28 Easy Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget

Real Money Talk woman tossing a salad in her kitchen

Eating healthy is something we’re all aware we should strive to do, but it’s safe to say choosing an apple over french fries is much easier said than done. A healthy lifestyle looks different for everyone, and it’s not a quick fix but rather a long-term investment that works within your own, individual lifestyle. Finding time to make healthy decisions is hard enough, but it becomes even more challenging when funds are limited.

Unfortunately, rising food prices only makes this whole healthy eating thing that much more difficult. But the benefits of a healthy diet are indisputable, and we’re here to show you that eating healthy on a budget can be done! Whether you despise cooking, you’re tempted by office snacks, or can’t seem to control yourself on vacation, we’ve rounded up 28 easy ways to eat healthy on a budget regardless of the circumstance life throws at you.

Benefits of Eating Healthy

The benefits of eating healthy are endless. Not only can it greatly reduce the risk of chronic diseases, but it can benefit your day-to-day activities in a number of ways too. Choosing to eat healthy shouldn’t be a fleeting decision but rather a long-term investment in your mental health and well-being. Below are the ways in which you can benefit from a healthy diet and lifestyle:

  • Combats Disease – A healthy diet can lower your risk of heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and obesity.
  • Enhances Mood – Foods like vegetables, whole fruit, and whole grains have lower glycemic loads which can help fend off fatigue and depression.
  • Boosts Energy – While sugar can give you a quick surge of energy, longer-lasting energy is found from meals that contain a mix of healthy fats, protein, and complex carbohydrates.
  • Controls Weight – Foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup help maintain a lower caloric intake and help you stay fuller longer.
  • Produces Strong Bones – A diet that’s rich in calcium and magnesium found in things like vegetables, legumes, and low-fat dairy products will keep your bones and teeth strong.
  • Improves Memory – A good diet can help prevent dementia and cognitive decline.

How to Eat Healthy at Home

Young mother with baby boy in front of a supermarket.

Making smart decisions about your food choices is much easier in the comfort of your own home. You’re not tempted by the office snacks, decadent restaurant items, or fast food signs at every traffic stop. At home, you can stock up on healthy groceries and cook meals that aren’t dosed in saturated fats. Here are some ways in which you can maintain a healthy lifestyle at home without breaking the bank:

1. Healthy Doesn’t Equate to Expensive
This should be at the top of your grocery list. Fresh fruits and vegetables tend to be less expensive than the pre-cut or bagged options. Though it results in a bit more prep when cooking comes around, you can be sure to know exactly what ingredients are going into your meals.

For cheaper fruit options, look to watermelon, grapes, bananas, kiwi, cantaloupe, and apples. For veggies, onions, carrots, kale, squash, broccoli, spinach, and sweet potatoes tend to be less expensive and also keep you full longer.

2. Save with the Right Proteins
When you’re trying to save, unfortunately a filet mignon isn’t in the cards. While steak and other fatty proteins are delicious options, they’re laden with saturated fat and not the smartest choice for our wallets. Lean protein options are healthier and can prove to be less expensive, you just have to know which to choose! There are our go-tos:

  • Milk
  • Dried beans
  • Natural peanut butter
  • Cottage cheese
  • Nuts
  • Greek yogurt
  • Tofu
  • Eggs
  • Chicken breast
  • Canned salmon or tuna

3. Stay Fuller Longer with Whole Grains
Eating whole grains can reduce your risk of heart disease, and they’re full of fiber to keep you full longer. Look for whole grain breads and whole wheat pasta and crackers instead of white flour and rice. This is an easy, healthy swap and we promise they’re just as satisfying!

4. Make Your Own Dressings and Sauces
Not only can you control the amount of sodium and excess sugar that goes into pre-made salad dressings, but you can make bulk amounts that save money in the long run. Most people have oils, vinegars, and honey already on hand in the kitchen. Find a yummy recipe online and use what ingredients you already have to create big batches of homemade dressings.

5. Nix the Sodium
Though canned items are lower in price, they often pack in high amounts of sodium. Make sure to buy beans and veggies that have “no sodium added” or consider buying your own canning equipment for fruits, vegetables, and fish to save money down the road.

6. Meal Prep to Avoid Overspending
Though meal prepping takes some time and planning, you will save tons of money in the long term. Buy in bulk and take advantage of things that can be frozen. This will help you get a firm grasp on everything you need to buy ahead of time, so you aren’t wasting money on unnecessary items.

7. Get Creative!
Cooking healthy alternatives at home doesn’t have to be a chore. Get creative and browse through cookbooks and online recipes to find fun recipes that deviate from the normal chicken and veggies. There are tons of creative ways to live a healthy lifestyle without dishing out tons of money, so make it fun or else you will give up fast!

Eat Healthy at Restaurants

Happy couple having healthy vegetarian dinner

Here’s where things get a bit trickier. Even if you’re watching your finances, you can treat yourself to a night out here and there without blowing through a ton of money. And you can do it healthily too! Follow these simple tricks to stay healthy and on track financially during your next dinner excursion:

8. Do Your Homework
If you’re going to be eating out, make sure to do some research ahead of time and look for restaurants that aren’t mind-bogglingly expensive and have healthy options on the menu. This gives you a little more preparation to avoid making hungry or distracted decisions when you arrive. You can also call ahead and ask the restaurant what kind of healthy or low-fat options they have available.

9. Look for Lighter or Smaller Portions
Luckily, many restaurants today have sections pertaining to different dietary needs including lighter, healthier options for those conscious of their health. Opt for lighter menu items or even a children’s portion or appetizer as they tend to be closer to the standard portion size and less costly.

10. Practice Moderation
This may seem like an obvious tip, but it’s an important one. Mindful, intuitive eating is vital to consuming less and eating out is the perfect place to work on it. Resist high-calorie drinks and bread or substitute french fries for a salad or sweet potato. Savor the aromas and take your time!

11. Choose a Budget-Friendly Cuisine
There’s no doubt we all crave pasta and pizza from time to time, but this will surely ruin your healthy eating course of action. If you fancy a night out, make sure to choose a cuisine where the main dishes are centered around vegetables and proteins. Mediterranean restaurants are not only budget-conscious, but tend to offer items like Greek salads, kebabs, and rice which are rich in nutrients.

12. Chug Water (It’s Free!)

Try to avoid ordering a beverage beside water. Not only is it free, but our bodies crave water. Drink it before, during, and after your meal to reduce your caloric intake throughout the night.

13. Have a Snack Before You Go
It’s important to avoid going to a restaurant feeling ravenous or you might be tempted to order unhealthy items which can rack up the bill. Try eating an apple or yogurt before you leave the house to help you feel more full and prevent you from ordering unnecessary items.

14. Split the Bill by Sharing
Sharing is caring! This goes for eating out too. Sharing with someone forces you to only eat a half portion which is usually the recommended portion size anyway. Plus, then you are splitting the cost of the meal and saving money in the end.

Be Smart at the Office

Businesswoman try to maintain a healthy diet

Work spaces are often rife with temptation that could break your course of healthy eating. To avoid eating all the donuts and wasting your money on coffee and lunches out, make sure to keep the below tips in mind:

15. Change Your Habits
This is easier said than done, but sometimes you have to completely change up your routine to avoid office temptations. Make coffee at home so you don’t opt for creamer, avoid the office kitchen as much as possible so you don’t lean on unhealthy snacks. These little things will greatly reduce the unhealthy aspects of your office life.

16. Bring Your Own Snacks
Not only should you bring your own snacks daily, but have an emergency stash at your desk. There are tons of healthy, budget-friendly snacks you can keep on supply for when your stomach starts to rumble. Have nuts, fruit, jerky, veggies, and granola bars at bay so you don’t reach for those sugary office goodies.

17. Avoid The Expensive Cafe Sandwiches
You might not realize it, but grabbing a $9 salad or sandwich five days a week will seriously add up. Instead, meal prep the Sunday before your workweek starts so you can bring your own lunches, save money, and be completely aware of what you’re consuming.

18. Always Have Water
When you’re feeling hungry, try drinking water to curb any cravings. Bring your own water bottle to work so you don’t have to spend unnecessary money on vending machine drinks. You can also try setting a calendar reminder to drink to help you stay full and hydrated.

19. Sleep = Clarity
Getting ample amount of shut eye will help you avoid getting distracted and reaching for those unhealthy options out of exhaustion and convenience.

20. Practice Saying No
Office happy hours and group lunches out can do a number on your bank account… fast. It’s good to have fun and participate, but you’re allowed to say no to a drink or expensive outing if it doesn’t align with your goals for the week.

21. Indulge Here and There
It’s okay to indulge once in a while. Eating healthy and intuitively is all about balance! Let yourself eat a donut or cupcake here or there to avoid binging or spending a ton on unnecessary cravings otherwise.

Eat Healthy While You Travel

woman sitting coffee out of a mug while leaning against her car

Whether embarking on a long road trip, living at the airport during layovers, or spending the summer in a different country, traveling can be tough on our wallets and waistlines. In order to maintain that healthy lifestyle that you’ve invested in and avoid overspending on your next vacation, follow these simple tricks:

22. Avoid Unnecessary Spending
Pack healthy snacks in your car, backpack, or carry-on to avoid spending money on unnecessary extra stuff. Snacks like almonds, veggies, hummus, berries, hard-boiled eggs, and other nutrient-rich foods will help stabilize your hunger.

23. Protein Keeps Your Belly and Wallet Full
Eating protein can help increase your concentration, so it’s vital for long road trip. It will not only help you stay full, but it aids in stabilizing blood sugar as well. Bringing budget-friendly, high protein snacks like those mentioned above are key when traveling.

24. Eat Breakfast
On a similar note, make sure to eat breakfast if your trip starts in the morning. If you don’t have time, pack a granola bar so that you don’t spend extra money on any airport or road trip snacks when the hunger hits.

25. More Water
We can’t stress the importance of drinking water enough. Bring water containers with you so you don’t have to pay for them throughout your travels. Fill up at water fountains when you can!

26. Avoid Stopping to Eat
Unfortunately, road trip food options are limited and mostly confined to fast food. Pack snacks and sandwiches to avoid eating unhealthily and spending unnecessary extra cash before you reach your destination.

27. If You Have to Stop, Plan It Out
If you have to make a few pit stops along the way, try planning them out. Research your route and locate healthy places so that you don’t throw all your hard work out the window.

28. Make Sure Your Accommodation is… Accommodating
When booking accommodations, try to find a place that will be accommodating to your healthy lifestyle as well. Look for places with kitchens and nearby grocery stores so you can save some money by cooking your own food every so often. You can also get a feel for healthy restaurants around the area.

Eating healthy on a budget doesn’t have to be intimidating or seem like an impossible feat. In fact, investing in a healthy lifestyle while maintaining your finances and reaching new financial goals is an important and achievable accomplishment. By following our helpful, healthy eating tips and putting a plan in place to track expenses, so you can save money while while simultaneously putting your health first!

Sources: Medical News Today | Healthline | Greatist | Men’s Health | The Kitchn | Money Crashers

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