There’s no question about it – fitness is glamorized in this country. And why shouldn’t good health be praised? But after awhile all the complicated meal plans featuring the latest diet trends, the elaborate workout routines involving top notch exercise equipment and expensive workout clothing/shoes gets a bit overwhelming.
The world of advertising can make fitness seem like it is only for the elite with all it’s expensive diets and gear, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth!
Participating in fitness and achieving a healthier version of you is attainable to EVERYONE, no matter where you live or how much you make. In this article, we will outline how you can hit your fitness goals without breaking the bank.
1. Keep it Simple by Stocking up on Healthy Foods and Buy in Bulk
In a 2013 Harvard School of Public Health meta-analysis of 10 countries including the United States, found that a healthy diet is only $1.48 more per day than what most people pay for a poor diet. (1) This number was an average when comparing several different “healthy” diet plans, such as the Mediterranean diet, the alternative healthy eating index and various other dietary patterns, to an average western diet of varying fast food intake and junk food bought at grocery stores.
The point is, for roughly $45 extra a month, you could be eating a healthier diet and seeing better results! While money might be tight, your health should be seen as an investment not as an expense.
One way to be sure you are buying healthier food items is to look at labels. (I know, I know… it’s annoying but so important!) Marketing claims on the front of packaging can be misleading if you’re not careful.
For example, just because something is labeled as “organic,” doesn’t necessarily mean it is healthy, 100% organic or hasn’t been exposed to herbicides/pesticides! (2) Certified organic foods only need to be made up of 95% organic material by USDA standards, and there are over 200 substances that can be added to foods and still retain certified organic standards! (3)
Some packaged items like cookies and crackers can be sneakily marketed as healthy sounding foods like “organic breakfast bars,” yet are the equivalent in both calories and macronutrient ratios as that of a candy bar!
So if you’re looking for organic produce check the produce sticker, it should start with a 9 to indicate it was grown organically. If you’re looking for other organic foods, be sure to see the printed words “100% organic” on the label otherwise it could be anywhere on the “organic” spectrum. Also, check the nutrition label to be sure it fits within the ingredients and macros you’d expect for that food.
Remember, the healthiest foods on the planet don’t have a nutrition label! So keep shopping simple and stock up on whole fruits and veggies, in a variety of colors so you can eat the rainbow! Shop primarily on the perimeter of the store where all the healthiest foods usually are – the center of the store is typically packaged junk.
Also, try buying bulk amounts of non-perishable foods like dried or canned legumes, beans, nuts and grains. It might be expensive up front, but will save you a lot of money overall in the long run! Lastly, it can also be helpful to do some research online for simple healthy recipes or meal plans before you shop (more on this later) and use that as a guide for what kind of whole foods to buy.
2. Buy Frozen Fruit and Vegetables
You fill your fridge to the brim with bright, colorful produce! You’ve done a good job and your beaming with pride in your healthy kitchen. But produce can expire fast… sometimes too fast (we’re looking at you bananas and avocados!) and anybody who has come back to that bright, colorful produce laden fridge only to find it brown and moldy a few days later understands how annoying throwing away produce is. It can feel like throwing away money. (We’re still looking at you bananas and avocados!)
It can be hard to buy a variety of fruits and veggies to “eat the rainbow,” satisfy dietary needs, and consume them fast enough before they go bad. This is where buying frozen fruit and vegetables can really be a game changer. One of the biggest benefits (besides the lower cost and waste) is multiple studies show that frozen fruits and veggies are actually MORE nutrient dense than their fresh counterparts! (5,6,7) This is due to the fact that frozen produce is “flash frozen” within hours of being harvested or picked, so they don’t lose as many nutrients as their fresh counterparts who degrade throughout storage, shipping and sitting on the shelf. Additionally, the majority of frozen fruits and vegetables can be defrosted and eaten just like their fresh counterparts. (Yes, even avocados!) Win, Win!
3. Shop with a List on a Full Stomach
We’ve all been there- You go to the store on your way home after work and everything looks appetizing. You start piling things into your cart you wouldn’t otherwise eat because you’re hungry for dinner. OR You go to the store without a list since you’re in the area but you don’t know what you need so you browse up and down every single aisle – putting a mismatch of items into your cart. You get home and aren’t sure what to make with all the things you bought so you order take-out anyway. Sound familiar?
If there is one piece of advice that will help you more than any other on this list, it is to eat before you go shopping and make a list. As our example shows, if you are hungry, everything will sound good at the time and you’ll be more likely to pick up and buy items that you know you shouldn’t. Similarly, having a list will help to stop you from buying more things than you need. Eating and creating a list is the easiest way to stop overspending on your groceries and prevent hangry shopping!
4. Meal Prep Once or Twice a Week
Meal prepping your food in advance not only helps you stay healthy and on track, but will also save money on take-out. Additionally, research has shown that homemade meals are more nutritious and better for your budget than eating out! (4)
With the same idea as buying in bulk, spending a few hours once or twice a week to prepare your food like salads, smoothies, rice or pasta dishes in bulk will save you time and energy through the remainder of the week as you’ll be able to get your meals with the same convenience as fast food with the benefit of homemade.
Some food items will only last a few days in the fridge, but you can make a week’s worth of meals and freeze half of them! As you finish your last refrigerated meal in the middle of the week, pull out the remaining meals from the freezer and stick them in the fridge and you are good to go!
An easy plant-based protein option you can include in your meal prep is IdealRaw Organic Protein. It’s so convenient to throw a scoop into your shaker bottle to drink later on with your other prepared food.
IdealRaw is great because it’s quick, delicious, vegan-friendly, and it mixes up well, making it the perfect on-the-go protein source to power you through your day. You can use it as a mid-afternoon snack, as part of your meal prep, or to help kickstart your post-workout recovery.
5. Get Creative with Your Workouts
We have talked a lot about nutrition so far, because it is so vital to your health!8 However, it isn’t the only factor of fitness with the other component being physical activity. While it may not attribute as much to weight loss as nutrition9, it still contributes and is important to your overall cardiovascular, muscle, and pulmonary systems, as well as reducing your overall risk of all-cause mortality. (10)
We all know that exercise is good for you, but gyms can be expensive and not a lot of people enjoy running as a hobby. If you’re stuck here, you need to rethink what exercise means to you. Exercise can be any type of physical activity or movement that is planned in advance. Yoga, hiking, snow shoveling, raking leaves, swimming, dancing, walking through a museum or farmers market, walking the dog, jumping on the trampoline, and going on leisure bike rides all count as physical activity.
Now the intensity and duration is up to you, but as long as you get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity per week, with each exercise lasting at least 10 minutes, you will hit the goal set by the department of health and human services in the United States.(11) Get creative and be active, while also catering to your hobbies and interests. This will make “exercise” fun, easy and potentially inexpensive.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on how you can hit your fitness goals through proper diet and exercise without breaking the bank. Remember, your health is an investment not an expense. As with any investment, you get what you put in. The more you prioritize your health, the healthier you’ll come.