Fad diets and the latest trendy fitness classes can be pricey, but healthy eating doesn't have to cost big bucks. These strategies for healthy living are low-cost and sustainable:
1. Plan to cook at home. Instead of ordering takeout meals, which tend to be high in calories and in price, cook your own at home. With a few good recipes and a shopping list, you can make your own delicious and healthy meals. Take a few minutes to put together a dinner plan for the week, and you'll likely save time and stress, too.
2. Take the guesswork out of portion control. Many of us may underestimate how much we're eating a lot of the time. Pre-portioned meals can help, so try making recipes that offer built-in portion control, such as mini meatloaves in muffin tins or casseroles that are easy to divide evenly.
3. Make your own snack packs. Pull out your measuring cups, get yourself a simple kitchen scale - and measure out individual servings of your healthy snacks (whole-grain crackers, nuts, etc.) to pack up in reusable containers or small zip-top bags. You'll keep a cap on portion sizes but avoid the cost markup that's tacked onto those small packaged snacks.
4. Snack on popcorn. Popcorn is a super-easy, inexpensive snack that doesn't cost much and - did you know? - popcorn counts as a whole grain. Three cups of air-popped popcorn contains about 3 grams of fiber and just 105 calories, provided you don't add butter.
5. Enlist Fido. Most dogs are always ready for a brisk walk and your pets need exercise, too. Not a dog owner? Offer to walk a friend's pooch while he/she is away. You'll sneak in a weekend's worth of exercise - and have fun while you're at it.
6. Treat yourself. Having an incentive for reaching your healthy-living goals can certainly be motivating, but such treats needn't break the bank. Consider a relaxing night at home with a rented movie and a cup of your favorite tea.
7. Eat smarter. Start by cutting your portions of pricey meat and poultry to the recommended 3-ounce serving size, or swap out meat and poultry at some of your meals for cheaper vegetarian proteins such as beans, lentils, tofu and eggs. If you're eating out, eat half of a main course and save the other half for lunch tomorrow - an easy way to stretch your budget and keep your calorie and carb consumption in check.
8. Shop for in-season produce. Vegetables are an important part of a healthy eating plan. They're low in calories and high in water and fiber - two things that may keep you feeling full and satisfied. Save cash by shopping for those that are in season. Frozen veggies can be a great bargain, and often have just as much nutrition as fresh, since they're picked and frozen at their peak.
9. Get creative with your exercise options. You don't necessarily need to shell out a monthly gym fee to get moving. Find fun activities you can enjoy for free. If you're just getting started with a regular exercise routine, try beginning with daily walks: start slow and build up time and speed. Other ideas for no-cost activity include jogging, hiking, dancing or simple strength-training moves such as pushups. Or look for free workout or yoga videos online. Recruit a friend to make the time pass more quickly, and you may find yourself looking forward to your workout.