. Make sure to fill your tank with a healthy snack or meal beforehand.
It is during difficult times, however, that taking good care of you is perhaps more critical than ever. Planning out healthy meals and eating right is one way to do just that while providing yourself a greater sense of control and calm.
People often believe that healthy foods are more expensive. However, a study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that consumers were able to cut their weekly food bill when they purchased fewer extras such as sodas, chips, baked goods and other high calorie items. When working with a limited budget, shopping for healthy, nutrient-dense foods can actually help you save money at the supermarket.
Here are 11 tips for making healthful food choices without breaking the bank:
Plan ahead. Make a grocery list that includes menu items and healthy snacks, and plan your meals around supermarket specials.
Take only as much money as you need for the items on your list.
Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and look for produce sales.
Choose bulk quantities to reduce the price. Break them down into smaller quantities and freeze until needed.
If you want to spend less, cook more. Convenience foods cost more because youâ€™re paying someone else to do the work.
Buy generic. Supermarket and generic brands are often similar in quality, nutrition, and taste to name brand.
Limit dining out. It is always less expensive to prepare foods yourself.
"Cook it once, eat it twice." For example, grill a double batch of chicken one night, and use the leftover chicken the next night over a Caesar salad, mixed with sauce over whole-grain pasta, or made into a chicken fajita. This also saves on prep time the second night!
Use the food you buy. A study showed that Americans waste 14% of their foods. You can freeze leftovers for future soups, stews, or casserole dishes. Date everything you add to the freezer, and a make a habit of going through the freezer periodically.
Choose some non-meat protein sources each week such as hearty soups with beans and lentils, and add vegetables and brown rice or whole-grain pasta to create a low-budget, nutritious meal.
To avoid making unhealthy decisions in times of stress or fatigue, be sure to plan, follow these budget-conscious guidelines, and take care of yourself by making healthful choices and taking good care of yourself.
Lisa M. Davis, Ph.D., PA-C, C.N.S., L.D.N. is Director of Research and Development for Medifast. She holds a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University with a focus in Obesity Research, and she is currently the Director of Research and Development for the Medifast Program, a leading portion-controlled clinically proven weight loss program and co-author of the book, Anti-Inflammatory Foods for Health.