5 Quick Nutrition Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget

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We asked the CAFB’s Nutrition Education Coordinator, Katherine Donnelly about her top five quick nutrition tips for living a healthy lifestyle and eating a nutritious diet while on a budget. Katherine’s role at the Food Bank involves working with our partners and directly with community members who use our services. She provides nutrition education through affordable-recipe training and cooking demonstrations. For people who are struggling with hunger, eating a nutritious diet is critical for staying healthy.

This is what Katherine had to say:

My Number 1 tip of all time:

Learn how to cook! Being confident in the kitchen will allow you to improvise based on your circumstance. Understanding how to construct a meal based on the balance of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, and fat) with micronutrient(vitamins & minerals)-rich ingredients will be great for your budget and your body. Understanding how flavors work together will help that improvisation.

Learning how to cook and be confident in the kitchen has been beneficial to many of our partners and community members. One woman, Spring, recently told me that by learning how to cook, she’s now able to find unique ways to utilize all her food—extra apples or oranges become a mid-morning juice, for example.

Tip #2: Stay Curious

Every culture has some great yet very basic dish that lends itself to the comfort food category. Those dishes tend to also be very nutritious! The various combinations of starches and beans are a great guide: I am a fan of gallo pinto from Costa Rica and Nicaragua; koshary from Egypt; red beans and rice from NOLA; ribollita from Italy; veggie pho with tofu from Vietnam; and lentils and injera from Ethiopia. I could easily make a much longer list.

Tip #3: Eat Plant-Based Proteins

I love to introduce people to an inexpensive way to elevate their nutrient intake with plant-based protein powerhouses like beans and lentils; loads of nutrients for a fraction of the price of many animal products. When I do recipe demo’s at our family markets, many parents are interested to learn how much protein is packed into beans and lentils! They are often excited to add more beans and lentils to their growing kids’ dinners.

Tip #4: Shop in Season!

Tip #4: Shop in season! This is especially important for those who do not eat meat. It is important to educate yourself on the local seasons and shop accordingly. The more in-season the food is, the less distance it has to travel so it will be cheaper and retain more of those essential nutrients! Plus, when you shop in season, you are contributing to the local business.

Tip #5: Flavor Your Food

Flavor your food without depending on excess salt, fat, or sugar. Experiment with spices and spice blends. Many grocery stores feature small spice packets for less than $1 that you can use in a variety of ways. Growing fresh herbs is an inexpensive way to supply yourself with fresh flavor, I am currently growing cilantro on my bedroom windowsill that gets loads of sun. I use lemons and limes all the time in cooking to brighten and enhance flavors, and not just the juice! Adding lemon zest (the outside of the fruit, think of better way to describe) to pasta dishes and salad dressings are great; lime zest in salsas and salads; orange zest on yogurt or stir fry; leftover citrus to flavor your water; etc. If the fresh citrus is expensive or out of season, I do not mind using the bottle concentrated juices that last a while in your refrigerator and are affordable. I use honey and apple sauce as natural sweeteners as well.