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Save money, eat healthy as rising food prices take bigger budget bite

by Staci Gulbin | Contributor
August 13, 2020

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When you’re on a fixed budget, eating healthy may be the last thing on your mind. Costs of housing, medicines and medical appointments may only leave a bit of money for food. In turn, you may find yourself reaching for cheap, processed food products like canned soups or deli meats instead of fresh, whole foods. These foods can certainly create a meal, but over time such processed food products that are high in fat, sugar and sodium can impact your overall health. The good news is that you can still eat healthy while still staying on a budget.

What is healthy eating?

Healthy eating is a little different for everyone depending on your health needs. For example, someone with diabetes needs to eat less carbohydrates and sugar in their diet to control their blood glucose levels. On the other hand, however, those at risk for heart disease will need to limit sodium and fat in their diet.

Even though your health needs may differ slightly from the next person, the basics of healthy eating include:

  • Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Consume enough protein each day.
  • Limit added sugar intake.
  • Drink plenty of low-sugar fluids each day.
Produce aisle in grocery store

Fruits and vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are important because they contain a wealth of nutrients like fiber, potassium, magnesium and antioxidants like vitamin C. Fiber helps keep your digestive system healthy, while antioxidants can help reduce inflammation in your body. By reducing inflammation in your body, you can lower your risk of chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, heart disease and rheumatoid arthritis.

Protein

Eating enough protein is important to help maintain lean muscle mass which you need to preserve to aid mobility. The average older adult should consume around 5 ounces of protein each day, but you may need more if you’re active or if you have an injury or illness. You can figure out about how much protein you need by dividing your body weight in pounds by 2.2. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, then you need about 68 grams of protein daily, or 1 gram of protein per kilogram of body weight.

Read below to consider the following examples of portion sizes of foods and the amount of protein they contain.

  • One cup of diced chicken, or about five ounces, is equal to 35 grams protein.
  • One large egg is equal to 6 grams protein.
  • One ounce of tuna fish, or two tablespoons, is equal to 7 grams protein.
  • Four large steamed shrimp is equal to 5 grams protein.
  • Two tablespoons of peanut butter are equal to 7 grams protein.
  • One-fourth cup of nuts are equal to between 4 to 6 grams protein.
  • One ounce, or one average slice of cheddar cheese, is equal to 7 grams protein.
  • One cup of milk is equal to 8 grams protein.
  • One cup of Greek yogurt is equal to between 12 to 18 grams protein.
  • One-half cup of cottage cheese is equal to 14 grams protein.

Added sugar

Eating too much added sugar can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes and other chronic conditions like obesity if consumed in excess over time. Added sugar is not the same as natural sugar though. Natural sugar is in dairy products and fruits and is OK in this form in moderation. This is because such foods also contain nutrients that are healthy like fiber and protein.

However, if you look on the nutrition label of foods like cola, candy, sweets and sauces, you will see added sugar content. This sugar is not naturally in foods and can add sugar content when not necessary to many food products. Try to limit added sugar as much as possible in the diet.

Staying hydrated

Drinking enough fluids each day is vital to optimal health. Not drinking enough fluids can lead to dehydration, which can cause symptoms like:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

The average adult should consume between 11.5 to 15.5 cups of fluid each day. Such fluid includes water, milk, juice, tea and decaffeinated drinks like decaf coffee or decaf cola. It’s important though to drink most of your fluids from low to no-calorie sources though to avoid consuming too many empty calories.

How do I eat healthy on a fixed income?

Besides coupons, there are several ways you can save money so you can eat healthy on a budget.

  • Buy frozen vegetables in bulk: Instead of buying small cans of single servings of vegetables, choose 1-2-pound bags of frozen vegetables. You can take out what you need and then use a bag clip to seal the bag and place in the freezer for later. Frozen vegetables can last about 8 to 12 months in the freezer and can save money from food waste that can happen with fresh vegetables. Just buy fresh vegetables in small amounts when you want to enjoy a salad or if you’re making a certain recipe that requires fresh produce. Experts report that there is only a small loss of nutrients in frozen versus fresh produce.
  • Find family packs of protein: A 5-pound pack of chicken may seem like a lot, but if you split it into freezer bags, it can feed one person for a couple of weeks. Not to mention that frozen chicken can keep for about a year in the freezer.
  • Purchase proteins on manager’s special days: Find out what day your local grocery store puts out manager’s specials on display. This can help you save about 30% or more on meat prices. The only downside is that you will usually have to use or freeze such meats within a few days.
  • Plan meals and make a shopping list: Take one hour each week to sit down and plan your meals and then make a shopping list for the ingredients you’ll need to make each meal. If you have a list and stick to it, you can save money and make sure you have what you need on hand to make healthy meals each day. Studies show that about 60% of grocery store purchases are unplanned, that is unless you have a list to keep you on track.
  • Choose cheaper fruit options: If you want to enjoy fruit, but don’t have money to spend on a small portion of berries, choose cheaper fruit options like bananas, apples or oranges instead.
  • Make store brands your go-to choice: Store brands typically carry similar products to the major label brands at much cheaper prices. Therefore, make store brands your primary choice to save money at the grocery store.

So, how do I start eating healthier?

If you aren’t sure where to start to eat healthier, then you may want to health insurance company to see what wellness programs are available. You may have coverage for a registered dietitian to help you plan meals to ensure you’re eating enough nutrients each day. Or, look at wellness programs available that can provide you with stipends for farmer’s markets to buy healthy foods with.

Furthermore, check out government resources like the Commodity Supplemental Food Program which can provide stipends to help older adults purchase healthy foods to supplement their diet. A healthy diet on a budget is possible with a little planning and the willingness to ask for help. Your body will thank you.

Alliance America can help

Alliance America is an insurance and financial services company. Our financial professionals can assist you in maximizing your retirement resources and achieving your future goals. We have access to an array of products and services, all focused on helping you enjoy the retirement lifestyle you want and deserve. You can request a no-cost, no-obligation consultation by calling (833) 219-6884 today.

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