Updated: Dec 29, 2020
This COVID-19 era is proving a very difficult and unsettling time for many of us especially with our concerns about job security and family finances. With all that in mind the last area of concern we want to think about is how to eat well on a budget.
The Health Nutritionist's Nourhan is here to provide some expert nutrition advice to anyone looking to eat healthier whilst keeping to a budget. Nourhan is an associate nutritionist with the AFN and specialises in all aspects of family nutrition. Here Nourhan tells us how to eat well on a budget, from getting our 5 a day to what snacks to choose from.
How to eat well on a budget
What do we need to be healthy?
There has been clear evidence that including fruit and vegetables in our diet helps us to stay healthy. The NHS Eatwell Guide recommends we have at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables daily. This recommendation is based on the WHO advice of eating a minimum of 400g of fruit and vegetables every day (which is approximately the same as 5 portion sizes).
Why are fruit and vegetables great for our health?
Did you know that fruit and vegetables are a very important source of:
Vitamins and minerals: including vitamin C- A- E, folate, potassium and magnesium.
Dietary fibre: which is very important for maintaining a healthy gut and evidence shows that diets which are high in fibre can lower risk of chronic diseases such as, bowel cancer, heart diseases and type-2 diabetes.
Having your 5 a day can also improve your overall health and well-being
How many fruit & vegetables are we typically eating?
It seems that most of us are struggling to meet the minimum daily recommendations of fruit and vegetable consumption. The most recent national diet and nutrition survey (2018) which looked into diet and health-related behaviours in the UK highlighted that:
Only 28% of adults were eating their 5 a day with an average of 3.7 portions a day.
Young people aged 16 to 24 years old are less likely to get their 5 a day.
Only 18% of children (aged 5 to 15) ate five portions a day.
How can we increase our fruit and vegetable intake?
The first step is to break down the target amount into manageable steps. For example, divide your 5 a day up throughout the day (Breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks):
Add sliced banana, sliced peaches or a handful of mixed berries to your morning cereal or porridge.
Add grilled or pan stir-fried mushrooms, tomatoes, peppers or spinach to your scrambled eggs.
Add some extra texture or crunch to your breakfast by adding sliced lettuce, kale, baby spinach or baby leaf rocket as an extra topping for your muffins/toast.
Mix a banana with your pancake batter and top it with a portion of berries and yoghurt.
Jazz up your toasts by adding a mix of fruit toppings alongside a small spread of your favourite nut butter or low-fat cream cheese.
- a handful of berries
- 1 medium sliced banana
- 1 apricot
- 1 peach
Ideas to include fruit & vegetables to your lunch and dinner:
Aim for 2-3 portions of vegetables in your main dish.
Add some beans or pulses, carrots or grilled mushrooms, broccoli or onions to your soups and salads.
Top up your tacos, toast, pasta or rice with more colour and textures by adding extra vegetables and pulses (such as red kidney beans, peas or cannellini beans)
Top up your pasta sauce with 1 or 2 portions of your favourite vegetables and pulses (we like kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils).
Top up your pizza with extra vegetable toppings (2-3 portions) such as sweetcorn, peppers and tomatoes.
Tasty fruit & vegetable snacks:
Simply have a handful of your favourite fruit, they are tasty and easy to carry on the go.
Try your favourite dip with veg sticks, such as carrot or cucumber slices
Layer oatcakes with a thin spread of nut butter topped with fruits such as figs, or bananas.
Stuffed vegetables can be a great snack. We like stuffed peppers, courgettes and/or aubergine with cooked minced beef, chopped tomatoes, spinach, onions and sweetcorn and then top them with a sprinkle of mozzarella or cheddar. Or stuff with rice and chopped parsley, dill and mint.
Yoghurt topped with a handful of your favourite fruit.
How do I keep to a budget?
Eating healthy doesn't have to cost as much as you think; Here are Nourhan’s top tips to meet your 5 a day on a budget:
Go for seasonal fruit and vegetables. Often in-season produce is often cheaper, fresher and higher in nutritional value.
Buy either fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables. Frozen fruit and vegetables are not only budget-friendly but a very convenient way to store in the freezer whenever you need and will save you from food waste. Frozen fruit and veg are perfectly healthy and they often have higher nutrient content over fresh varieties.
Canned fruit and vegetable are also budget-friendly and a good way to store if you have limited freezer space. Please note when buying canned fruit or vegetables, make sure to check the labels and choose those without added salt or sugar.
Most importantly, plan your weekly/monthly shopping ahead and do not forget to include varieties of fresh, frozen and tinned fruit, vegetables and pulses.
We hope these tips help you meet your 5 a day on a budget. If you need personalised advice, we are here to help give you the tools and most importantly the confidence to help you achieve your goals.
Nourhan specialises in family nutrition and healthy eating advice. She is our associate nutritionist with the AfN. Please contact us to request Nourhan's expertise.