Crack the Code for Eating Healthy on a Budget

Sponsored by Central Florida Health Care

Proper nutrition is essential all year long, but in March, we observe National Nutrition Month and give it special focus. Healthy eating is an important topic, and most people want to eat healthy. In fact, according to one study, 93% of people surveyed said they want to eat healthy. But doing so isn’t always a simple task for a variety of reasons.

To get more insight on eating healthy, we talked with Ron Lund, a registered dietician nutritionist and DSME quality coordinator with Central Florida Health Care.

While healthy eating is different for each person, Lund gave us some general guidelines. These include getting a good variety of fruits and veggies, whole grains, and adequate protein.

“If you can get those on a regular basis, you’ll get a good assortment of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants,” Lund explains. “Getting adequate protein is also really critical for a lot of functions, including our immune system. There’s plenty of research out there showing that those who don’t get enough protein in their diet have a higher risk of developing a viral illness.”

Eating healthy can deliver significant benefits overall, particularly when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight.

“Obesity is a big problem,” he says. “That’s the core problem of so many other chronic diseases. Eating healthy and eating in moderation helps maintain a healthy weight and even achieve some weight loss. It also helps with gut health, and that’s where 70% of our immune system is.”

Of course, many face significant barriers to healthy eating. For those struggling to eat healthy on a budget, Lund has some advice.

“Now, more than ever, people have a true appreciation of how tough it can be to buy groceries on a limited budget,” he says. “But the key word here is “budget.” A lot of people don’t know what theirs is, and that’s the foundation of shopping healthier on a budget — knowing what your budget is. How much do you want to spend? How much do you allocate to the food you need?”

Lund offers several other tips for eating healthy on a budget:

Use coupons, but only for food you need. Don’t buy something just because there’s a coupon.
Compare prices using the labels that show per unit price and apps like Flip.
Plan your meals to know what you need to buy and avoid discarding unused food.
Shop at a variety of stores to get the best prices on different items.

A number of programs also exist to help Floridians eat healthier for less, such as SNAP, WIC, and food banks and pantries. Central Florida Health Care has partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay to provide regular food distributions in Lake Wales, Winter Haven, Lakeland, Kissimmee, Lake Alfred, Zolfo Springs, and Mulberry.

“On a monthly basis, Central Florida Health Care does food distributions around Central Florida,” Lund explains. “You don’t have to sign up, you just show up. You’ll get an assortment of foods, usually some type of produce, some starch, some protein. And the best thing is it’s free other than time.”

Lund emphasized that talking with your doctor can be a good first step for those interested in improving their nutrition.

“We can sit down and do a deep dive into what their eating pattern is and break it down together to identify some areas where they can improve,” he says. “It’s not just me laying out a plan and saying, ‘Come back in a month.’ It’s having that conversation one-on-one with somebody to find out where they feel they might want to make some change in those areas.”

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