Eating healthy and staying fit are two resolutions that are on most people’s list at the start of every new year. They’re also the two resolutions that are given up the quickest. The reasons are because most of us believe that a healthy diet is boring, requires more effort and more money.
What does it mean to eat healthy?
Firstly, let’s understand what constitutes a healthy diet. Healthy eating is not just about choosing foods that have the labels ‘organic’ or ‘gluten free’ or picking items with fancy, hard-to-pronounce ingredients.
A healthy diet is one that has a good mix of macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates and fats) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Now when we say fats, protein and carbs, we mean healthy sources like nuts, seeds, beans, pulses, legumes, avocado, green vegetables, millets, brown rice, quinoa, etc.
The key to maintaining healthy eating habits is to include more whole foods in your diet, eating food that are free of chemicals or stimulants and avoid deep fried, over-salted foods.
But how can you Eat healthy on a budget?
It might seem like all that’s good for us comes at a heavy price, but the notion that healthy = expensive is not always the case. Manasa shares a few tips on how to make and eat healthy, yummy food and save money as we do so.
Swap the packaged breakfast cereals, granolas and instant foods with whole grains
Unfortunately, these instant breakfast items make it to almost every shopping basket. Yes, they’re easy and quick but can also be expensive and unhealthy. Instead you should buy these grains and cereals in large quantities (that can last you a month or two) and make it on your own. For instance, you can cut up dry fruits into tiny bits and store it so you can simply sprinkle it over your oats in the morning. Add fresh fruits one day, slivers of fresh coconut the next day and a pre-ground peanut powder the next. Depending on the time you have, you can even make oats upma, oats dosa, oats idli and more.
Rotate your rations and buy in bulk
During your monthly or fortnightly visits to the supermarket, rotate the kinds of grains, cereals and nuts you buy. For example; let this month’s shopping list have brown rice, two different kinds of dals (say red masoor and toor dal) and two kinds of nuts (say almond and walnut). Next month, swap it with red rice, two other dals (moong and black masoor) and two different types of nuts (pistachio and cashew).
This way, you’re not buying smaller amounts of different things that increases your grocery bill.
When it comes to fruits and veggies, there are two kinds — those that are available year-round and those that are seasonal. Always include the standard fruits (which are local) like banana, varieties of apples, sapota, etc. as well as seasonal fruits. Seasonal fruits have numerous nutritional benefits and play specific roles. For example — the water content in watermelons keeps us hydrated during the summer, saag or mustard greens is available during the winter and is packed with nutrients that help build immunity and keep seasonal infections at bay. Since they are in season and available locally — these fruits and veggies will be at their cheapest during this time and also fresh since they haven’t travelled miles to get to you.
Add foods of different colours and food families to each list. Alternate between items from the same food family. For example; add cauliflower to this week’s list and broccoli to the next or swap the potato in your toddler’s khichdi with sweet potato for a change. This kind of variety is not just a treat for your taste buds but extremely beneficial for your gut.
Create a list before you go shopping and incorporate all the points listed above. Keep a running list that you can buy during the next trip to the store. Without a list, you might pick up everything that appeals to you and stock up your fridge but by the time you realize there’s a packet of spinach under all the other veggies, it’s no longer fresh and lost half its folate. Planning ahead helps you stay realistic about the food you will consume and reduce wastage.
Additional tips and hacks
Eating healthy doesn’t have to just be snacking on carrot sticks or having the same meal every day. Here are some ways you can make healthy eating a part of your lifestyle.
Health coach, Manasa Rajan shares a few easy to follow tips!
Here are a few more tips you can incorporate in your meal preparations
With lentils and beans (rajma, choley, lobia, etc.) you can bulk boil them and store them in the fridge. This saves on gas, encourages you to use these healthy foods in your meals and makes meal prep quicker and convenient.
You can sort through your dry fruits and pack them in zip lock bags to take along with you every day.
Try to see that whole foods and plant-based foods make up the majority of the plate while meats and dairy are present in smaller proportions.
Make healthier versions of your favourite foods — example rajma and brown chawal. You can use hummus as more than a dip. Use it as a pizza spread or instead of mayo on your sandwiches.
Include flavourful ingredients, especially those where just a tiny bit packs a punch; like fresh ginger, fresh rosemary, nuts, etc. Just a sprinkle can transform the taste of the dish and you’ll still have a whole box left to use for the rest of the month.
Deciding to start a healthy diet is one thing — learning to eat healthy can be quite an adventure (for your palate).
Here are some recipes to help you get started.
Watch the video recipe here!
- 1 Banana
- ½ Teaspoons of orange zest
- ½ Apple
- 5 Almonds (soaked overnight)
- 10 Seedless Dates (soaked for 1 hour in hot water)
- 1 Teaspoon of flax seeds
- 1 Small orange
- ¼ Glass of water
Method: Blend all ingredients in a blender. Have it chilled or at room temperature.
Watch the video recipe here!
- 7 seedless dates
- 2 teaspoons of buckwheat grain
- 1 teaspoon of sunflower seeds
- 4 almonds
- 1 teaspoon of dry ginger powder
- 1 teaspoon of oats
- 1 teaspoon of cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon of spirulina
- Grind dates in a blender and keep it aside.
- Roast buckwheat, almonds and sunflower seeds for a couple minutes.
- In a bowl add all ingredients to make a coarse dough. Make balls of the dough.
A healthy diet keeps the body functioning and is vital for our physical and mental wellbeing. With these tips, facts and ideas; you now know that eating healthy can be inexpensive, easy and fun!
Credits — Manasa Rajan