8 Tips to Healthy Eating on a Budget from NYC Registered Dietitian

Grocery List

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, losing weight and saving money are the top two resolutions of the majority of people in the United States. In 2017, the US weight loss market was worth near 66 billion dollars. This market includes everything from commercial weight loss programs, Weight Watchers (that hit a big boom after Oprah’s endorsement), medical weight loss clinics and franchises, meal replacements (for those high-cost powders!), and online dieting.

There’s a lot of money pumped into Americans losing weight. Yet, Americans continue to gain. The NCSL (National Conference of State Legislatures) reports that no state has an obesity rate lower than 21%. 

Eating healthy and staying within a budget seems like the impossible dilemma. Especially considering organic foods are consistently higher priced than their non-organic equivalent. Consumer Reports reports that on average, organic foods are 47% more costly than their counterparts. Though on an individual basis, it might not seem like much, over the course of a year, it can add up to hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. 

Add the food label deciphering dilemma, and it all becomes overwhelming!

In 2019, though, we can all resolve to eat healthy and stick to a budget. Here are 8 easy-to-follow tips that registered dietitians use and teach clients in order to keep health, and savings, top of mind.

  1. Start cooking! Most money and calories wasted come from eating out or ordering in. Consider this: restaurants charge an average of 300% markup on food they serve. According to Moneyunder30, the average restaurant meal costs $13.00 compared to $4.00 for one prepared at home. Yikes. Now, let’s talk calories: never-ending bread baskets, portion distortion, and free refills. A simple meal at home, when eaten at a restaurant, can turn into thousands of calories. 

This doesn’t mean no more eating out! Everybody loves to indulge once in a while. Moreover, many of my clients are executives whose meals mostly come from restaurants. It’s all about becoming restaurant savvy, recognizing nutritional needs, and how to budget!

    1. Order an entrée or half-sized portions.
    2. Order the cup of soup, instead of the bowl.
    3. Share a meal.
    4. Ask the waitress to take away the bread basket.
    5. Drink water (steer clear of sweet sodas and teas).
    6. Pack up leftovers to eat for a later meal.
  1. Plan your meals ahead of time. No more last-minute, what’s for dinner decisions. Make a plan for what you are going to eat during the week and shop accordingly. Take stock of pantry, freezer, and refrigerator items over the weekend. Buy food items on sale at the grocery store that fit into your meal plan strategy. 
  2. Have a running grocery list. No more last-minute runs to the grocery store for that one item, only to come home with three bags of cravings! Stick to the list. Only buy items that fit into your budget or meal plan strategy.
  3. Don’t bulk up. Super-sized chips and crackers, though tempting, are costly (on the wallet and health). Same goes for vegetables and fruits (unless you have room to freeze them). 
  4. Simplify! What are your family’s favorite meals? What’s your favorite meal? Prepare it often, changing up the vegetable or side options.
  5. Incorporate beans, lentils, and chickpeas into your diet. Beans are a low-cost protein supplement and can be used in salads, chilis, and even as a meat supplement in your favorite soups and sauces. Go meatless one day each week to shrink your carbon footprint and improve health and savings. 
  6. Reduce food waste. Make sustainable eating practices a priority, not only because of your budget but also for your health and the environment. Visit your farmer’s market and eat in-season fruits, vegetables and fish. Keep leftovers organized and easy-to-see. Keep food in your stomach, not the garbage.Farmers Market
  7. Make mealtime matter. Family meals and mindful eating practices are great ways to put the focus on nourishment and healthy eating.

Sticking to a budget and staying healthy aren’t mutually exclusive. In 2019, resolve to eat well on a budget. It’s absolutely possible!