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If you’ve read any reports about how the struggling economy can affect your health, most of them are pretty negative. What’s usually mentioned is that when money is tight, people spend less on pricier foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, they cancel gym memberships, or they may turn to high calorie comfort foods or drink more alcohol. And if they dine out at all, it’s more likely to be less expensive—and usually less healthy—fast food. So, it got me to thinking: Are there some lessons we can learn about how to save money and still be healthy?
When you have errands to run that are within a reasonable walking distance, why not save the gas money and ‘hoof it’ or take your bike instead? It’s such an easy way to work some extra activity into your day. Think of things you routinely do that don’t require your car. I gave up my gym membership and my newspaper delivery—and turned my quest for the morning paper into a 45 minute walk that I do every day.
There are so many positives that come out of this one. For one thing, when you prepare meals at home, you have more control over what goes into your food. So, you can prepare foods with much less fat and sodium than typical restaurant fare. It’s also a great way to spend some quality time together. Studies show that children who have regular family meal times eat healthier diets and perform better in school than those who don’t.
Since meat, fish and poultry can take a big bite out of your food budget, consider more vegetarian meals. Beans, peas or lentils can be the start of a healthy soup or chili, or you can use tofu in place of meat in stir-fries, tacos and even pasta sauce.
Yes, it takes some time, but if you have a little space in your yard or on your patio, you can save money. Easy-to-grow leafy greens like lettuce and spinach are great—you can pick the leaves week after week. Fresh herbs might seem like an expensive luxury to buy, but you can grow them easily on a sunny windowsill. Not only do herbs contribute plenty of vitamins and antioxidants, they add a lot of flavor, which means you can cut back on fat and salt.
You can cut a lot of calories by cutting back on sodas and coffee drinks, and you’ll save big bucks, too. And make it a habit to eat your fruits more often than you drink them. 100% fruit juices are expensive, and they don’t offer the filling fiber that whole fruits do.