Eating Healthy on a Budget: Pro-tips from a Pro-Athlete
Guest Post! I'm very excited to bring you a guest post on eating healthy, real food while on a budget from Brandon Hudgins an elite middle distance runner with Sketchers Performance. Brandon is also connected with AthleteBiz a non-profit 501(c)3 organization that connects world-class track and field athletes with fans. Check out the bottom of the post for more information on Brandon and AthleteBiz!
Are you trying to eat healthier food? Are you worried that eating healthy food might stretch your budget? If you are just now making the switch to healthy eating, you might be scared of spending more money, or scared that you can never eat things you enjoy again. Rest assured, I'm here to help. I've been eating healthy and balling on a budget my entire adult life. While this blog won't be dedicated to a particular "diet" in general, it will be largely based on eating more real food.
Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, or a licensed nutritionist, but I do have an Undergraduate Degree in Health and Wellness as well as a Master's Degree in Exercise Science, where nutrition classes were required. While the majority of my expertise in nutrition comes from an exercise minded approach, there are certainly some universal principles that can be applied.
Since finishing graduate school in 2011 my eating habits have changed drastically. I also believe it is one of the major factors in my physical body (vasculitis aside) feels healthy enough at 31 to continue to run at an extremely high level. As I stated in my podcast, some of these changes were finance-based and others health-based as I read new research that shed light on some classic misconceptions we've had for 40 or 50 years. Since exercise and nutrition consume the majority of my life, I figured I'd impart some of the lessons I've learned.
Forget the word "diet"
To begin, I hate the word diet. It implies there will be an end to it or that you're following some new fad the Kardashian girls are currently doing. What you should be after is sustainable and enjoyable nutritional habits. Controlling your eating habits is extremely hard. According to science, quitting sugar has proven to be one of the most difficult substances to kick, often only second to opiate addiction (Oxycontin or heroin).
As you make a change to your eating habits you will most likely find yourself craving your old foods. The current thinking is your gut bacteria (the healthy bacteria in your body that aid digestion and control a host of functions in your body) adapts to your eating habits. So if you have been feeding it junk food for years, it's going to be hard to kick those urges.
Your body processes need energy to function, and that energy comes from food. Since the human body hasn't yet evolved to having food readily available at all hours of the day, we have to learn to either resist those urges, or feed your body things that satiate that hunger for longer periods of time. The single best piece of advice I can give you when attempting to live a healthier lifestyle and also lose items off your grocery list: kick refined carbohydrates and sugary foods.
Don't even walk down those aisles.
There is no reason to ever be on the cookie aisle.
There isn't one healthy thing on that aisle that your body needs. If you don't buy cookies, ice cream, candy bars, and other assorted junk like soda, then you won't have it around at home to consume. Yeah, I know technically Oreo's are vegan, but there isn't one single ingredient in them that you should be eating. Don't think because I'm a professional athlete, a vasculitis patient, or healthy eater, that there aren’t times when I crave a sugary treat. But, since I don't keep those items in the house I don't eat them on a regular basis. To get sugary foods I have to go seek them out.
Eat real foods.
Foods that your body knows how to process. Our ancestors didn't grow up eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast, ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, and pizza for dinner. It's a lot of nasty refined carbohydrates and sugar that will ultimately kill you.
As I mentioned in the podcast, many people's bodies actually don't do well with carbohydrate digestion and get a giant insulin spike and leaves their blood glucose levels high. After cutting out junky sugar treats everyday, reducing carbohydrates is probably the 2nd easiest change to make. If you are one of the lucky ones that can handle carbohydrates well, or an athlete that needs high glycogen levels, then make sure you are buying grains that are good for your gut bio as discussed.
Things like fruits and vegetables are just as good a source, if not better, than a refined carbohydrate. Now, if you are like me and can't quite afford to eat all your carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables, and your body is decent at handling refined carbohydrates, then sticking with whole grains is always better!
Now that we have an idea of what aisles to shop on, and we've saved ourselves at least a few dollars. here's proof that you can ball on a budget and still eat healthy.
Below is my normal grocery list.
apples - $3.99
bananas - $2.50
oranges - $3.99
bag of peppers - $2.50
mushrooms - $1.99
spinach - $2.50
avocados - $1.80
red potatoes - $3.99
grass fed, organic ground beef - $5.99
heirloom pasta (or made-in-Italy pasta) - $1.99
store brand pasta sauce - $2.50
store brand granola - $1.90
greek yogurt - $4.50
eggs - $2.00
store brand bags of frozen broccoli - $3.00
bi-weekly or longer:
coffee - $9.99
store brand oatmeal - $2.50
store brand blueberries - $2.99
store brand peanut butter - $2.50
calf liver - $4.99
salmon - $11.00
store brand frozen chicken - $7.99
store brand brown rice - $1.99
Obviously things change from time to time or we splurge and get something like steaks, but all of these items on this list I consume on a regular basis.
If I can feed myself all the calories I need to run 70-80 miles a week on a budget, I promise you can too! As I mentioned in the intro, I'm not a doctor or registered dietitian, most of my knowledge has come through trial and error as well as consuming boat loads of research. If you are ever in doubt or don't feel right when making changes please consult your doctor.
About the Author Brandon Hudgins
Brandon Hudgins is an elite middle distance runner with Skechers Performance. In 2007, while running for Appalachian State University, he was diagnosed with granulomatosis with polyangitiis (GPA), a rare autoimmune blood disease. Following chemo and drug therapies, Brandon renewed his running career, and in 2015, he became just the 448th American to run a sub-4 minute mile. In 2016, with a USA top-20 time in the 1500 meters, he qualified for the USA Track & Field Olympic Trials, finishing a semi-finalist. Later that year, Brandon suffered his 3rd relapse with GPA. He is the author of Going the Distance: The Journey of a Vasculitis Patient on the Road to Olympic Glory. This book, along with his continued work with the Vasculitis Foundation, helps others understand GPA and show patients that life doesn’t have to stop with a vasculitis diagnosis.
AthleteBiz is a nonprofit platform that helps people and businesses find, follow, hire and support world-class track and field athletes. The organization aims to inspire fans and empower the world’s best track and field athletes as they pursue their Olympic dreams. From All-Americans to Olympians, athletes join the platform to engage with fans, tell their story, and diversify their income. For more information, visit www.athletebiz.us
Looking for more ways to save money? Read my top 5 tips here!
Need to create a budget but don't want anything too complicated? Read The Anti-Budget!