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7 ways to stay healthy on a budget

The financial realities of COVID-19 mean we may be watching our budget more closely than usual right now. Unfortunately, this can also mean slipping into bad eating habits – but that doesn’t have to be the case. The Heart Foundation is urging all Australians to remember that heart-healthy eating doesn’t have to be expensive.

In fact, Heart Foundation Director of Health Strategy, Julie Ann Mitchell, says a healthy diet is a key ingredient for protecting your heart during this pandemic and beyond.

“It’s more important than ever to keep up healthy habits and eat nutritious foods during this time, and it doesn’t have to break the bank,” Mrs Mitchell said.

“There are some tips you can follow when doing your weekly shop to choose heart-healthy foods that will save money and avoid wasting food.

“Frozen vegetables, brown rice, chickpeas and tinned fish are just a few staples you can keep on hand for healthy and budget-friendly meals at home.”

Poor diet is the leading contributor to heart disease, Australia’s single biggest killer. Unhealthy, nutrient-poor foods make up more than one-third of the average person’s daily kilojoules.

“That’s why we’re encouraging everyone to cut back on highly processed products and put healthier foods in their trolleys – think plenty of fruit, vegetables, and wholegrains, a variety of healthy proteins and fats, and a smaller amount of animal-based foods,” Ms Mitchell said.

“Australians who are self-isolating or in quarantine are also advised to look out for healthier options when doing their grocery shopping online.”

Straight from the Heart Foundation, here are seven tips on how to keep your pantry healthy on a budget:

1. Make an action plan

Make a grocery list and stick to it. Check what you already have in your fridge and pantry and only buy what you know you will use to avoid wasting food.

2. Eat “the rainbow”

One of the best ways to stay healthy is to fill up on plenty of fruit and vegetables. The more colourful the mix, the better. Frozen or canned vegetables and fruits are good alternatives when fresh produce is hard to buy or too expensive, and they keep for longer. If you’re buying canned versions, however, try to choose the “no added salt” or “low salt” versions. Pick fruits canned in juice, not syrup.

3. Try to mix it up

Buy more plant-based sources of protein in line with the Heart Foundation’s updated dietary advice. Tinned or dried beans, lentils and chickpeas are cheaper and are healthy options for your pantry, or try tofu to keep in the fridge. Eggs or canned fish (such as tuna or salmon) are also cheaper and easy to prepare.

4. Choose cheaper cuts

Look for less expensive cuts of meat to use in stews, soups and casseroles. Cut off visible fat before cooking.

5. Go for wholegrains

Brown rice, wholegrain pasta and rolled oats are budget-friendly staples for healthy cooking. Swap white bread for a wholegrain loaf and freeze some of it.

6. Be smart with snacks

Go for a handful of unsalted nuts or a small plate of cut-up fruit to curb afternoon cravings. You could also buy popping corn and make homemade popcorn. It’s best to either have it plain (no added salt or butter) or flavour with other herbs and spices.

7. Ensure you hydrate properly

Skip the aisle of sugary soft drinks and energy drinks and make water the drink of choice. It’s healthy, hydrating and free.