Part of your health and fitness journey should include becoming an informed consumer!
I recently received a message from an MLM seller pushing their wraps, teas, shakes, and pills to “help me lose weight” (as if I haven’t already figured this out at -170 lbs). I thought this was a great opportunity to remind everyone that there are very few instances where one needs to spend any money to achieve their health goals. The only “additive” I’ve purchased is my gym membership and that’s not even a requirement! It’s only helpful because of how I enjoy working out.
Superfood is a completely meaningless and made up marketing word. Common greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, oils, etc are as nutritious and often more nutritious than the hip, trendy foods grown in the loamy soils of Demeter’s mythical garden. If you can’t afford it, you don’t need to! The ingredients we’re already familiar with will provide you a balanced and healthful diet.
As a horticulturist, I’ll be first to say that plants are beyond cool and can be beneficial medicines. BUT–be careful. Some plants do have promising health benefits (and many need more research), but there are outrageous claims out there; especially by predatory lifestyle brands in a notoriously unregulated supplement industry. Any herbal supplement should be discussed with your doctor and cannot replace your doctor’s expertise. No matter the effect they actually have on your body they are still compounds.Natural is not a synonym for inert.
Natural and its variants is also a meaningless marketing word. Natural is also not a synonym for healthy, just as is not a synonym for inert.
Anyone selling you a wrap, a “fat blocker,” a “carb inhibitor,” a detox tea, an herbal tonic, or whatever is selling you snake oil. No one needs to buy a “product” to get healthy and fit.
Shots of apple cider vinegar is a really easy way to screw up your teeth and esophagus, and it won’t help you burn fat.
Anything that promises to boost your metabolism is too minuscule to matter at best and completely made up at worst.
Your body already knows how to detox. It’s not dumb. Drink a glass of water and eat foods that keep you regular. Go for a walk and take a shit. Any detox product is just an expensive way to starve or induce a bout of diarrhea.
A food manufacturer can claim there is “0g Trans Fat” as long as there is less than .5g. Turn the label to the ingredients. If there is “partially hydrogenated oil,” there is trans fat.
A food manufacturer can slap “whole grain” on the label even if the first ingredient is “enriched bleached flour.” Read the ingredients on the loaves of bread and boxes of pasta you pick up.
Read the label in general! Sugar and salt make appearances in strange places. Keep an eye out for added salt and sugar! Keep an eye out for bleached grains! Keep an eye out for trans fats!
Do your homework. Much of what entails food, health, fitness, and supplements are wildly unregulated. They can print whatever they want and there is little to stipulate what they can and cannot print. Be skeptical and examine if it’s really effective, safe, and beneficial to put a substance into your body.
A lot of headaches can be avoided if you do most of your shopping on the outside aisles and buy ingredients, but that doesn’t mean everything on the inside is crap! We all enjoy a branded product or two. There’s nothing wrong with that! There’s also nothing wrong with enjoying a bit of junk food every now and again, but it never hurts to be an informed consumer. There are good and honest products out there but there is certainly no shortage of companies trying to skim a dollar off people making an effort to do things a little bit better.
Below is a short list of foods which I think should be in the basket of every new vegan when they go on that first vegan shopping trip. Prices will vary according to location, but in the vast majority of places these foods will be some of the cheapest items in any supermarket.
You can find a selection of simple recipes that make use of these items as their main ingredients here.
Rice: Rice is an extremely cheap and filling staple. A cup of rice contains roughly 45 grams of carbohydrates and 4-5 grams of protein. In an airtight container it lasts around 6 months. It is even cheaper when bought in bulk.
Beans: Beans are one of the most accessible protein sources and have been a staple around the world for thousands of years. Just one cup of soybeans, for example, contains a massive 28.62 grams of protein, while even standard baked beans contain around 14 grams. They also contain lysine, which is missing from most other plant sources.
Chickpeas: Chickpeas can be purchased very cheaply canned, and in large bags in bulk if you’re willing to prep them yourself. Each cup contains about 15 grams of protein, tonnes of fibre as well as magnesium and folate.
Lentils: Similar to chickpeas, lentils can be bought canned or in large bags as bulk products. A cup of cooked lentils contains a massive 18 grams of protein, they also lower cholesterol, improve heart health and help stabilise blood sugar.
Oats: Oats are very cheap, can be bought in bulk and have great shelf life. They are high in protein, fibre, and B12; they are even thought to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
Cereals: Most cereals, especially supermarket’s own brand products are very cheap. Whole grain cereals like bran or oat based products are high in fiber, calcium and iron, and most are fortified with B vitamins.
Pasta: Pasta is another great product to always have on hand, it is one of the least expensive items in any supermarket, can be bought in bulk and has a very long shelf life. Depending on the type, pasta can be a good source of fibre and carbohydrates; it is a high energy food and is very filling.
Potatoes: Potatoes are one of the cheapest foods available in most supermarkets, at an average of just $0.56 per pound. They are versatile, filling and despite their reputation as unhealthy, they are an excellent source B6 and a good source of potassium, copper, vitamin C, manganese, phosphorus, niacin, dietary fiber, and pantothenic acid.
Sweet potatoes: Sweet potatoes are as versatile as white potatoes, are high in vitamins B6, C, D, iron, magnesium and potassium. They’re also a more balanced source of energy than white potatoes, as their natural sugars release slowly, avoiding blood-sugar spikes.
Noodles: Many varieties of noodles are vegan, they are very cheap and last a long time. Noodles are very filling and contain high levels of B vitamins, vitamin E, magnesium, iron, riboflavin, and calcium.
Nut butters: Depending on the type, nut butters can be purchased very cheaply and in large quantities. It has a surprisingly good shelf life, is an excellent source of heart healthy fats and is very high in protein.
Falafel: Falafel is usually cheap to buy pre-made but it is even cheaper when made at home just using chickpeas and spices. It is filling, can be used to make great vegan burgers and is a good source of protein, fat and soluble fibre.
Hummus: Though buying pre-prepared hummus is usually relatively cheap, it is far more cost effective to make your own in larger quantities, depending on the recipe you usually only need chickpeas, tahini and lemon.
Couscous: Couscous can be great in salad or as its own side dish, it is cheap to buy and is a convenient option since it is so easy to prepare. It is a good source of lean protein, dietary fibre and B vitamins.
Tofu: Tofu has an odd reputation for being expensive, quite probably among people who have never bought it. Tofu has been a Chinese staple for thousands of years, it is now widely available in supermarkets and is far cheaper than comparable animal products, averaging less than $2 per pound. It is filling and is high in both protein and calcium.
Tempeh: Tempeh is similar to tofu in price and use, but has a different texture and slightly different nutritional properties. The fermentation process and its retention of the whole bean give it a higher content of protein, dietary fibre and vitamins compared to tofu, as well as firmer texture and a stronger flavour
Seitan: Seitan is made with wheat gluten and is extremely high in protein, as well as being one of the cheapest sources of protein per dollar when made at home and is around the same price as low quality beef in stores. It has a steaky texture and is very filling.
Frozen fruit/vegetables: Large bags of mixed frozen vegetables can be bought extremely cheaply almost anywhere. Despite popular opinion to the contrary, frozen vegetables are almost as healthy as fresh produce since they are frozen while fresh and don’t endure the loss of nutrients associated with long travel and extended shelf time. Frozen fruit like mixed berries can be a cheap way to prepare smoothies or dessert.
Canned fruit/vegetables: Having a few cans of fruit or vegetables around is always a good idea, things like canned peas or corn can be a side on their own, canned peaches or orange pieces are an instant dessert and canned tomatoes can be used to make sauces.
Bananas: Bananas are one of the cheapest fruits available, especially when bought in bulk and deserve a mention based on their nutritional value and their versatility. They can be used in desserts, as a healthy snack and can be used to make cheap vegan ice cream.
Citrus Fruits: Citrus fruits like lemon, orange and limes are cheap to buy in bunches, especially when in season and can be eaten as a healthy snack or used as a cheap way to add flavour to existing dishes.
Vegetable stock: Vegetable stock is good to have around for a variety of purposes; it will add flavour to any dish from gravies to soups and roast dinners. It is extremely cheap and relatively healthy if you go for a low sodium option.
Olives: Olives are a healthy source of fat, they are thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and contribute to good health health, as well as being good sources of iron. They can be bought in large jars very cheaply and can be a healthy snack.
Olive Oil: Thought to be the healthiest oil to cook with, it is heart healthy and can be used to add flavour to a variety of dishes like pastas and salad.
Spinach: Spinach is often called a super-food in terms of nutritional content, it is is high in niacin and zinc, as well as protein, fiber, calcium, iron and a multitude of vitamins. You can also buy large bags of pre-prepared spinach very cheaply.
Kale: Kale has a different flavour and texture to spinach, but has similar uses. It is a great source of dietary fibre and is packed with nutrients, vitamins, folateand magnesium. Even a 500g bag should only set you back around $2.50.
Bread: Many new vegans assume bread is off limits, but many breads are vegan. Even speciality loafs are very cheap considering the amount of meals they can contribute towards, and they can be a good source of carbohydrates and protein.
Plant Milks: Plant milks have an undeserved reputation for being expensive, this is only in comparison to heavily subsidised dairy milks, though even then the price is comparable, in fact, some supermarket’s own brands are even cheaper. Plant milks are packed with calcium and are usually supplemented with vitamins B6 and B12.
Non-Dairy Spreads: Non-dairy spreads can be made form a variety of sources, from soy or olives to coconut oil. They tend to be comparable to dairy butter in terms of calcium, but without the unhealthy fats and cholesterol. They are usually priced similarly or cheaper than their dairy counterparts.
Peppers: Peppers tend to be very cheap to pick up in large bags, particularly bell peppers. They can be stretched over several meals, and can add flavour and texture to curries, stir fries and salads.
Nutritional Yeast: Seen as something of a speciality health food, nutritional yeast is actually very cheap, lasts a long time and is one of the best sources of vitamin B12. It has a nutty, cheesy taste, so you can use it in place of anything you’d usually sprinkle cheese on. It is also great in soups and when used to make “cheesy”, creamy sauces.
Flax seeds: Each tablespoon of ground flax seed contains about 1.8 grams of omega-3s. It is included in this list as they make a great egg substitute in baking, can be sprinkled on cereal, yogurt or oatmeal. It is cheap to buy, and even a small packet lasts a long time.
Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate is not only far healthier than milk chocolate, it is usually cheaper to buy in the same quantities and is far more filling. It is versatile for use in baking and desserts and is a healthy snack in small quantities.
Selected Produce: Fresh vegetables are not always expensive. Seasonal vegetables are usually cheap in most supermarkets, but some vegetables like carrots, turnips, onions, cabbage and cauliflower are inexpensive all year round, and can often be bought on offer or as “irregular” (but still perfectly edible) for even less.
Herbs and Spices: Having a range of spices on hand is always a good idea; things like cumin and garlic can add depth and flavour to simple meals and they last a very long time. Investing in a good spice rack and some curry powder will save you money in the long term.