How to Eat Healthy on a Budget

woman shopping fresh produce in store

Making healthy food choices can be difficult. And because people with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk for heart disease and stroke, there is often the added pressure of juggling diet needs for two separate conditions.

Making matters worse, these healthy choices become increasingly difficult to make when money is tight. To help you stick to your eating plan without breaking the bank, frugal living expert Jonni McCoy has provided the following tips for eating healthy on a budget.

  • Limit red meat in favor of healthier and less expensive sources of protein. Eat at least 8 ounces of non-fried fish (particularly fatty fish) each week, which can be divided over two 3.5- to 4-ounce servings. Choose fish high in omega-3 fatty acids that are good for the heart, such as salmon, trout, and herring. Unsalted nuts and beans have a lot of protein also, but make sure you review the salt content and eat appropriate portions since nuts tend to be high in calories.
  • Enjoy frozen vegetables and fruit. They are just as satisfying, and typically just as healthy, as fresh produce. Just make sure to check the nutrition facts to confirm that no extra sugar or salt was added.
  • Avoid eating out, as most restaurants come with extra large portions and extra large price tags. And options at fast food restaurants are typically loaded with excess saturated fat, salt and sugar.
  • Eat before you go shopping. Going to the grocery store on an empty stomach will leave you more likely to buy on impulse.
  • Grow a garden! Not only will you save on vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes, but you’ll stay active with this new hobby. And regular exercise is another important part of managing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
  • Scout your local newspaper for coupons before you go shopping. It may cost $1-2 to purchase the Sunday paper, but your savings will likely exceed this amount.
  • Shop for seasonal produce – fruits and veggies are less expensive during their peak growing times, and they’re also tastier!
  • Look for the generic brands. The ingredients are usually similar to the brand name versions, but they’re much more affordable. Compare the ingredients list and nutrition panel to see for yourself.
  • Make your own pre-packaged snacks by buying a large container of raisins, unsalted nuts or or popcorn (no salt or saturated fat) and separating them into individual portions yourself. By checking the nutrition facts on the food label, you can gauge how much to eat at one time based on the saturated fat, salt, and sugar content. Remember to look for "hydrogenated oils" on the ingredients list to avoid trans fats (even if the package says "0g of trans fat").
  • Plan your meals each week. By planning ahead, you can check the nutrition facts of a meal before you decide to make it and create a detailed grocery list for easy shopping. Planning also helps avoid impulse shopping.