If you find yourself wandering down the aisles during your weekly grocery trip, hoping for meal-planning inspiration to strike, you might want to rethink your strategy. This is especially important if you’re looking to eat a balanced diet on a budget.
As baseball legend Yogi Berra once said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you’ll end up somewhere else.” Taking just a little time to plan your meals for the week ahead, and the foods you’ll need for those meals, can pay off in many ways.
Eating Well on a Budget Takes Planning
Making an intentional menu for the week can support healthful eating by helping to make sure you’re getting a balanced and varied diet. It also helps shape that week’s grocery list. Having a list in hand saves time at the supermarket, protects against impulsive purchases, and reduces food waste – which is also wasted money!
Your Grocery List for a Balanced Diet
A healthy diet should include foods from all the major food groups: fruits, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy. Keep in mind, variety is the spice of life: switching up your food choices can help prevent you from getting bored with your meal plan, and it’s a great way to make sure you’re getting the full spectrum of vitamins and minerals you need. Be sure to rotate meals and even introduce new foods into your repertoire.
Here’s what you need:
- Fruits and vegetables
- Pretty much anything you find in the fresh produce section will be great for healthy eating. Produce that’s in season not only is the freshest, but it may also be the best value.
- Don’t forget about canned and frozen fruits and vegetables. The convenience of prepared and shelf-stable produce can’t be beat. But be choosy: opt for lower-sodium canned vegetables or give them a good rinse before serving. Canned fruit or fruit cups should be unsweetened or in their own juices, not in syrup (which is another way of saying added sugar). With frozen, keep an eye out for sodium content on items that are seasoned or sauced.
- Go for whole grains when you can, like brown rice, 100% whole wheat bread and pasta.
- Oatmeal is a terrific heart-healthy food, and it’s very versatile. It stands up on its own as a breakfast, and it can be used in baking for both sweet (cookies) and savory (meatloaf) recipes.
- Breakfast cereal is good to have on hand, as most are fortified with nutrients that we need for healthy living. Choose options that are higher in fiber (at least 3 grams per serving) and lower in sugar (10 grams or less per serving.)
- Meats and seafood
- When choosing beef, look for 90% lean which has less saturated fat.
- Poultry (chicken, turkey) is generally a lean meat option, even dark meat. Just be sure to choose skinless. Many cuts of pork are lean, especially the loin.
- With seafood, you actually want to look for the fatty sources like salmon and sardines. That’s because the types of fats are heart-healthy omega-3s.
- Plant proteins
- Canned beans are incredibly convenient, economical and healthy, especially if you choose lower sodium options. Dried beans and lentils are also easy to prepare and inexpensive.
- Tofu is another plant protein that’s relatively inexpensive and packed with nutrients.
- Healthy fats
- You do need some fat for cooking and baking, and your best bet is vegetable-based oils such as olive or canola oils.
- Buttery spreads are a great way to get the flavor of butter but without the saturated fat. Many are made with vegetable oils but check the ingredients to be sure they don’t have hydrogenated oils, which are not good for the heart.
- Lowfat milk and yogurt give you the power of protein plus calcium and other nutrients. Opt for less sweet or unsweetened/plain varieties. You can always add your own sweetness with fruit or berries.
- As for cheese, cottage cheese is higher in protein than most other cheeses but like all cheese, it can be a source of sodium.
- Fortified Foods and Drinks
- From milk and breakfast cereal to specialized snack foods and nutritional drinks, many foods and beverages are fortified with nutrients to help you fill nutritional gaps.
For a nutrient-packed drink that can help round out your diet, try BOOST® nutritional drinks. BOOST® ready-to-drink beverages taste best cold but keep just fine in your pantry for a quick snack or mini-meal.