“Healthy food costs too much money” is a common meal-planning myth and one that could be preventing you from enjoying the benefits of eating healthfully while spending less. It may be true that sugar-free and fat-free versions of certain food items cost more, but you don’t have to buy special foods to meet your diabetes nutrition needs. You can eat the same, ordinary foods your entire family eats as long as you pay attention to portion size and nutrient content. As a bonus, your family’s health also profits from your good-for-you eating plan.
The average American consumer spends roughly 10% of his income on food, so tightening your food budget can pay off in substantial dividends. Healthy eating is also a great investment, both economically and physically, because it helps in keeping your diabetes in control. Research studies have shown definitively that improved blood glucose control lowers the risk of diabetes complications such as eye disease and kidney disease. Spending your food dollars wisely will improve your blood glucose control now and help prevent costly complications and expensive medical care later.
If you think that the words “healthy” and “affordable” don’t belong in the same sentence, you may be interested in information from the American Dietetic Association showing that a 1200-calorie meal plan can cost $6.99 for the entire day — about the cost of just one “super value” lunch at a fast-food restaurant. This meal plan, based on the recommended foods and portion sizes from the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean protein, low-fat or nonfat dairy products, and alternative protein and calcium sources. A nutrient-rich meal plan won’t necessarily increase your food budget, so don’t let cost concerns stop you from eating healthfully. (For a comparison of the cost of sample shopping lists, check out Shopping Cart Smarts.)
Ready, set, save!
The following surefire strategies will help you save money while meeting your healthy eating goals:
Know your meal plan. Invest some of your hard-earned money in a visit to a registered dietitian who has expertise in diabetes. Learning as much as possible about healthy meal planning and diabetes control will pay off. Whether your meal planning approach is carbohydrate counting, the plate method, or the exchange system, you should eat a wide variety of wholesome foods that are relatively inexpensive — whole grains, beans, vegetables and fruits, lean protein sources, and low-fat dairy products. An even healthier approach limits meats, sweets, and high-fat snacks, which can also be quite costly. Pay special attention to portion sizes; if you eat the recommended serving amounts, your daily food costs will stay affordable.
Map out your menu. Before you hit the grocery store aisles, take a few moments to think about what you’ll be eating in the upcoming week. Planning your meals in advance allows you to purchase everything you need at once, saving time and gasoline that would be wasted on frequent trips to the store. You’ll also be able to take advantage of sales by planning your meals for the week around the grocery specials. If the thought of planning 21 meals for the week seems overwhelming, start by planning five evening meals. Your diabetes meal plan is the starting point for your menus because it outlines the food groups and number of servings you need from each. Keep a list of all the meals that meet your needs so you can select from those favorites rather than plan new menus every week.