The benefits for healthy eating are likely limitless and certainly invaluable, if you value your life and health, that is. Most of my life, I can honestly say that I have had an equal balance of healthy and very unhealthy eating habits, the latter of which led to significant weight gain. Thankfully, for whatever reason this also has not lead to the myriad health problems associated with being overweight such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes and even sleep disorders, depression and anxiety, also linked to being overweight and not getting enough exercise. I am free from every one of these disorders. At least… so far. So, over the past few months, I set out to make dramatic changes regarding my health and fitness—I lost weight, felt better and looked better as a result. What was really odd, though, was that eating healthier caused a sharp decline in my food costs! I seriously saved a lot of cash bulking up on fresh greens and veggies, raw nuts and healthy fats and small amounts of lean meats, fish and seafood. I was preparing most meals at home, taking food with me on-the-go and making good choices when I would eat out at restaurants and even at friends’ houses, and I saved money.
Okay, so I didn’t stick with it forever, and I went back to many old eating habits, intermingled with the healthy ones—much like I have done all my life. I kept up some exercise, though not like I was doing previously, and I am still pleased to report that even this shift did not cause me to gain my weight back, just a little, but mostly I’m maintaining from where I left off. Well, I decided it was time to amp up the program again, get my shit together and start taking care of me once more. However, my lifestyle has changed a bit since I first embarked on the healthier lifestyle journey. My income level has dramatically increased, but my available time has decreased, and I eat out most of the time. Through this, I’ve verified what many have always reported: eating healthfully via restaurants is extremely expensive when it’s done on a regular basis. Okay, so I’m making more money now, but I don’t want all of that going into the pockets of restaurateurs, even though many are close friends of mine. I need to find a way to cut back on food costs while still eating healthfully and not taking up big prep time at home.
So here are seven tips to eating healthfully, inexpensively on-the-go!
- Rethink what it means to eat out: produce stands and grocery stores are great options over restaurants, and you will often find healthier things to eat there that are easy to prepare in a rush, even while sitting at your desk
- Produce stand discoveries. If you do find a produce stand, really explore everything they have there. Beyond fruits and veggies, some even have a selection of pickled vegetables, smoked fish, locally crafted cheeses and other prepared foods such as stuffed grape leaves or salads—far less expensive than you will find at a restaurant or even often times cheaper than a grocery store
- Fast food: salads and even wraps pack in most of their empty calories in the salad dressings and breaded, fried meat. Most fast food joints have fresh lemons (I know McDonald’s does) for their iced tea. Use fresh squeezed lemon as your dressing and opt for grilled meat versus fried. A note on wraps: though the carb content in tortillas is more significant than you might think, it’s not the worst thing you could eat—like a Big Mac, for instance. And sometimes, you just can’t eat another damn salad!
- Eat half. Restaurants often have huge portion sizes, sometimes more than we can eat and almost always more than we should eat. But, if it’s in front of us, and we’re enjoying the food, over-eating is likely to happen. This is a tip from fitness celebrity Forbes Riley: when your food arrives at the table, ask your server to take half of it and pack it up for you. Think about it, you just responsibly managed your portion control and you theoretically cut the cost of your meal in half by eating half now and the other half at another meal time.
- Water! Do not order soft drinks, specialty drinks, juices, coffees, beer or even iced tea… the mark up on beverages in the restaurant industry is huge, and it is where they make their greatest revenue. Hey, I can’t stand the taste of tap water either, but I assure you that drinking it is far less dangerous than the many other beverages that just add chemicals to tap water such as fountain drinks. I order my water with extra lemon, and if you think to carry Stevia packets around with you, you can even make your own lemonade.
- Juice your veggies—if you are lucky enough to be near a place that serves fresh squeezed vegetable juices such as a juice bar or health food store, take advantage of this. You can drink your nutrients for about $5, and chomp on a handful of raw nuts or eat an avocado to satisfy your need for something more substantial in your belly. Some places will even blend that avocado along with some kale and spinach for you for the same $5, making a substantial smoothie from these fresh nutrient-rich ingredients.
- Share your burden and love of healthy foods. If you have several friends, neighbors or co-workers who would like to cut the costs of healthy eating, I worked in a place where the entire research department got together and decided to eat clean. Everyone would bring one small dish (but enough to share), and they created their own salad bar, which included some hot items such as soup or grilled fish or veggies. They did this nearly every day at work. Think about how cool family gatherings or pot lucks would be if everyone decided to eat clean and bring a healthy dish
And don’t forget to SpinGym! Seriously, it’s an amazing workout at an unbelieveable value, and it’s 100% portable. There’s no good excuse to not have it with you all the time!