Balance your weight and your bank account

With plenty of dietary fads, lotions and potions out there costing an arm and a leg to subscribe to or follow, Angelique Ruzicka speaks to Johannesburg based nutritionist, speaker and wellness expert Desi Horsman about what you can do if you have a tight budget but need to lose weight.

For those who are on a low income/tight budget are there any set diets that they could follow that won’t be too expensive?

The latest trending fad diets and their ‘wonder’ supplements can be pricy, but you don’t actually need to empty your wallet in order to lose weight. Good food is important and foundational to health and weight loss.

One of the most important factors in losing weight and maintaining it is to follow an eating plan that can be incorporated into your lifestyle permanently. While many diets do work, most are ultimately not healthy in the long run and have some unrealistic restrictions that cannot be adhered to indefinitely.

Prioritize fresh whole foods, drink lots of water, focus on fitness, get enough sleep, manage stress levels and the reward will be to lose weight sensibly even on a very tight budget.

The key to success is to invest a little time into planning your meals for the whole week ahead of time.

If the diet someone follows recommends regular snacking what regular snacks do you recommend that are healthy?

Maintaining balanced blood sugar levels throughout the day is key not only in weight loss but for overall health. This means eating two to three healthy snacks in between meals.

Do not buy protein bars or any other seemingly low calorie packaged snack. Not only will this save you money but will go a long way in maintaining health and weight loss.

Try healthy snacks like:

  • Fruit and nuts
  • Hummus/tapenade/avocado with crudités
  • Grass fed and MSG free biltong with some raw carrots or other raw veg.
  • Homemade popcorn

Make sure to eat protein rich breakfast, which includes a healthy carb. This will start your day off with balanced blood sugar and ensures you feel full longer and not want to constantly snack throughout the day. Healthy well combined foods give you energy so you are more productive during the day and losing weight is a bonus.

What’s your advice to those who have lots of weight to lose but are on a tight budget?

Instead of buying packaged processed foods, which are also generally high in calories, plan and prepare your own meals. Make your own less expensive and healthier versions of staples like salad dressings and breakfast muesli.

Write down a grocery list based on your menu for the week and make one trip to the store. Walking into food shops regularly tempts you to make an impulse buy, especially when you are hungry, and this is when sugary and junk foods land up in your trolley.

Middle aisles contain packaged and processed foods, which tend to be more expensive so rush past those and buy the majority of your food from outer aisles which have the fresh produce and healthy alternatives.

Choose only wholegrains, eat lots of vegetables, buy only seasonal fruit which is less expensive and not peeled and cut ready to eat (you pay a pretty package for that convenience), and try to have some vegetarian evenings with high fibre beans and legumes which are a cheaper and healthier alternative to animal proteins.

Cook extra food in the evenings so that you will have leftovers for lunch the next day, which can be freshened up with a salad. Mix ingredients in a slow cooker in the morning so you can get home to a hot meal in the evening. This will prevent you buying unhealthy and expensive ready meals on the way home.

Some weight-loss programs work because they pre-portion meals for you. If you are eating regularly throughout the day you will not overeat at any of the mealtimes.

Studies show that writing down everything you eat also helps you lose weight. You could use one of the many free food-tracking apps. This will make you more aware of what you’re eating and rein in mindless snacking.

In summary – plan your meals. This is the most basic strategy, but so essential. You will save time and money by planning ahead, cutting out last-minute grocery runs, last-minute purchases, and all that time spent wondering what to cook for dinner tonight.

Are there any diet tonics/tablets etc., that you would recommend that aren’t too costly?

There is no effective quick fix diet tonic. Weight loss is easily achieved with healthy eating as long as all physiological processes in your body are well functioning. Money should only be spent on supplements that will help keep your body healthy.

Are there any exercises that you would recommend for someone who is on a tight budget and overweight?

You don’t need money to exercise you just need support and motivation. Find a friend to exercise with so you can keep each other motivated.

There are many free online work out videos that you can follow in the privacy of your own home, and many free apps that will track your activity.

Resistance training with body weight exercises like push-ups, sit-ups, triceps dips, lunges and squats can be done at home and not in an expensive gym.

Other ideas for no-cost activity include walking, jogging, hiking, and dancing. Parkrun offers a 5km free walk/run every Saturday morning.

Are there any foods that people on a low income typically eat that they think are healthy but are actually not?

Fruit juices – while they are natural, sugars can still cause unhealthy blood sugar level spikes.

Artificial sweeteners

Vitamin enriched or fortified cereals

Fruit bars and protein bars are often full of hidden sugars and chemicals

Dried fruit

White low GI bread

Peanut butter

Canned fruits and other foods

Low fat foods (these are generally full of sugar and other chemicals to make them taste more palatable after the fat is removed)

Check the ingredient labels of all packaged foods – marketing on the front of the packaging can be deceptive.

For more about Horsman, click here.