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Durban - For many of us, we would love to eat healthy meals but with the increase in VAT, petrol and generally, the cost of living, we are finding it costly to eat healthy. 

With July being National Savings Month, here is how you can eat healthy and not leave a dent in your pocket. 

Health coach and managing director of Cambridge Weight Plan Southern Africa, Renny Letswalo, believes that if you believe that eating healthily is expensive, then you are not alone. Letswalo said this belief is widespread but contrary to popular belief, eating healthy is a lot cheaper than you think.

“While a frozen pizza may be cheaper than grilled salmon steaks covered in vegetables for example, there are most definitely long terms implications and costs of eating pizza frequently over the course of a year,” Letswalo said. 

You may temporarily save money, but you may have to pay in other ways, such as through serious illnesses like obesity and diabetes to name a few.

“It is possible to cook healthier foods at a lower cost, but this does require planning and preparation,” Letswalo added.

Start cooking  - One of the keys to eating healthily on a budget is to get cooking. Preparing your own meals is associated with higher diet quality and lower spending on food. Eating-out costs more and is associated with lower diet quality. Make time to plan your meals and make a list before going grocery shopping. This way you will buy only what you need.

Buy foods that are in season - Fruits and vegetables that are in season are usually at their tastiest, most nutritious and cheapest. Locally sourced produce will also cost you less, and so will buying from your local greengrocers and markets. Not only will you save, but you will also support the local economy.

Buy whole ingredients - Instead of buying chicken wings or breasts separately, rather buy the whole chicken from which you can make several meals.

Plant your own vegetables, herbs and fruit in your backyard - Vegetable and fruit planting doesn’t have to be as difficult as it seems. A small patch of land can produce all the greens you need to eat a nutritious meal. With advanced and creative methods, even with no land and space you can opt to grow your vegetables in urban areas such as in a pot plant, for example. This way you will not only save money, but you will get other health benefits such as stress management when you work in your garden.

Frozen is just as good - Most people believe that frozen produce doesn’t contain as many nutrients as fresh, but that’s not true. You can buy fresh produce or pick your own, then immediately freeze to use for later, to keep the freshness of your produce. Frozen food is more economical as you store what you don’t use and prevent wastage.

Avoid processed foods - It’s healthier to avoid packaged or canned foods. If you do, rather choose those with less ingredients so you are clearer on what you are eating.

Letswalo said not only are many healthy foods more accessible than many believe, often healthier organic alternatives can be cheaper than their processed counterparts.

“Even in cases where eating healthier is more expensive, the health care costs associated with having a poorer diet of processed foods dwarf the short term savings of a cheaper diet,” she said. 

The Mercury