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It can be extra difficult to grow or maintain healthy habits when the cost of living is high. With an overloaded health care system, it’s also a benefit to stay in shape.
Here are a few budget-friendly ways to help you stay healthy this year.
- Choose in-season produce: We all know fruits and veggies are a core part of any healthy meal plan. So, learn to love some cheaper staples as they rotate through the season. Winter squash is a delicious choice that can feed a crowd and be incorporated into everything from baked goods and pasta to casseroles and winter salads.
- It’s okay to go frozen: If you crave summer favourites like berries or green beans even in the winter, opt for frozen varieties. Depending on the brand, they may be cheaper since you can use them over a longer period of time. Frozen foods have all the nutritional benefits of fresh produce, plus they’re usually frozen at peak quality.
- Store food right: We already spend so much on food, it pays to store it properly for lasting freshness. Check the temperature of your fridge to make sure it’s set to 4°C (40 °F) or lower, and set your freezer at -18°C (0°F) or lower so your ingredients are stored safely.
- Protect your sleep: Sleep is precious for your health, but it can be hard to come by. Skip the pricey home remedies and consider adjusting your routine instead. Plan to go to bed at roughly the same time every night and wind down with a library book or podcast. It’s easier said than done, but if you can just let it go, you might start to fall asleep.
- Build activity into your day: Exercise doesn’t have to mean joining a gym or subscribing to costly programs. Take advantage of movement you get day-to-day, like choosing a hilly route when you take the dog out or doing a little dance while you wash the dishes. You’ll be more likely to fit in free activity if it’s a simple extension of your routine.
- Get help for your teeth: Dental care can be expensive—especially if you don’t have insurance. But a healthy mouth is a crucial part of overall health. It helps you avoid more costly, uncomfortable and long-term problems down the line—so it’s not something to put off. If you don’t have access to private dental insurance for your kids, look into the new Canada Dental Benefit that provides up to $650 a year for the next two years to cover dental services for kids under 12.
To maintain healthy habits, follow tips to help you choose healthy foods that are budget-friendly.
- Look at location: It’s a common tip to read labels in the grocery store, but for products without nutritional information, look at the label on the shelf to see where the items are grown. Choose produce locally or from within Canada when you can, as it may be both fresher for you and better for the environment. Choosing what’s in-season is often a cheaper way to eat fresh.
- Shop the edge of the store: The aisles on the side of a grocery store typically have the least processed foods, which are often the healthiest.
Start your shopping along these perimeter aisles to fill up with healthy goodness like kale, mushrooms, eggs and beets.
- Don’t stress about colour: You may have heard that a plate or grocery cart full of healthy food is a colourful one, but that’s really a reminder to get you thinking of all the veggies you could add to your list and to encourage variety. But it’s not the be-all-and-end-all—in fact, some of the most nutritious veggies are not brightly coloured, including cauliflower and mushrooms.
- Plan your meals: Setting out a rough menu for the week helps you actually make use of the healthy food you get at the store to prevent food waste and a wasted food budget. Otherwise, it can be tempting to let that kale go limp in the fridge or not even pick it up in the first place. A little trial and error will help you add new meals to your rotation, and help you discover new healthy additions to include in them.
We all know how important our immune systems are, so look for a variety of nutrient-rich foods to help your overall health. Some simple ideas:
- Mushrooms provide zinc, which supports the immune system; selenium, which helps keep your body’s tissues healthy; and vitamin B6, which helps your body get ready to use and store energy.
- Lean ground beef has vitamin B12 and iron to help out your nerve and blood cells.
- Spinach offers vitamins A and E which can protect your vision and help prevent blood clots.
- Milk is often fortified to help you get more vitamin D.
- Beans and legumes can help vary your sources of protein and provide fibre and iron.
- Oranges provide vitamin C, which helps you absorb iron from other foods.
Mushroom Teriyaki Chicken Rice Bowl
Prep time: 15 minutes • Cook time: 10 minutes • Serves: 2
- 1/2 tsp (1 ml) each salt
- 1 tsp (5 ml) garlic powder
- 1/2 lb (225g) boneless, skinless, chicken breasts cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1 tsp (5 ml) vegetable oil
- 2 large portobella mushrooms, diced
- 2 cups (500 ml) baby bok choy, sliced
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) honey
- 2 tsp (10 ml) rice vinegar
- 1 tsp (5 ml) ground ginger
- 2 tsp (10 ml) garlic powder
- 2 tsp (10 ml) cornstarch
- 1 tsp (5 ml) sesame seeds
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh chives
- In a small bowl, mix together salt, pepper and garlic powder. Season chicken with half of the seasoning mixture. In a medium sized bowl, toss together mushrooms, bok choy and the rest of the seasoning mixture. Heat oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Cook chicken for 4 minutes, stirring often. Stir in mushrooms and bok choy and cook for 1 minute.
- In a small saucepan whisk together soy sauce, water, honey, rice vinegar, ground ginger, garlic powder, cornstarch. Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat and cook for 1 minute or until sauce is thickened. Remove from heat.
- Add teriyaki sauce to chicken and vegetable mixture and remove from heat.
- Serve over rice and garnish with fresh chives and sesame seeds.
Prep time: 20 minutes • Cook time: 70 minutes • Serves: 4–6
- 1 lb (500 g) ground beef
- 1/2 lb (250 g) ground pork
- 1 ½ cups (375 ml) U.S. parboiled rice
- 1 cup (250 ml) minced onion
- 2 tsp (10 ml) each salt and pepper
- 12 large cabbage leaves
- 1 10 oz (284 ml) can condensed tomato soup
- In a bowl, combine ground beef, pork, rice, onion, salt and pepper and mix well. Set aside.
- Remove leaves from cabbage and blanch in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just crisp, about 7 minutes. Rinse leaves in colander under cold water until completely cold.
- Working with one leaf at a time, cut out any very large veins from the leaf using a sharp knife. Fill each leaf with 1/2 cup (125 ml) of the rice mixture. Fold over sides of each filled leaf and roll up to secure. Arrange seam-side down in a 13 by 9-inch (3 L) casserole dish. Repeat with remaining cabbage and rice.
- Pour soup evenly over cabbage rolls. Top with water just to cover rolls. Tightly cover dish with foil and bake in a 350°F (180°C) oven for 60 minutes. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.