How to eat healthy on a budget

Q&A with Coles nutritionist, Julia Perruzza   |   5min read

A bowl of overnight oats with fruit on top

Eating well needn't be expensive

How do you define a “healthy meal”? What would a healthy breakfast, lunch and dinner comprise?

  • One that includes a variety of whole foods from the five main foods groups: fruit, vegetables and legumes, wholegrains, dairy and alternatives, and protein.
  • A healthy meal is low in saturated fat, salt and added sugars and high in wholegrains, fibre, protein and healthy unsaturated fats.
  • Eating different coloured foods (think bright coloured fruit and vegetables) will ensure you get a variety of essential nutrients from your meals.
  • Always choose wholegrain varieties where possible – wholegrain bread, pasta, brown rice and cereal (e.g. weetbix, rolled oats).

How can we eat healthily on a budget? 

It is a common misconception that healthy food is more expensive than unhealthy food. Below are some tips and tricks for eating well on a budget:

Tip 1. Eat with the seasons. When purchasing fresh fruit and vegetables, choose seasonally – these options will likely be the cheapest.

Tip 2. Become friends with legumes. Canned and dried legumes (e.g. chickpeas, lentils & beans) are a good source of protein and fibre and can be used in a variety of nutritious meals at a low cost.

Tip 3. Take a trip to the freezer aisle. Frozen fruit and vegetables are a wonderful, cheap way to add more fibre, vitamins & minerals into your diet. They are just as nutritious as fresh and often cheaper. 

Tip 4. Avoid nutrition buzz words. Stay away from anything marketed as a ‘superfood’. These are often no more nutritious than regular whole foods but can come with an increased price tag. 

Tip 5. Plan ahead. Planning your meals for the week and then writing a shopping list can be a great way to ensure you get the most out of your purchases. Using leftovers from dinner in tomorrow’s lunch is a great way to minimise food waste and keep food costs down.

Tip 6. Eat more plants. Bulk out main meals with vegetables and legumes. Next time you make spaghetti bolognese, try swapping half the mince for a can of lentils. This will reduce the cost of the overall meal and increase the nutrient content. 

What meals are cheap, healthy and easy to make at home?

Breakfast

  • Wholegrain bread with avocado and poached eggs or tofu scramble; 
  • Porridge made with rolled oats or wholegrain cereal topped with fruit, nuts and seeds;
  • Breakfast frittata or savoury muffins filled with roast veggies, topped with grated cheese.

Lunch

  • Wholegrain sandwich/wrap with salad and lean protein (e.g. falafels, scrambled eggs/tofu, tuna, lean meat, unprocessed cheese);
  • Zucchini slice with a green side salad;
  • Brown rice/barley/quinoa salad with roast veggies, nuts & seeds and a can of tuna. 

Dinner

  • Stir-fried veggies with a lean protein and brown rice;
  • Wholemeal pasta with lentil bolognese and a side salad;
  • Wholemeal pitas filled with hummus, falafels or lean protein and plenty of salad;
  • Grilled or baked fish with roasted pumpkin and steamed veg.

This article was first published on the News Corp network on the 1st November 2020 as part of Coles’ RejuveNation editorial partnership, which aims to share healthy tips & information to live better.

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