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Donna Mincieli, PTI, RD Headshot

Eat Healthy (And Lose Weight) on Only $8 Per Day!

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You're saying "not possible!" I know, I hear that a lot. There is this misconception that eating a healthy diet is more expensive than eating a junk diet. True, if you think loading your shopping cart with low-fat, sugar-free, low-calorie processed snacks is the answer to healthy eating and weight loss. Eating processed foods that are "low" on that and "free" of this is expensive. But the real kicker here is that after spending the additional money, these processed foods are not even healthy for you. Processed "health" foods usually do not contain ingredients that offer any health benefits to your body whatsoever. They may not be as terrible for you as some other foods, but they certainly are not good for you.

The less-expensive, healthy diet that I am talking about consists of real food... whole food that is only minimally processed, if at all (which is sometimes necessary to make it edible and bring it to market): vegetables, fruits, lean meat, fish, poultry, nuts, seeds, legumes, dairy and eggs. These foods contain all the nutrients your body needs to feel full and satisfied, be craving free, maintain a healthy and efficient metabolism, and help avoid certain lifestyle-related diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. The nutrients I am referring to include vitamins, minerals, fiber, omega-3s, phtyonutrients, probiotics and antioxidants. Most of these nutrients will never be found in highly-processed foods.

Eating a truly healthy diet is less expensive because for one thing, being healthy is also about maintaining a healthy weight. With 68 percent of the American population being overweight to obese, cutting back on the amount of food eaten is a good place to start saving money -- and calories. Nature's foods, in addition to supplying nutrients for an efficient metabolism, are naturally low in calories.

Most women need anywhere between 1,200 to 1,500 calories per day to maintain a healthy weight. Men about 1,500 - 2,000. Very active adults (athletes) will require more. Many of the adults I meet with are not athletes but still consume at least two times the recommended amount of calories for their size, age and lifestyle. And most of the time those calories are coming from expensive processed foods. So ultimately they are spending at least two times the amount of money on their diet than they need to.

I provided a perfect sample day below consisting of about 1,600 calories. The complete day provides for vitamins and minerals, fiber, omega-3s, many phytonutrients and antioxidants, and probiotics. And it costs only about $8! Eating this way can not only save you and your family potentially hundreds of dollars a year, but it can help with weight loss and keep you healthy as well (which is a big savings in and of itself)!

Breakfast: 240 Calories and only $1.07*
1 egg
1 slice of whole grain toast
½ cup of cubed cantaloupe
4 oz. of skim milk

Snack: 60 Calories and only $.79*
1 small apple

Lunch: 470 Calories and only $2.57*
1 5-oz. can of tuna with 1 tbsp. of mayo,
on a whole wheat pita,
with lettuce, tomato, shredded carrot

Snack: 160 Calories and only $.78*
½ cup of cottage cheese with sliced strawberry

Dinner: 560 Calories and only $2.67*
4 oz. grilled chicken breast
½ cup brown rice
Spinach salad with ½ c. black beans
tomato and onion
Olive oil and vinegar

Snack: 150 Calories and only $.62*
1 handful of almonds (22-25)

Only $8.43 and 1,640 calories for the whole day!

*Based on suburban New York supermarket prices and include sale prices whenever possible.

What should you drink? Keep your calories and cost low by drinking only water. But avoid bottled water just because of the extra expense. Pick up a water purifying system like Brita. It may seem like an investment at first, but in the long run it will cost you much less for clean water. Besides being free, another reason I am suggesting water only is because it is the healthiest thing you can drink. And it's the only thing you need to drink. But coffee and tea are acceptable as well. They contain no calories, do have health benefits and are relatively inexpensive.

I always suggest organic produce to my clients that I know can easily afford it. But there's the problem... it's pricey and may cause you to bust your budget. But every expert agrees, myself included, it's better to eat your fruits and vegetables than not eat them because you cannot afford organic. Organic produce does not offer more nutrition anyway... it just contains fewer pesticides.

What I will suggest you do, organic or not, is thoroughly clean all of your produce before you consume it. This will not only clean off much of the pesticide residue but also any bacteria and fungus. Any solid surface fruit or vegetables, like apples or potatoes for instance, can be cleaned with a veggie brush and a produce wash. For other fruits and veggies, like berries or spinach, they can be soaked in produce wash and water for a few minutes. You can buy produce wash in many natural markets, online or even make your own. To make your own just go online and search produce wash and you will find a number of recipes.

Other ways to save on your groceries:

1. Shop strictly off your list and do not give in to tempting impulse buys.
2. Buy in bulk when you find something on your list that is on sale. But don't overbuy on perishables unless they can be frozen.
3. Never go to the supermarket when you are hungry!
4. Download or cut coupons.
5. And if your supermarket has a savings club... join!

So with these suggestions and watch your wallet fatten while your waist thins!

For more by Donna Mincieli, PTI, RD, click here.

For more on weight loss, click here.

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