Eat well and stay fit on a bud­get

Gain con­trol of your health with these wal­let-friendly sug­ges­tions


I’m try­ing to eat bet­ter and ex­er­cise more, but I don’t have a ton of money in my bud­get to spare. How can I live healthily on the cheap? Com­mit­ting to well­ness doesn’t have to be the pricey en­deav­our that leg­gings re­tail­ers and fancy salad shops want you to think it is. Cook­ing din­ner at home in- stead of eat­ing out, for ex­am­ple, was as­so­ci­ated with health­ier di­ets and lower spend­ing on food over­all, ac­cord­ing to a re­cent study from the Univer­sity of Wash­ing­ton School of Pub­lic Health.

If you’re used to spring­ing for fast food or or­der­ing a lot of take­out, it’ll take ded­i­ca­tion to start plan­ning meals and cook­ing for your­self.

Work­ing out cheaply or for free will also re­quire re­search­ing op­tions and dis­cov­er­ing what you en­joy. But you’ll feel stronger and more in con­trol of your health, so give these strate­gies a try:

“Give your­self enough struc­ture so you’re not wildly over­spend­ing, but al­low your­self three or four new things to try — as long as you know you’ll eat them.” ERIN CHASE FOUNDER OF THE BLOG $5 DIN­NERS

Know what “healthy” means First, un­der­stand what counts as “healthy.” Work­ing within guide­lines can help you re­al­is­ti­cally build ex­er­cise and a nu­tri­tious diet into your life­style. That will pre­vent you from over­spend­ing on bou­tique gyms and or­ganic pro­duce you don’t need and can’t af­ford.

The MyPlate Check­list Cal­cu­la­tor from the U.S. Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture of­fers per­son­al­ized guide­lines for the amount of fruit, veg­eta­bles, grains, pro­tein and dairy to eat per day. Use the non-profit En­vi­ron­men­tal Work­ing Group’s Shop­per’s Guide to Pes­ti­cides in Pro­duce to de­cide which fruits and veg­eta­bles to splurge on. The “Clean Fif­teen” lists foods least likely to con­tain pes­ti­cides, which means you can se­lect their cheaper, non-or­ganic ver­sions.

Adults should do aer­o­bic ex­er­cise (like walk­ing, swim­ming, bik­ing or run­ning) at mod­er­ate in­ten­sity for a to­tal of 150 min­utes per week or at vig­or­ous in­ten­sity for 75 min­utes per week, ac­cord­ing to the U.S. Depart­ment of Health and Hu­man Ser­vices. Two or more days of mus­cle­strength­en­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, such as push-ups, crunches or yoga, are also rec­om­mended. Start small You prob­a­bly won’t de­velop a suit­able, con­ve­nient and cheap eat­ing and ex­er­cise reg­i­men overnight, so start small. Look for ways to add fruits and veg­eta­bles to meals you al­ready eat, says Jes­sica Matthews, se­nior ad­viser for health and fit­ness ed­u­ca­tion at the Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ex­er­cise. If you eat eggs ev­ery morning, she says, throw in some chopped mush­rooms or spinach.

To save money on gro­ceries, start by plan­ning two dishes for the week, says Erin Chase, founder of the blog $5 Din­ners. She rec­om­mends look­ing at gro­cery-store sales and build­ing your meals around a pro­tein — a meat or meat al­ter­na­tive — that’s on sale that week. Write a shop­ping list with your daily ba­sics plus the in­gre­di­ents for your two recipes, and min­i­mize im­pulse buys.

“Give your­self enough struc­ture so you’re not wildly over­spend­ing, but al­low your­self three or four new things to try — as long as you know you’ll eat them,” she says. Build your own work­outs Gym mem­ber­ships cost an av­er­age of $54 a month in 2015, ac­cord­ing to the most re­cent data from the In­ter­na­tional Health, Rac­quet & Sportsclub As­so­ci­a­tion, a fit­ness club trade group.

But you may not have that much to spare, or maybe the gym isn’t your thing. Opt for at-home or other do-ity­our­self work­outs us­ing free re­sources.

The web­site for the Amer­i­can Coun­cil on Ex­er­cise has a li­brary of step-by-step work­out tu­to­ri­als you can search by mus­cle group or ex­pe­ri­ence level.

To stay mo­ti­vated, add work­out blocks to your per­sonal or work calendar; set spe­cific, at­tain­able goals; and make a plan to stay ac­count­able with a friend. Maybe you and a work col­league will train for a 5K run to­gether and do mus­cle-strength­en­ing ex­er­cises twice a week.


If you can’t af­ford a gym mem­ber­ship, opt for at-home or other do-it-your­self work­outs us­ing free re­sources.

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