People often say that healthy eating is expensive if you’re on a low income. In fact, healthy eating is very affordable, for the simple reason that the most nutritionally lacking foods have usually undergone the most processing. You have to pay for the processing and for the elaborate and unnecessary packaging that often goes with it.
On the other hand, the healthiest foods tend to be in their natural state: fresh fruit and vegetables, raw salads, beans, lentils, nuts, sunflower seeds, oats, brown rice, olive oil, natural yoghurt and fish. They are all cheap, but you do have to know how to prepare and cook them. Sadly, fewer and fewer people these days are brought up knowing how to cook. Hopefully this article will not only help inspire you to eat healthier foods but also give you some tips for preparing simple, healthy meals.
The principles of healthy eating
If you make sure that at least 90 per cent of your daily food intake consists of the ingredients listed above, you will have a good chance of not developing the diseases that plague most people in later life and destroy the quality of their life. The remaining 10 per cent of your diet can consist of anything you like, so there is plenty of scope to have treats every day.
Foods to beware of
The more fat, sugar and white flour a food contains, the more unhealthy it becomes. Some examples are sausages, burgers, deep-fried food, crispy coatings on fried food, ice cream, sweets, candy, chocolate, doughnuts, croissants, cakes, cookies, biscuits, white bread, crispy snacks in packets, packet soups and packet dessert mixes. You don’t need to stop eating these foods completely, but everybody needs to control them so that they form no more than 10 per cent of your daily diet (measured in calories).
Cooking methods are important
Steaming, or stir-frying or braising vegetables with a tablespoon of olive oil is a good way of preserving nutrients, but boiling causes heavy vitamin losses if the water is thrown away. Deep-frying is not recommended. Deep-fried food absorbs excessive quantities of oil or fat.
Artificial food additives are usually not tested by independent laboratories and very little is known about their effects in combination. Singly they have caused health problems in many people, particularly children.
It is advisable to keep alcohol consumption down to no more than two glasses a week on average.
Try to keep all salt consumption down, and use low sodium salt products instead of ordinary salt. By increasing water retention in the body, salt can raise your blood pressure.
Since grains are very small, they can absorb more pesticide than other foods. So if you are limited in what organic produce you can afford, put wholewheat bread, rice and porridge at the top of the list.
Following a few simple rules can save you cash on food, while doing the most for your health.
Buy foods in their natural state (e.g. fresh potatoes instead of ready-made potato products). Don’t buy ready meals, pizzas, pies etc, or else save them for special occasions.
Save meat (if you eat it) for occasional use. Cheap meat is usually full of hidden fat. Fish and chicken are better value. Beans, lentils, dried peas and chick peas (garbanzo beans) are cheap vegetable sources of protein and if you eat them with rice and a few nuts or ground up sunflower seeds they are as good as animal protein.
Shop around. Fresh fruit and vegetables are cheaper from market stalls and greengrocers. Pulses (legumes), oats and brown rice may be cheaper from a wholefood store, while eggs, cheese, butter and wholewheat bread are generally cheaper in large supermarkets.
Don’t waste food. Fish bones, vegetable peelings and chicken carcasses can be boiled to make fabulous tasty broths and soups.
Learning to cook will save you the most money. Making your own pies may be hard if you’re short of time, but with a bit of organizing it isn’t hard to put a healthy meal together in 30 minutes. If you can find some of his videos on YouTube, Jamie Oliver shows you how. There are also some quick and simple suggestions below.
Winter: Make porridge by boiling oatflakes with water or milk and a handful of sunflower seeds or chopped almonds (the protein in these will help to keep you going until lunchtime). Add a teaspoon of chopped dates to sweeten, or a little sugar.
Summer: Stewed apples and raisins or home-made granola with natural yoghurt, or cornflakes and fresh grapefruit.
Canned sardines, cold chicken or smoked mackerel, with green salad leaves, fresh tomatoes, chopped celery, grated raw carrot and wholewheat bread or baked potato or potato salad.
Lentil and onion soup with wholewheat bread.
Grilled fish with mashed parsnips and braised vegetables;
Chunky vegetable soup of dried peas, potatoes, leeks and carrots, with mashed potatoes;
Pasta with lentil, tomato and mushroom sauce.
Fresh fruit made into fruit salad or fruit jelly with gelatine and fresh orange juice, served with natural yoghurt.
Brown rice flakes made into rice pudding. Sweeten with chopped dates.
Home-made oat flapjacks with raisins and dates.
Fruit. Bananas and oatcakes. Rye crackers, oatcakes or wholewheat toast with tahini (creamed sesame seeds) and a little sugar-free fruit spread. Fresh almonds or brazil nuts. A piece of fresh coconut. Home-made flapjacks. Preservative-free dried fruit. If you really crave chocolate, have a cup of home-made cocoa instead–or a wholewheat biscuit coated with plain chocolate.
Instead of ordinary tea and coffee, try mint tea. It is cheap to buy and easy to grow in a garden or pot.
Rose hip tea or fennel tea
Chicory coffee (found in health food stores)
Home-made vegetable broth or miso (Japanese stock paste with meaty flavour–from health food stores or oriental stores) dissolved in hot water.
Pure fruit juice mixed with fizzy mineral water is as cheap as canned sodas.
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