5 tips for eating well on a budget
- Shop in season – fresh produce is often much cheaper when you buy it in season.
- Less-processed foods still count - these can be an affordable and nutritious option when foods are out of season or out of budget.
- Buy local – imported foods often tend to cost more than local, plus you’ll be saving on food miles.
- Reduce food waste – get creative and try to use as much of your food as possible.
- Prepare meals at home – while this will require a little bit of kitchen-know-how, it will save you money in the long run.
3 ways with broccoli stalks
Next time a recipe calls for adding broccoli, go one step further than adding just the florets and use the stalk as well. Not only will you be reducing food waste but you’ll also be adding more of this nutritious vegetable to your meals.
- Add the grated or chopped stalk to your favourite stir-fry, pasta or fritter recipe.
- Much like a cauliflower, broccoli can also be used to make ‘rice’, by blitzing in a food-processor.
- Soup and stock – use the chopped stalks for added flavour and nutrition.
What is a Superfood?
From super-berries like goji and maqui to super-powders such as matcha or turmeric, there always seems to be something new we should be eating with extra ‘special’ nutrition super-powers.
The official definition of a superfood is “a nutrient-rich food considered to be especially beneficial for health and well-being." In reality, most whole foods are nutrient rich and beneficial for our health. For example, while there is no doubting that kale is good for us, it is a vegetable after all, it’s perhaps not as super as many of us have been led to believe over recent years. While kale has a high antioxidant activity, it ranks well down the list, at number 15, when looking at the nutrient density scores. In fact, standard Romaine lettuce, leaf lettuce and spinach all ranked higher when it comes to nutrient density, with watercress and Chinese cabbage taking out the first and second places respectively.
Exotic berries such as the goji, acai and maqui have been appearing in smoothie bowls the world over. Touted to have powerful antioxidant properties which can boost metabolism and fight disease and premature ageing, the claims are often over exaggerated at best. It also pays to remember, that these so-called super-berries in fact share similar antioxidant properties to many of our more commonly known berries, such as the blue or blackberry. All berries (whether they be acai or blue) can be an antioxidant-packed and healthful addition to your diet, however they are no silver bullet.
Fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh or kombucha have been around for thousands of years. They are easily digested by the body and can help to increase the number of good bacteria (also known as probiotics) in your gut. These beneficial bacteria have been shown to not only help support digestive health, but the immune system as well. However, if the thought of having fermented cabbage, soy or black tea is enough to make your stomach churn, a good probiotic yoghurt or fermented milk drink will also do the trick. It does pay to check the salt and sugar contents of some fermented foods though, as they can sometimes be higher than you’d expect.
Super-powders, such as matcha, turmeric or sumac, can contain powerful antioxidants or compounds (such as curcumin in turmeric) which many claim will help to prevent or even reverse various health complaints. However, as with many so-called superfoods, often there are many limitations in the research underpinning these claims. There is also the question of how much of these ingredients we need to have each day in order to see any benefit. While some of the research does look promising, there needs to be many more high-quality studies before we can go claiming these super-powders have super-powers.
Super-food or super fad?
The implication that eating a specific food, is going to prevent you from getting cancer or heart disease is just plain wrong and even potentially dangerous. The reality is that for optimal health we need to be eating a variety of nutritious whole and less-processed foods, with plenty of non-starchy vegetables and fruit. A poor diet is still going to be a poor diet, regardless of how much turmeric, goji berry or fermented foods you add to it. While superfoods can be a healthful addition to a healthy eating pattern, it is your whole diet which is going to support your health, rather than any specific food – super or otherwise.
Superfoods can often come with a hefty price tag. Here are some simple swaps that are just as nutritious and yet not as hard on the pocket.
- Kale: Spinach, Romaine or leaf lettuce, Chinese cabbage, watercress
- Goji / Acai / Maqui berries: All berries, including blueberries, boysenberries, strawberries or blackberries
- Kimchi, kombucha, sauerkraut: Probiotic yoghurt
- Matcha: Green tea. While matcha has a higher amount of antioxidants due to it undergoing less-processing than green tea, evidence still supports the health benefits of drinking regular green tea.
- Quinoa: Lentils or brown rice
3 ways with blueberries
Make the most of blueberries being in season and have these little beauties whenever you are after a tasty treat.
- By themselves – pack them into lunchboxes or grab a handful as a snack, any time is a good time to enjoy these summer fruits.
- Add to your favourite smoothie – fresh or frozen blueberries can help to bump up the antioxidant content of your favourite smoothie.
- Serve fresh alongside unsweetened probiotic yoghurt – not only do you get a powerful punch of antioxidants but you also get the benefits of adding good bacteria to your gut.
What foods should I be eating?
ABC Nutrition owner and well-respected dietitian, Angela Berrill is passionate about health and nutrition, and believes in finding ways for people to enjoy food while also nurturing their bodies. While it can be difficult to navigate the many mixed messages around what we should be eating, the fundamentals of what makes up a healthy diet haven’t changed. The Ministry of Health and the Heart Foundation recommend that we choose “mostly whole and less processed” foods to support our health.
What is a whole food?
The Ministry of Health defines whole foods as, “Foods that are close to their natural state but may have been harvested, washed or cleaned ready for consumption or cooking. Examples of whole foods are fresh vegetables and fruit, raw legumes, raw nuts and seeds, eggs, fish, chicken and red meat (with visible fat removed).” Whole foods are a very healthy choice due to containing an abundance of naturally occurring nutrients, which support our health. ‘Less–processed’ foods on the other hand, have undergone a little processing, “but have kept most of their physical, chemical, sensory and nutritional properties.” These foods include pasteurised milk, frozen vegetables or canned legumes, with minimal salt and/or sugar added. While these foods have undergone a little processing, they are still healthy and nutritious options to include in your diet. They can also often be more affordable and convenient than their whole food counterparts. At the other end of the spectrum, ‘highly-processed foods’ are moving further and further away from the food in its natural state, with often saturated fat, sugar and/or sodium (salt) being added. These foods often have lower levels of the naturally occurring dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients due to the heavy processing. Such foods include soft drinks, biscuits, chips, refined cereals, processed meats (e.g. ham, sausages and salami) and many convenience foods.
Aren’t whole foods more expensive?
You can help to keep the costs down by buying vegetables and fruit in season, ensuring that you use everything from root to tip and that you store food correctly. Love Food Hate Waste New Zealand has a number of helpful tips for how you can cut back on food waste.
In addition to minimising food waste, where you can and if your situation allows, it also pays to think about the sustainability of your food choices – purchase foods which are grown locally or made in New Zealand, saying “No” to plastic bags and being mindful of food miles. How can I tell if something is a healthy choice? Ingredients will be listed in descending weight order. In the case of sugar, be aware that it can be called many different names!
The Nutrition Information Panel (NIP) also contains a wealth of information. The Heart Foundation recommends that when purchasing processed foods you look for, “less is best of the 3Ss” – that is choosing products which contain the least amount of saturated fat, sugar and sodium per 100g. Health Stars can be a useful guide to indicate which foods are healthier choices within a food category. Generally speaking the higher the Stars, the healthier the food. However, it does still pay to check the NIP and choose products which contain the least sugar, saturated fat and sodium per 100g – the levels of some nutrients might be higher than you’d expect, despite the Star rating.
Finally, it’s important to remember, that no one food is going to make your diet healthy or unhealthy. We need to take a step back and look at the bigger picture, the diet as a whole. For heart health, the Heart Foundation recommends we eat a “dietary pattern based largely on minimally processed foods with plenty of vegetables and fruit; including some intact whole grains in place of refined grains: legumes, nuts, seeds and other sources of healthy fats such as oily fish.” If we get this right most of the time, the rest tends to take care of itself.
Dave Shaw is a super busy New Zealand registered dietitian, working with many of New Zealand’s elite rugby players and Olympic athletes. Here are some tips to get you feeling energised.
Know your goals
What you should eat depends on your goals. Are you aiming to lose weight, get fit, win races, or simply make the most of the summer? If you’re exercising every other day for an hour or less, then your usual diet should be sufficient to take care of your energy requirements. By reducing your intake of sugary foods and drinks, alcohol and managing your portion sizes, you’ll also find it easier to maintain a healthy weight. If you’re more serious about your fitness and have taken on an event like an Ironman, then you need to ramp up your energy intake, particularly from foods high in carbohydrate.
Why is carbohydrate important for exercise?
When we exercise at moderate to high intensities, our body is mainly fuelled by our internal stores of carbohydrate found within our muscle – in the form of glycogen. The longer and harder we train, the more glycogen we burn through and, the more carbohydrate we need to consume from our diet to replace what we have lost. Foods such as wholemeal pasta, brown rice, whole oats, potatoes, kumara, wholegrain bread and fruit are great options as they provide a sustained release of energy.
What if you prefer exercising before breakfast?
No problem! By including carbohydrate in your dinner the night before, your muscles should have a plentiful supply of energy. If you’re planning on exhausting yourself, by getting up slightly earlier to have a light breakfast, such as toast or cereal, you will get a higher quality and more enjoyable training session.
Do you need supplements, like sports drinks and energy gels?
If you exercise for less than an hour, don’t worry about gulping down sugary drinks or squeezing gooey gels into your mouth. However, if you’re on the go for several hours, then sports drinks and gels can provide a convenient source of carbohydrate to help fuel your muscles. Other food options include jam sandwiches, muesli bars, dry biscuits, small muffins and jelly lollies. As a rule of thumb, aim to consume 30 – 60g of carbohydrate per hour, which is equivalent to a couple of muesli bars.
Don’t forget about other key nutrients
Nutrition is not only about fuel-in and fuel-out. Staying healthy is essential, after all, it’s inspiring to see people being active, adventuring and competing well into their 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. A diet high in fruit, vegetables, wholegrains, legumes, nuts and seeds is a recipe for longevity. Foods such as lean meat, fatty fish and dairy also provide a rich source of key nutrients. Together, these foods can provide everything you need to be active, stay healthy and enjoy every day.
Plan and prepare when heading into nature
New Zealand is blessed with some of the most spectacular walks, mountain biking tracks and adventure trails. Having a clear understanding of the physical demands of your adventure is essential to ensure you bring enough fuel and fluid to not only enjoy yourself, but to return safely. Short walks on clearly mapped trails may only require you to bring a bottle of water. If you’re planning on trekking for several hours or doing a multi-day hike then you’ll need 2 – 4 L of fluid a day and plenty of energy rich snacks. Since keeping your backpack light is a goal, foods high in fat can provide you with more energy per gram than carbohydrate or protein. Snacks may include a trail mix, filled with nuts, seeds and dried fruit, toasted muesli made with reconstituted full milk powder, peanut butter sandwiches and energy bars.
The information provided on this website is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or diet advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding health and well-being.