Eating Healthy on a Budget

(Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

We all know we should be eating healthy foods. However, when you’re restricted by a low income, it becomes harder to achieve. Low-income earners are at a high risk of illness and disease, due to the restricted access to healthy foods. However, eating healthy on a budget is still achievable.

What is food poverty?

Food poverty is defined as being unable to afford or access the foods needed to make up a healthy diet. This includes being able to afford fruits and vegetables, proteins and other healthy food options. Many people who are on low incomes experience food poverty at some point in time.

What is food insecurity?

Food insecurity is defined as a limited or uncertain access to healthy foods. This includes being unable to access food without using options such as stealing or scavenging. For people on a lower income, food insecurity is a real risk.

What’s the link between poverty and malnutrition?

When you cannot access enough food to keep you healthy, malnutrition is a given. People on a low income are more likely to eat cheap, nutritionally empty foods. These foods are often full of salt, sugar and processed ingredients. They are also low in micro-nutrients, antioxidants and other essential nutrients.

People on a low income are less likely to consume fruits and vegetables. This is due to the relatively high price compared to packaged foods on special, and the low energy density.

Why is this such a concern?

The more we learn about nutrition, the more we realise how essential it is. Malnutrition can lead to all sorts of conditions and diseases.

Research shows that people who are malnourished, or who eat few healthy foods, are more likely to become ill. The link includes a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer.

No matter what your income, you deserve the best chance at being healthy. However, you need to be smarter about your food choices when working off a strict budget. There are still good food choices for someone on a low income. These include:

  • Beans and legumes.
  • In-season fruits and vegetables.
  • Eggs.
  • Cheap meat cuts.
  • Tinned fish.
  • Wholemeal grain products, such as pasta and bread.

Whenever possible, look for own-brand options. They are often more affordable, sometimes by a large percentage.

Even if you only include a couple of healthier items in your shop, you will be making a difference to your health.