Clever Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget

See also: Top Tips for Saving Money

It's no secret that Americans can improve their diets as a whole. The good news is that there has been progress 54% of Americans believe that we are more health-conscious than we were 20 years ago on average!

Still, there's a long way to go. Fortunately, it's easier than you may think to start building a healthier lifestyle. Let's talk about some easy ways to eat healthy on a budget.

Two young women choosing vegtables in a supermarket.

What Does Eating Healthy Mean?

We hear all the time that we need to eat healthier, but what does this actually entail? In a nutshell, it means focusing on getting enough nutritional value in your daily diet with minimal calories wasted. It has nothing to do with calorie restriction.

For example, a large bowl of oatmeal with plenty of fruits and skim milk may equate to the same number of calories as a bag of Doritos. However, the oatmeal and fruit will provide you with plenty of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, complex carbohydrates, protein, and more. Conversely, the bag of Doritos will only provide you with simple starches and unhealthy fats, and has little nutritional value.

Did you know that, on average, average children and teens in the US receive two-thirds of their calories from ultra-processed foods like these? There is therefore a lot of room for improvement in the average American diet. However, don't let that frighten you, as small steps will add up with time and consistency!

What Foods Should I Eat?

Everybody's dietary restrictions and needs are different. There is no such thing as one-size-fits-all diet advice, so don't believe it if you find it. However, as a general rule, whole foods are always best, especially those derived from plants.

Whole plant foods like legumes, nuts, whole grains, vegetables, and fruits are by far the most important foods to add to your diet. The more color you see on your plate, the more nutritional value the plate will have.

That's not to say that meats and other animal products can't be healthy in moderation. Still, the majority of your calories should come from whole plant foods, and unfortunately this is not the case for most Americans. Let's talk about how to achieve this.

How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

First, and most importantly, you have to enjoy what you eat. Adherence is everything when it comes to eating healthy. If you only eat healthy meals for one week and then give up, the benefits will be minimal.

That's why it's so important to enjoy what you eat. If you don't, you won't stick to the plan. Here are some tips to help make healthy eating a lifelong habit.

Avoid Problem Aisles

They say to avoid some aisles altogether in the grocery store, but we know this isn't feasible. You need trash bags, aluminum foil, and plenty of other items you can only find in the aisles. Even the candy aisle may have your favorite sugar-free gum.

Plenty of aisles in the grocery store have plenty of great foods, as long as you know where to look. However, if there's a particular aisle filled with your favorite unhealthy items, try to find replacements for them first.

For example, start in the organic/health aisle and find alternatives to your favorite crackers or snacks. If you're a big snacker, aim for lighter or more nutritional versions. Just ensure that you read the nutritional qualities on the packet before purchasing.

When in doubt, whole foods are the best. Popcorn, natural trail mix, and other foods made from whole ingredients are the best types of snacks. Also, try making fruits and vegetables into enjoyable snacks to enjoy throughout the day!

Buy Frozen

Canned fruits and vegetables are much cheaper than fresh produce, but they lack heavily in the nutritional department. Frozen produce is a great middle ground. It doesn't sacrifice quality, but the prices are often much more reasonable.

You can even buy these in bulk to save even more, and you'll have plenty of nutritional food for all of your meals. You can easily store fruits and vegetables in the freezer for over a year.

Buy In-Season

Let's face it, frozen produce isn't nearly as delicious as fresh. If you're using frozen fruit in smoothies or frozen vegetables in a stir fry, you probably won't notice a difference. However, buying fresh ingredients is always best if you want to eat in larger quantities.

The cheapest and most enjoyable produce is whatever is in season. Always try to buy whatever you can that's fresh, ripe, and at the right price. This is best for sustainability, nutrition, enjoyment, and your budget.

Limit Food Waste

Food waste is a huge problem in this country, and a lot of it takes place at the consumer level. Limiting your food waste is not only good for the environment but great for your wallet.

Studies show that food in our fridge has less inherent value to us than food in the grocery store. It's quite obvious when you think about it. We wouldn't spend $100 on groceries and leave $40 worth at the store willingly, but we may waste that much at home.

If you see that your blueberries are about to go bad, put them in the freezer and use them for smoothies later. If you have vegetables or other foods that are spoiling soon, make a bulk dish with as many as you can either eat it throughout the week or freeze it! There are plenty of one-pot dishes you can cook with the right copper cookware!

This is one of the biggest challenges for healthy eating on a budget, as whole foods spoil faster than processed foods. Still, once you develop the right habits, it's easy to sustain.

Start Eating Healthy Today

Now that you know some ways to eat healthy on a budget, put these tips to use right away. Healthy eating is all about building the right habits, so keep looking for new recipes and ways to enjoy your food. Always read ingredient labels, stay in the right aisles, limit your food waste, and try to build healthier habits.