Healthy eating on a budget

You want the best for your baby from the start, so proper nutrition is vital. Here’s how to ensure a healthy diet and bank balance. By Hannah Kaye

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By Hannah Kaye

Buying healthy food, such as fresh meat, fruits, and vegetables seems much more expensive than buying not-so-healthy alternatives. Add to that the marketing power behind supposed superfoods, and eating well on a budget seems almost impossible.

But you can eat budget-friendly meals and snacks that are just as wholesome as their pricier alternatives. By ignoring the glitz and glamour of glossy packaging and focusing on nutrient content, you’ll soon be well on your way to providing your baby with healthy meals that are easy on the purse.

10 steps to budget eating

  1. Switch to store brands: You can often save up to 30%, especially on canned goods like tomatoes, beans and fish.
  2. Buy dry goods in bulk: Many stores offer specials if you buy more than one of the same item. If you buy bulk nuts and seeds, freeze what you don’t use.
  3. Sharpen your staples: Always have a few basics on hand, such as frozen vegetables and meal-sized portions of poultry, meat, fish, brown rice, canned beans, and oats.
  4. Plan meals and snacks before shopping: If you have a shopping list, you’ll be less tempted to spend money on unnecessary items.
  5. Be realistic: If you rarely have more than 30 minutes to put dinner on the table, it’s not realistic to imagine that you’ll suddenly have two hours free to make a complicated meal; plan simple meals, such as a 20-minute chicken stir-fry with ready-cut veggies.
  6. Take your lunch to work: Home-cooked food is usually higher in nutrients than quick takeouts, and you’ll save money.
  7. Forget the hype: The only superfoods you need are in the fresh fruit and vegetables section.
  8. Opt for water: Fruit juice is high in sugar and costs a lot more than a glass on tap.
  9. Buy local: Avocados are a superfood, but they’re also super expensive if they’re imported.
  10. Buy seasonal: Seasonal vegetables are not only healthier but also cheaper. All nutrients are important to support the growth and development of your baby but there are some lacking in the Western diet. Whether or not you are budgeting, you need to ensure an adequate daily intake.

Nutrients you need for your developing baby and where to get them

Nutrients essential for nervous system and spinal cord
You need: Folic acid
On a budget: chickpeas, peanuts, lentils

Nutrients essential for blood supply for baby and placenta
You need: Iron
On a budget: lentils, spinach, chicken, beef

Nutrients essential for building strong bones and teeth
You need: Calcium
On a budget: plain yoghurt, sardines, spinach

Nutrients essential for collagen for cartilage, muscles and bones
You need: Vitamin C
On a budget: bell peppers, oranges, cauliflower

Nutrients essential for immune support
You need: Vitamin D
On a budget: sunshine (it’s free), eggs, sardines

Nutrients essential for brain and eyes
You need: DHA (fatty acid)
On a budget: canned salmon (lower in mercury than tuna and higher in calcium)

Nutrients essential for development of organs
You need: Vitamin A
On a budget: eggs, sweet potato, butternut

Nutrients essential for growth and development
You need: Protein
On a budget: frozen fish/poultry, cottage cheese, lentils, eggs

Nutrients essential for developing new cells and processing nutrients
You need: Water
On a budget: your kitchen tap

Top 10 healthy snacks
  • Pumpkin seeds will boost your magnesium and protein intake.
  • Tahini on a rice cake is high in omega-6 fatty acids for a healthy nervous and immune system.
  • Figs are high in iron and a great non-dairy source of calcium.
  • Low fat plain yoghurt with dried apricots is packed full of calcium and iron.
  • Sugar-free peanut butter on a wholegrain cracker is a high protein snack for lasting energy.
  • Raw vegetables with hummus are high in vitamin C, fibre and calcium.
  • Fresh fruit that travels well is high in vitamin C which also promotes the absorption of iron.
  • Energy bars provide slow-release energy and a good dose of essential fats for brain development. Click here for a quick recipe.
  • Home-made trail mix – make a batch on Sunday and keep in an airtight container in your handbag for the rest of the week.
  • Fresh coconut provides a slow-release energy that will boost brainpower.

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