Creating a Healthy Diabetic Meal Plan on a Budget
Many people struggling with diabetes often complain that trying to eat healthy on a budget is nearly impossible, but this is not necessarily true.
Here are three tips to help you manage your diabetes on a budget:
Create Lists and Meal Plans
It is a good idea to talk to your doctor or to a nutritionist about possible meal plans before you start out. However, there are many free sources you can use to plan your meals. The American Diabetes Association provides an easy to follow break down of low cost meals, along with calorie and carbohydrate content. In general you need to keep in mind that you should be eating a wide variety of wholesome foods such as whole grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, lean protein sources and low-fat dairy products, all of which are relatively inexpensive. Something that can help with your budget is cutting out, or limiting meats, sweet and high-fat snack, which can be expensive.
Planning your meals in advance can also help you to keep costs down for two reasons. The first reason is that when you go shopping you will save time and money by having a set list, from which you should avoid deviating from. By using a list you will avoid getting anything that is not essential for your meals. If planning all your meals seems overwhelming, start by planning five evening meals. Keep a list of all the meals that meet your needs so you can select from those favorites, rather than trying to plan something new every week. The second reason to plan your meals is because knowing how to manage portion sizes, will allow you to purchase exactly the amounts you need for your meals.
Plan Out Your Budget
Another thing that can help you when shopping is using coupons. You can also cut costs by using your store’s loyalty card or joining a frequent buyer programs. You may feel attached to a certain brand, but choosing to buy the store brand can save you a lot of cash. Often the same manufacturers that make store brand foods often produce generic foods that taste great and cost as much as 30 percent less than the name-brand products. Consider that you may be paying a price for convenience if a food has been grated, chopped, precooked, pre-sliced, or individually packaged. If you do a little bit of the food preparation yourself you could cut down on costs.
Additionally, if eating out is part of your family routine you may consider how often this occurs. Cooking and eating at home is less costly than eating out, and is generally more nutritious as well because it means you can control the carbohydrate, fat, and calorie content of your meals. If you choose to go out, make smart nutrition choices from the menu and ask questions to satisfy any concerns you may have. Often portions served at a restaurant are oversized, which you can use to your advantage, by sharing with someone else. You can also consider ordering a full meal and asking for a to-go container as it is being served. If you pack up half of your entrée immediately, you won’t be tempted to overeat and you’ll have another meal for the next day.
Make Changes at Home
Many times we can be tempted to throw out left overs, but “planned-overs” can become your best friend. Planning to have leftovers as a meal can save time, energy, and money by cooking once and eating twice. Try to be creative. For example if you had roast chicken use the leftover meat to make chicken wraps or salad. You don't have to eat the same, warmed-over meal three times in a week, add fresh ingredients the second time around.
Lastly, consider growing a vegetable or herb garden in your backyard or windowsill. This can seem intimidating, but you can start by buying a few starter plants or seed packets. Start small and plan carefully. There are many resources available to you to allow you to learn about gardening online and at your public library. Gardening be a bit of work, but it is also a stress-relieving activity that can burn up to 300 calories per hour as you plant seeds, push a wheelbarrow, or pull weeds.
Photo by John Nyboer