The 12 changes you can make to your diet that will improve your health and your wallet

A common aspiration so many of us share is to be both healthier and wealthier. But in our modern, hectic lives it can be a challenge to balance these two factors; being time-poor can lead to quick takeaway lunches or processed ready-meals, reducing the money in our pockets and often increasing our consumption of unhealthy fats and salt.

While you really cannot put a price on good health, there are well founded financial gains to be made through taking a more proactive approach to the nutritional value of your diet. That change itself is not often easy, but through a mix of diet and lifestyle adjustments you can stand to improve your health and wealth.

1. Plan your meals and stick to a shopping list
The latest trend for meal prepping shows that efficiency is key to a healthier and cheaper diet. While meal prepping is at the extreme end of organisation, planning healthy meals for the week can help keep you on track, while sticking to a shopping list can eliminate unnecessary purchases and reduce your food wastage.

2. Drink more water 
Staying hydrated is essential to improving your physical performance – from combating fatigue to improving concentration, water is as essential to your workday as your computer or equipment. Most international public health organisations recommend between 1.5—2 litres of water per day.

In addition to helping your mental performance, aiding your digestion and improving your circulation and heart health, swapping coffee, juice or fizzy drinks for tap water at work or home will save you money too.

3. Swap expensive cuts of meat
If you do not have a slow cooker, but have space for one, then it is time to invest in this money-saving machine. While fresh fish and meat are a good source of protein, they will almost certainly increase the cost of your shopping basket. By choosing cheaper cuts of meat that you can cook slowly, you will be able to create healthy stews, soups and casseroles – creating perfect leftovers you can eat for lunch too.

4. Buy frozen fruit and veg
Eating more fruit and vegetables, or aiming to eat a certain number of vegetarian meals during the week, will help you consume more health-giving vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Buying frozen fruit and vegetables helps you to reach your vegetable target more cost-effectively and use only what you need.

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$ spent on average by Americans per year on lunch

5. Cook large portions and use leftovers for lunch
Making fresh, home-cooked meals helps you control what goes into your food, so you can adapt your diet to your needs – increasing your consumption of healthy whole grains, fibre and Omega-3 and reducing salts and saturated fats. It also enables you to cook extra portions so you have leftovers to use for lunch or freeze for an instant dinner at a later date. One study suggests that Americans spend an average of $2,746 per year on lunch, so even bringing leftovers to work every other day would have a significant impact on your bank balance.

6. Buy wholefoods in bulk 
Pulses, like lentils, chickpeas and beans are packed with vitamins, minerals and fibre, while also being low in calories and fat. They are also a great source of protein for those trying to reduce their consumption of meat or fish – reflected by a large rise in the number of people moving to a vegan or vegetarian diet in 2020. An added bonus is that they can be purchased relatively cheaply, so it pays to stock up on these healthy store-cupboard staples, as well as oats, rice and pasta, to save you money and keep your cupboards full.

7. Grow your own
Herbs, tomatoes and onions are essentials in so many healthy recipes and simple to grow at home too. You do not need a big garden or even a garden at all – just a few pots or window boxes, some cheap seeds/bulbs and a bag of compost are enough to get started. As well as a cheap way to eat more vegetables, you will be able to eat organic produce, picked at the peak of its ripeness.

8. Shop seasonally
Shopping seasonally is great for the environment, better for your wallet and an opportunity to try fruit and vegetables you would not normally buy. While we have become accustomed to buying raspberries in December and pears in the spring, produce transported across the world creates a large carbon footprint and impacts the freshness and nutrient content of the food you buy. By switching to seasonal fare, you will be able to enjoy tastier, fresher food.

9. Cut out the junk
Chocolate, cakes, biscuits, fizzy drinks and crisps can be packed with unhealthy fats, additives and high-levels of salt. They add little nutritional value to your diet and with obesity now the second biggest preventable cause of cancer in the UK after smoking, there is good reason to curb our consumption of junk food. Try switching to dried fruit and nuts (purchased in bulk), or taking a bowl of fresh fruit to work – if it is in front of you, you are more likely to opt for these healthy options than seek out expensive junk food.

10. Invest in herbs and spices
Herbs and spices make your food taste better and improve your health. By adding more flavour to your food you are more likely to cut back on less healthy ingredients, such as sugar, salt and added fat. You can turn your cheap bulk-bought wholefoods into delicious meals, packed with flavour, while also enjoying the health-giving benefits that come from a wide range of herbs and spices.

11. Set a good example
If you have a family, involving children in growing fruit/vegetables at home and in the preparation and cooking of home-cooked meals opens the doors to discussions about health, ingredients and new flavours.

Teaching children to cook equips them with essential life skills and is an opportunity to bring the whole family together and pass down family recipes, anecdotes and techniques to instil healthy habits that pass through the generations.

12. Change your habits with the help of technology
While many of these ideas are not new to most of us, making the behavioural change to adopt these daily routines can often be the biggest challenge that a combination of determinism and technology can help alleviate. From automated chatbots that remind you to drink water, to diet-tracking applications, taking a gamified approach to helping you achieve your health goals can often be the nudge you need to make change real. In work, apps like Aon’s Well One can help employees gain insight into their own health behaviours while also providing managers with insight into the overall health of their teams.

We know that real wellbeing is both physical, financial and emotional and making adjustments to your diet can be one of the most immediate ways to positively affect all three, so why not start today?

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