People with SCI are at risk of developing a host of serious, debilitating and potentially life-threatening secondary health complications. A nutritious diet can help prevent and/or manage many of these conditions. However, finding ways to eat well on a tight budget can be a challenge. Here are 10 tips on how to get healthy foods in your diet and save money:
1. Make a weekly plan
• Make a list of meals for the week. Avoid excess buying and budget your meals.
• Collect coupons and buy items on sale.
• Do not shop hungry.
• Cook more and eat out less. You’ll save more than you can imagine.
2. Eat whole foods
• Many nutritious whole foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains) cost less than fast food, chips, cookies and pop. Fast foods may fill you up, but they often lack nutrients and fiber, are loaded with salt, sugar, additives, preservatives and bad fats, and they contribute to secondary health complications, such as obesity, cardiovascular disease and type II diabetes.
• Take a pass on prepared foods, pre-cut fruits and vegetables, frozen meals and/or vegetables in sauces. They save time but cost more.
• Nutrient-dense whole foods (nuts/seeds and whole grains) fill you up so you eat less. Refined carbohydrates, processed foods and sugars cause cravings and overeating, which in turn means spending more.
3. Build your main meal from whole grains and legumes two to three times a week. Quinoa, whole grains and legumes (beans) are less expensive than meat and contain complex carbohydrates for sustained energy, fiber for better bowel function, protein for tissue repair and growth, and other essential vitamins and minerals that our bodies need.
4. Buy and cook in bulk. Grains and legumes can be bought in bulk inexpensively. Prepare bean salads, chili and stews in quantity and freeze in meal size packs. This makes for healthy, quick, easy meals during the week.
5. Skip the middle aisles. The middle aisles are where the processed foods are kept. Shop on the outside edges where the whole foods are located.
6. Buy local. Buy fruits and vegetables that are grown locally and in season. Farmers market foods are usually fresher and less expensive.
7. Grow your own vegetables and herbs. If you lack space, grow produce in large flower pots or balcony planters.
8. Wash fruits and veggies well! Not all produce is created and/or grown equally. Some contain fewer pesticides than others. Just make sure you wash your fresh produce well — especially spinach, bell peppers, potatoes, celery, peaches, strawberries, raspberries, apples, grapes and pears, which tend to have higher pesticide levels.
9. Don’t throw out wilted vegetables or fruits. Save them for smoothies, stews, soups. Freeze them and use later. To keep celery crispy longer, wrap it in aluminum foil.
10. Shop off hours. Shop late Saturday night or early Monday morning and take advantage of marked down prices on meat and produce.
Joanne Smith and Kylie James are co-authors of the book Eat Well Live Well with SCI and Other Neurological Conditions. For more information on nutrition for neurological injuries, go to www.eatwelllivewellwithsci.com.