National Nutrition Month: Eating Well on a Budget

Posted by Christy Karr on Mar 20, 2020

plate of heart healthy food

Happy National Nutrition Month! Focused on the importance of making informed food choices while also developing good eating and exercise habits, this annual observation is the perfect opportunity to check in on how we’re doing and take steps to improve. The theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month is “Bite by Bite,” which reinforces the payoffs of making even small changes.

Eating right can be especially challenging for people trying to keep costs low, but there’s good news, too: It is possible to save money while staying on track with your nutrition goals. Here’s a closer look at why nutrition matters, along with tips for eating better — whatever your budget.

Nutrition Matters

Good nutrition is essential to leading a healthy life. The food choices we make determine how we feel — not only today, but also in the future. Specifically, unhealthy eating habits are associated with a number of detrimental health outcomes, including obesity. But even if you’re within a healthy weight range, a poor diet is associated with numerous health risks, including heart disease, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and many types of cancers. Making smart food choices is one of the best preventative measures you can take against these and other health issues.

Which begs the question: what is a healthy diet? The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 asserts that a balanced eating plan emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and low-fat or fat-free milk products; includes lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs and nuts; is low in saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars; and stays within a daily caloric limit.

A few simple changes can help you eat better without overspending, including swapping out white pasta for whole wheat pasta; eating fruit instead of drinking fruit juice; drinking coffee instead of energy drinks; making your own salad dressing; and popping your own popcorn to snack on instead of reaching for bagged chips and crisps.

Maximize Nutrition, Minimize Cost

If you’re looking to stretch your dollars the furthest while sticking to a healthy diet, the following tips can help:

  • Coupons can help trim costs, but only if you use them for things you’d buy anyway. Plus, keep in mind that store brands often cost less at full price than discounted big name brands. Comparison shopping can help you use coupons wisely in order to get the best deal. One trick to understanding exactly what you’re paying for one item compared to another? Instead of merely looking at the price tag, look at the unit price.
  • Many grocery stores offer loyalty and discount cards in addition to coupons. Taking advantage of all of these can help you get the lowest price.
  • Items like rotisserie chickens, pre-shredded cheese, instant oatmeal, and bagged salad mixes may be convenient, but you pay for that convenience. Willingness to spend a little extra time putting in the work can add up to more money in the bank in the long run.
  • Buying in bulk is also a smart way to save, but only if you can use it all before it goes bad. Freezing excess bulk purchases in portion-sized packages is an effective way to reduce waste. In general, if you’re regularly throwing food away, it’s time to rethink how you’re buying and cooking.
  • Not all fresh fruits and vegetables are expensive. Seek out economical choices like apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, and dark-green leafy vegetables. Stick with in-season veggies for the best savings.
  • Hurried decision-making is the enemy of both eating right and saving money. Planning ahead — by making a meal plan and creating a shopping list — can help you avoid making rash decisions like a trip through the drive-through or a splurge in the check-out line at the grocery store.

 

Think organic foods are out of your budget, meanwhile? According to a Huffington Post report, incorporating more organic options and other healthy foods into your diet is actually a sound investment for several reasons. For starters, because organic foods are free of pesticide residues and artificial colors and flavors, they’re less likely to cause food sensitivities and negative food reactions. And then there’s the fact that investing in a healthy diet now means fewer healthcare costs in the future: Research indicates that if the whole country ate healthier, the US would save a staggering $50 billion a year in health care costs.

Organic FoodsNineteenth-century German philosopher Arthur Schopenhauer said, “Health isn’t everything, but without it, everything else is nothing.” By spending some time inventorying your eating and spending habits this National Nutrition Month, you can boost your health without breaking the bank.