Healthy Eating on a Budget
Whether you’re already living with Type 2 diabetes or are simply at high risk of developing the condition (pre-diabetes), eating a healthy and balanced diet should be your number one priority. But, while eating healthy might be great for your body, the common perception is that ‘health food’ comes with an expensive price tag.
Fortunately, you don’t need to be living exclusively off the latest organic superfood fad to keep diabetes in check. Eating healthily on a budget is easy – all you need is some insider knowledge and a little bit of forethought.
We asked leading Australian dietitian Kate Save to share her tips for planning healthy meals that are as good for your bank account as they are for your body.
Embrace meal planning
“When people hear the words meal planning they assume it’s going to be a really complicated, time-consuming exercise. The truth is that it’s actually quite simple. The key thing is to choose from the five food groups first: fruit; vegetables and legumes; lean meats; poultry and other proteins; and milk, cheese and dairy. Check your recommended daily portions of each and try and stick to these when working out your daily menu.
“Another useful tip when planning meals – especially if you’re managing diabetes or prediabetes – is to make the vegetables the hero. Select six to eight veggies for each meal and aim to cover off a range of colours.”
Another piece of useful advice when meal planning is to write a shopping list – and stick to it. That means no deviations down the snack food aisle! If you are prone to temptation, try doing your grocery shopping online instead. Another useful tip is to never go food shopping when you’re hungry – you’ll be far more likely to reach for that pack of biscuits or chips.
Finally, plan your meals according to what is in season. In line with the natural laws of supply and demand, fruit and veg that are in abundance will more likely be cheaper or on special.
Buy (and cook) in bulk
“This also comes back to meal planning. Both buying and cooking in bulk is a great way to keep costs down and also cut down on time spent in the kitchen – so think ahead and be smart with your choices.”
Kate suggests opting for ingredients that you know you can use in a number of recipes, so that there’s no risk you’ll be left with a crisper drawer full of limp veg that’s past its use by date.
“I often use the same range of veg but experiment with different herbs and spices to change the flavour and keep things interesting. Rather than buying expensive pre-made sauces (which can often contain high amounts of hidden sugar and salt) try low salt versions of sauces like fish sauce, soy sauce and tamari. If you buy from your local Asian grocery store instead of the supermarket you’ll also make great savings!” she said.
“I also recommend cooking in bulk so that you can freeze a portion or two and keep it for later in the week. If you’re feeling really adventurous, try cooking two meals at the same time – one to eat now and one to freeze.”
Waste not, want not
“Don’t be afraid to experiment with your leftovers – particularly when it comes to veg. I always keep leftover fresh herbs to make dips for snacking and light lunches – they’re perfect for making your own pesto or mixing in with sweet potato or eggplant. Try mixing your leftover mint and dill with cucumber and low fat plain yoghurt to create a delicious homemade tzatziki.”
Quick and easy meal ideas on a budget
Still struggling for affordable meal ideas? Here are Kate Save’s three favourite budget-busting dishes:
“Fajitas are so easy. Just fry up some chicken strips, tri colour capsicum and sliced onion with a splash of olive oil and some Mexican spice mix for a healthy dish that ticks all the food group boxes. Just be sure to opt for wholegrain tortilla wraps over white.”
See the full recipe for Chicken Fajitas here
Chili con Carne
“Legumes are just great for people with diabetes and perfect for hiding veggies if you’re not a fan of the taste. Simply throw some kidney beans, extra lean mince and Mexican spice into the pan with two cups of grated veg of your choice.”
Healthy cottage pie
“Everyone loves a cottage pie – but all that starchy potato can be a bit of a carb overload. For a healthy version, use grated up cauliflower instead of potato, throw in two cups of veggies (your choice), extra lean mince and a cup of stock.”
Browse more healthy, budget-friendly recipes here.
Kate Save is an accredited Dietitian and Exercise Physiologist with more than 10 years’ experience helping patients manage their diabetes.
She has been engaged by Sanofi to provide regular expert commentary for Diabetes-Care. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the expert and do not necessarily reflect the view of Sanofi.