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Be Mean, Stay Lean: Healthy Eating on a Budget (Part 1.)

Time and money really do get a bad rap. Despite us all having equal measures of it, somehow there is never enough of it for some of us. It has hindered our workout routines, scuppered our meal prepping and given us a pitiful amount of hours within which to squeeze our beauty sleep. Money, time’s sister when it comes to these things, is equally as culpable for not being as plentiful as most would like. One of the gripes most often thrown around is that eating healthily and taking part in regular exercise is too expensive for the average Joe. It would seem that lack of time and money are bad guys when it comes to the battle of sickness and health.

Here are some tips to make it easier on the pocket and leaner on the waist.

Why Organic isn’t the Holy Grail of Healthy Eating

We’d all love our groceries to fit under the buzzwords of organic, non-GMO, fair trade, raw, local, fresh, or ethically sourced and we love the virtuous feeling generated from this mode of consumption. Unfortunately, due to accessibility, affordability and resources this isn’t an option for all of us. This is no reason, however, to feel less healthy or worthy.

When it comes to healthy food choices, the easiest and cheapest areas to act on are in avoiding harmful hormones in meat and dairy and pesticides in fruits and veg. An effective way to rid fruits and vegetables of harmful pesticides is to use a veggie wash, or simple cider vinegar to clean them before eating. This won’t rid produce of all pesticides, but it will go some way to reducing them. Fruits and vegetables with thicker skins are less likely to have high amounts of pesticides once washed and peeled.

If organic food is a priority, it’s worth reviewing the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list of fruit and vegetables with the highest pesticide levels as well as their Clean 15 list of those with the lowest. Consuming organic meat and dairy and avoiding the harmful growth hormones and antibiotics within products containing meat from conventionally reared animals, would be key. Alternatively reducing your consumption of meat and dairy would go some way towards reducing your exposure.

Whole Foods, Not Necessarily Wholefoods

There is a reason why Wholefoods is also nicknamed Whole Paycheck. Its products can be ridiculously overpriced, hence their association with the middle class, the yummy mummies and yoga bunnies, not to mention the store's locations in the nicer parts of London such as Clapham and Kensington. Although I personally love a Wholefoods trip and enjoy discovering new brands and products, Wholefoods isn’t the only place where you can buy healthy and real whole foods. By whole foods, we mean foods that are in their most natural, whole, unprocessed state. Because there is minimal tampering with the original product, these are foods with most of their nutrients intact with the added benefit of being less expensive. The higher the level of processing the more likely that nutrients have been lost and that the price will increase. An example might be a jar of pasta sauce compared to plain old tinned tomatoes, or simple fresh tomatoes that can be easily turned into pasta sauce. The latter are cheaper, have a brief ingredient list and more nutrients.

Whole foods include nuts, pulses, legumes, grains, seeds, fruits and vegetables. They are relatively cheap and are versatile enough to make a variety of tasty, nutrient-rich, balanced meals.

For those times when we do want to indulge in healthy convenient foods, however, there are alternatives out there. For my clients, in addition to stores like Wholefoods and Planet Organic, I also recommend larger Tescos stores, Waitrose, Holland & Barratt, farmers markets, smaller independent health shops and shopping online for a range of healthy food bands at more reasonable prices than traditional health stores.

One of my favourite mottos that applies to most things is that done is better than perfect. When it comes to the way we eat, something is better than nothing and starting from where we are with what we have is an empowered place to be.


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