Most definitely not.
Image: Roasted Peanuts on the Streets of Srinagar, Kashmir, India (Rs. 10 for 2 cups)
Below are some simple but sure shot ways of living a healthy lifestyle without breaking the bank.
1) Pick a Physical Activity Within Your Budget
If the goal is to attain general health and fitness, your options for a physical activity range from a run in the local park, home-based functional workouts, yoga sessions, neighbourhood gyms to fancy pilates studios. There is absolutely nothing wrong with either of those choices. It depends on your personal goals, the form of activity you enjoy and your budget. When I hear friends comment on how expensive it is to join a gym, my answer to that is- then don’t sign up; go for a run or pull up a free YouTube video that will get you moving. If you make expenses the excuse, then you are fooling only yourself.
2) Shop Local & Seasonal
Firstly, seasonal & local produce is tastier and more nutritious. Secondly, the overheads from a supply standpoint are much lesser, hence cheaper. If you ask me, its a win-win. India is rich in produce with each region having its own varieties & specialties so why not take advantage of that? Think about it, do you really need kale to reach your health & wellness goals? I don’t think so. There is a plethora of local greens available here that change from season to season and each come with their own nutritional benefits so why not swap kale for local options like palak, methi, mustard leaves, moringa… the list goes on. Think millets instead of quinoa, amla & jamun instead of berries… there is a domestic nutritionally comparable option available in most cases so don’t get fooled into thinking that you ‘have to eat’ a specific type of food when it comes to healthy living. Also, shopping consciously and local is of tremendous support to the surrounding farming communities, encouraging ecosystems to thrive and in turn provide more nutritious and tasty produce for you and your family over the next couple decades.
3) Pick Whole Foods vs. Packaged Foods
As a food scientist, I know enough about how and with what intentions (not bad) the food & beverage industry operates to tell you that despite all the backlash against Big Food, there is a place for packaged foods in today’s world. It is safe & hygienic, convenient, easily accessible, fun & delicious, and with textures and flavours you probably can’t achieve at home in some cases. But does health equate to a specific protein bar? Not in my opinion. Nature has generously packaged all the nutrients we need in the form of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts etc. so take advantage of it. Eating a variety of whole foods is sustainable, nourishing and cost effective. If you think about it, it is much cheaper (and nutritious) to eat whole foods like a couple of oranges or juice them yourself than sip on a Rs. 100+ fancy bottle of orange juice. And let’s not forget that despite a slow shift to cleaner products, most packaged foods come with additives, preservatives, synthetic colours and flavours that don’t positively affect our health so leave these choices for an occasional treat or for an emergency.
4) Start Cooking
In my opinion, each one of us (man or woman) should be able to put a nourishing meal together for no one but ourselves. Cooking helps you develop a better relationship with the food you consume and that awareness over time makes you more conscious about what you should eat to nourish your body. If the kitchen is new to you, start with chopping fruits or making a pot of rice… over time you’ll build the skills necessary to create a simple and wholesome meal for yourself. Remember, you don’t need to have a Masterchef spread on your dinner table each night! So, if it is that fear that is stopping you from getting your hands dirty in the kitchen, get over it and just start cooking. If you have a cook at home, that’s great! But familiarize yourself with what happens in the kitchen, start putting your grocery lists together vs. having the cook do it all. You’ll be shocked to know that you could have cooked up the same deliciousness with probably half the amount of oil purchased or make your ginger garlic paste or sauces at home vs. the options available in the market with added preservatives. Take control of your pantry and what’s made in your kitchen! This way besides having food that is made to your taste, is fresh and nutritious, you will have enough money saved up for other expenses.
5) Planning & Creativity
It’s ironic that I talk about planning when my own organizational skills are pretty sub-par but I cannot deny the benefits of spending a little bit of time planning your meals for the week, getting your groceries organized and prepping some snacks for those mid-afternoon slumps. All of this will ensure you don’t pick up junk food (also expensive) on impulse, settle for a disappointing meal at the cafeteria (costs more than packaging a dabba from home) and undo your efforts in maintaining a healthy lifestyle. And get creative with cheaper alternatives to meet your nutritional goals by learning more about what’s on your plate. Do you need that expensive Rs. 800 jar of almond butter or will a cup of boiled peanuts do just as well? Do you absolutely need that bowl of quinoa or can you substitute it with local millets & lentils? The more you learn about what you eat, the more creative you can get, enabling you to prevent that hole in your pocket in the name of health.
Please remember… irrespective of your budget, leading a healthy lifestyle is always a possibility.