Healthy Eating On A Time & Money Budget

Posted on: August 8, 2012 Category: Health & Wellness

The first thing people comment about when they see my healthy eating practice is “You must spend large amounts of money on food each week”. This is SO far from the truth. Another misconception is that I spend all my time (or most of my time) slaving in the kitchen. Also FALSE. Studying at uni + holistic health coaching + BSchool + blogging + writing + yoga + household chores + going out and hanging out with loved ones + eating healthy is all possible simultaneously. It is not mutually exclusive, and it is totally do-able!

Unhealthy habits that drain money & health

  1. Buying highly processed, refined, chemical laiden food
    • Think frozen/microwave/Lean-Cuisine meals, commercial biscuits, confectionary, chips, ready-made soup mixes (have you read those ingredients?)
    • These foods are not only unhealthy, they are also expensive.
    • Solution: Look at the list below for better options
  2. Eating out frequently
    • Fast food may be cheap, but the medical bills and ill health that follow are not.
    • Eating out is great, and I love dining out with friends and family, but we usually opt for restaurants that serve great healthy meals where possible. Eating out can be expensive too, so let it be the occasional celebratory treat!
    • Buying ready made salads (albeit healthy) are expensive, and most are filled with mayo/unhealthy choices of salad dressings and croutons. The serving sizes are also ridiculously small for the price you pay and will not be sufficient to feed you or your brain.
    • Solution: When dining out, choose places that serve healthy food and make it a treat to dine out. Much more fun and enjoyable this way! Cook for your family and friends and invite them over to have a home-cooked meal and laughter in the dining area instead!
  3. Buying sugary/liver-damaging drinks
    • Soda, commercial juices, alcohol, coffee are expensive, and will contribute to your low energy levels in the long run as well as your empty pocket.
    • Solution: Hydrate with water, make your own fresh juices at home, or enjoy smoothies.
  4. Making unhealthy choices when going out
    • E.g) Buying Popcorn + Soda (or the other colourful stuff) when watching a movie at the cinema
    • Solution: Skip it altogether. You don’t need to multitask while watching a movie! Rent a movie and snuggle up on the couch will save you further $$$.
  5. Buying sugar-free, fat-free food-like substances
    • That is all.

Calorie for calorie

If you look at calories, buying processed food may look affordable. However, NOT ALL CALORIES ARE CREATED EQUAL. I urge you to look at nutrients, and forget all about calories. Think about it: Does a deep fried potato chip contain the same amount of vitamins, antioxidant, minerals and phytonutrients that a fresh apple has? Of course not. However, according to calorie counting, 100 calories of apple = 100 calories of chips.

The whole concept of calorie counting is deeply flawed.

The concept of calorie counting assumes that our body runs on calories, and we know that this is simply not true. Yes, you may lose weight counting calories, but at what cost? The weight you lose will be valuable muscle + you will feel fatigue, irritability, lethargic at the end. You will also put all the weight back on (and perhaps more). In conclusion, calorie counting is non-sustainable and unhealthy mentally, emotionally and physically.

What makes you full

Calories don’t make you full, nutrients do. This is why a lot of people in the world now are over-fed and malnourished. They eat, but they still feel hungry after the meal. Why? Because they aren’t getting enough nutrients, and the body is crying out for more nutritious food. These cries are usually silenced by more sugary drinks and processed foods, contributing to the rise of chronic diseases. This breaks my heart!

When you restrict your calorie and kilojoule intake, you may be fed, but you can also be severely malnourished at the same time. A malnourished body exposes us to psychological/eating disorders and increases our susceptibility to disease.

I could spend all day talking about this, but let’s move on for now onto the FUN stuff!

Healthy & affordable eating habits

  1. Buy in bulk
    • If you had a look at my pantry here, you’ll notice that I am a HUGE fan of using herbs and spices when cooking! (No need for commercial salad dressings or condiments, which are commonly filled with nasty chemicals – flavourings and colours that are carcinogens.)
  2. Visit farmers markets
    • If you’re in Perth, visit the Manning Road or Subiaco Farmers Market every Saturday; or Grower’s Green market in Freo on Sunday. This is the best way to ensure you get the cheapest, freshest produce. It is value for money!
    • Produce in the supermarket can be pricey. It also often has lost many nutrients and isn’t very fresh after harvesting + transportation + storage time.
  3. Buy local & seasonal
    • Do you really need to eat those imported cherries and exotic fruits that aren’t in season? These are definitely great for treats (and I love snacking on cherries in winter), but I do my best to stick to what’s in season and what I can find from the farmers market where possible.
    • This is also a great way to support your farmers and reduce your carbon footprint! ;)
  4. Buy wholefoods
    • Think beans, fruits, vegetables, legumes, grains, seeds and nuts.
    • Opt for wholefoods instead of that jar of nut butter, gluten-free crackers or raw organic chocolate when running low on funds.
  5. Choose organic when it matters
    • Unfortunately, most fruits and vegetables planted commercially is sprayed with a wide range of pesticides and herbicides today.
    • As a rule of thumb, I try to buy organic leafy greens,  celery, cucumbers, zucchini, and anything which skin I will consume.
    • If organic is not a possible choice and cannot be found, don’t worry! Purchase the fresh produce, and wash it well before consuming!
  6. Prep day
    • I know you are a really busy person with a busy schedule, so set aside half a day to sort through all your fresh produce, wash them and prepare them ready-to-go. I have a huge container of kale + greens, and lots of homemade dishes that I prepare on Saturday mornings. When I get back home in the evening on weekdays, all I have to do is pop it in the oven before I bathe, and when I finish my shower I have a wholesome, healthy, warm meal!
  7. Cook at home
    • You would be surprised (and not delightfully surprised) if you found out how most food was prepared when you purchase it from outside. It usually involves huge amounts of sugar, salt and oils – not conducive to your health and wellness!
    • Cook at home, have fun baking your own bread or make your own cookies!
  8. Grow your own
    • Herbs can be grown on window stills.
    • There are lots of fruits and vege that can be easily grown in your veggie garden. Tomatoes, lettuce, celery are some great ones.

The common excuse

“I have no time to eat healthy”.
“I have no time to cook”.
“I have no time to reheat food in the oven so I will zap it in the microwave and make them (potentially) carcinogenic”.

I sincerely hope that you take a moment to reflect on this: Would you rather be a healthy person, spend some money and effort to stay mentally, physically, and emotionally happy? Or would you rather wait till your body is burnt out from your lack of care and you are sick and feeling dis-eases before you acknowledge the importance of your health?

Lack of care now = manifestation of diseases later. There is no “cheating” your body, and it is not okay to give poor care to your body because you think you are “still young”.

When you are healthy, you will have the energy and drive to pursue your dreams and create the life you want to live. You’re smart, you have big dreams, and you have the power to make those dreams come true.

This is your life. This is the only life and time here that you are certain you will have.

Choose to live with happiness, health and abundance!

To your health,
Jia Ni :)

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  1. June L says:

    Ni, blog about your prep day maybe? :D

  2. Jia Ni,

    I’m loving your posts!! We have a very similar outlook on healthy living.

    I can’t wait to read more of your work :)

    In health,

  3. Kavisha says:

    Just stumbled across your website Jai Ni and am loving it :D

    This post is so true. People don’t realise how easy and cheap it is to eat well!