Eating Healthy on the Cheap:
Your Guide to Affordable Healthy Eating for the New Year
By: Dr. Melissa Lee BSc. ND.
Looking back at 2013 there were a lot of changes made within the Whole Foods Movement. Events like Monsanto’s seed patents created a thirst for understanding genetically modified foods and sustainable farming practices. An increasing incidence of Boomer diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease led this demographic to take control of their lives with a focus on preventative health measures. Finally corporate restaurants and fast food chains start to have gluten free menus. We as a population are now curious of what we put into our bodies and we want more for our health.
The major food trends of 2013 had people trying various “whole foods” diets and lifestyles such as gluten free, veganism, Paleolithic, organic and non-GMO. However, these trends have led to a mass production of processed foods catered to these diets. For example gluten free brown rice chips are usually doused in a concoction of flavorings which contain items like: sodium diacetate, hydrolysed soy and/or corn protein, sodium acetate, autolysed yeast extract, citric acid, disodium inosinate and disodium guanylate, silicon dioxide and calcium stearate. Vegan cheddar cheese formulated to contain “natural vegan flavors,” xanthum gums, annatoo, carrageenan, titanium dioxide or vegan enzymes. Don’t forget the cupcake madness where gluten free cupcakes are presented with an impressive tower of icing.
The concept of “whole food” has become an expensive way of living where chips, cakes and cookies are substituted with its “_______- free” alternative. So let’s clarify: chips are chips and a cupcake is still a cupcake despite it being gluten free, dairy free, or vegan. Moving along to 2014, let’s refine and remind ourselves the definition of whole foods:
“Food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances”
When you choose foods in this manner, healthy eating becomes affordable. Here are some tips for affordable healthy eating in 2014:
- Rice and Beans Baby!
Rice (jasmine, basmati, long grain, Arborio, brown, wild) and beans (lentils, chickpeas, mung beans, adzuki beans, split peas) are a great affordable staple food to add to the diet. By choosing the “heartier” varieties of these plants (as listed), you can add a good amount of plant based protein and a lot of fiber to the diet. Increasing these foods will help regulate bowel movements, substitute meat proteins, and lowers unhealthy cholesterol levels in body. Tip: venture into Indian and African cuisine for food ideas and inspiration. Tip: cook a large batch of dried beans and store them in the freezer. Use this instead of canned beans.
- Where to shop?
Farmers markets are a fantastic place to find locally grown and seasonally appropriate affordable vegetables. In the winter time you are looking for warming and hearty vegetables like: beets, cabbage, carrots, ginger, garlic, leeks, onions, parsnips, potatoes, rutabaga, dark leafy greens, sprouts and squash (acorn, pepper, spaghetti, buttercup, butternut, hubbard). Tip: In the winter season, prepare these vegetables in a quick manner by roasting, steaming, or making a crock pot soup.
Along the perimeter of a grocery store you will find your basic whole foods: vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, poultry, and dairy/dairy alternatives. You’d be surprised how quickly you can get your grocery shopping done without going in the middle isles. Tip: use the time you save grocery shopping to plan meals.
- Spice it up:
Ketchup: a person’s best friend when it comes to bland food but it doesn’t necessarily make it into the whole food list now does it? Try using spices to flavor your foods and expand your taste buds. Cumin, turmeric, basil, cinnamon, cardamom, oregano, parsley, sea salt, garlic, ginger, paprika, all taste fantastic and have digestive, anticancer, anti-inflammatory, circulatory and antioxidant properties.
- Time and preparation
Healthy eating may take a little time to learn, but you will learn. Give yourself permission and patience to learn at your own pace. Tip: start with a prep day. For example my prep day is Monday where I plan meals, chop vegetables for the week, make nut and seed mixtures, make snack packs and essentially set the week up for a grab and go lifestyle. This may be a Saturday or Sunday for you. When I first started this preparation it took me 4 hours and now it takes me 1 hour. Be confident that you will find your cadence in food preparation and cooking.
Eating whole foods is very rewarding and you will benefit physically, mentally and emotional. Remember:
Whole Foods: “Food that has been processed or refined as little as possible and is free from additives or other artificial substances.”
Happy Healthy Eating for 2014
Melissa Lee BSc. ND-Insight Naturopathic Clinic – 550 Eglinton Ave E, Toronto, ON