Earlier this month the Institute for Fiscal Studies recognised that people in Britain are purchasing less food, but food that is higher in calories.
People are doing less exercise and as budgets are being tightened so there has been a rise in cheap food – which often is the unhealthy alternative.
A report by the institute confirmed that adults are typically 8kg heavier than they were at the start of the 1980s. So while it is no surprise that the purse strings are being pulled in, our choices of foods which have seen a rise in soft drinks, snacks and takeaways, are not such a good idea.
Taking all this into account, here are some ideas of cheap and nutritious foods that you can easily knock into a healthy meal.
The great thing about eggs is that they are so versatile you can knock up a meal in minutes - omelettes, scrambled eggs, boiled, poached or (not so healthy – fried!). They are packed full of protein and vitamins which include vitamin A and potassium. Eggs are good for the brain, which is why traditionally an ad campaign tried to get us all to “go to work on an egg”. They are inexpensive and can be the basis for a whole range of meals.
Breakfast and pudding can be livened up with this calcium rich ingredient. Add fruit for a tasty and healthy breakfast, which will boost your energy levels for the day, and strengthen your bones. All yoghurts are excellent sources of calcium, potassium, protein as well as vitamin B12.
Many types of yoghurt contain probiotics which are active, good bacteria that are good for helping our digestive systems run smoothly.
Tuna is high in B vitamins, good for the heart and boosts the immune system. The best thing is it can make a pretty cheap meal teamed with a jacket potato or in a salad. It’s a quick way to get fish into your diet, which is also great brain food.
The humble potato gives an awful lot, baked, roasted, boiled or mashed, it goes with just about everything and provides carbohydrate and is packed with nutrients. Your average potato contains just 26 calories, so nothing to worry about in the diet stakes. As potatoes are complex carbohydrates – rather than simple ones like biscuits – they release energy slowly over the course of the day while keeping you feeling full and giving you energy. Cheap to buy, and equally easy to grow your own!
Around half of the earth’s population relies on rice as its staple food. And with so many people eating the stuff, there has to be a lot of good in it. For starters, rice is filling and is a slow release energy food. It is packed with proteins and can go with pretty much anything, whether you’re a vegetarian or meat eater. As long as it’s not fried it is healthy and of course, it is also pretty cheap for easy to knock up meals.
Kidney, borlotti, black-eyed and baked, beans make for hearty stews and casseroles and have the ability to really bulk out a meal. Beans are really good for you, high in vitamins and minerals and fibre. They can help you to stretch a meal out to serve plenty of people and they are pretty inexpensive. Baked beans on toast, or on a jacket potato also means a quick and healthy meal if you’re running low on time. Beans are also really good for your heart.
Mums especially will know how handy the humble banana is for a meal on-the-go for a little one. With the benefit of coming in their own special casing, they really pack a nutritious punch, as well as keeping you feeling full for ages, and also being super-cheap.
Try baking banana bread, banana splits for dessert and if you’re feeling really adventurous as an accompaniment to a home-made curry. They’re full of potassium and fibre, so there really is a lot to be said for this unassuming fruit.
Buying fresh veg can be pretty costly nowadays, and is part of the reason a lot of people are switching over to buying cheaper more convenient food with less of a nutritious punch. Frozen veg is still pretty cheap, but retains a lot of the vitamins and nutrients you would find in the fresh variety. The good news is you can store them for months longer, add them to just about any meal and be certain in the knowledge that you are boosting the nutrition value of any meal you put them in.
Tomatoes are just so versatile, you can start off practically any meal with a can of chopped or whole tomatoes. Bolognaise, curry, stew, soups, all can be made quickly with the help of this ingredient – and it goes a long way to bulk out a meal and add a real nutritious punch.
by Jessica Ward
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