How to eat healthily without breaking the bank

I am sat in the car on holiday and in true British fashion, it’s raining cats and dogs……..My son is asleep in the back so I am taking advantage of a bit of r and r…….I have just read the British Heart Foundation reported over 1/3 of people in the UK can’t afford to eat healthily. In my mind this is no surprise at all – I have had a good rant at supermarket BOGOF offers before (one of my early posts called the real cost of BOGOF’s) but this is not the only reason for eating to much cheap, processed stuff.

Now I must make a statement here, that being on holiday relieves me of any responsibility to eat healthily. I very much enjoyed my cornish pasty, fish and chips and clotted cream fudge at the seaside (not quite all in one go!) thank you ūüėČ

So here is my list of suggestions on how to eat more healthy and not break the bank :

1. Don’t be a food snob. I admit I was…..but I’ve been converted!¬† Aldi and Lidl offer great quality food at very cheap prices. The fruit and veg especially! If I had been shopping at these stores since they arrived in the UK I probably would have saved enough money to go on a luxury holiday by now! I really cannot taste the difference between the expensive brands and the ‘I’ve never heard of that make before’ brand so wish I had moved camps ages ago. The fruit and veg look no different, you just have to chop them up yourself ūüėČ

2. Pick your moment to go shopping. Get your pick of the reduced section (meat,¬† fish,¬† fruit n veg – don’t go near the ready meals!) by going shopping an hour or so before they close, especially before a bank holiday, the shops have to get rid of it so practically give it away ūüôā

3. Plan your meals for the week and then write a shopping list. That way you are less tempted to throw whatever looks tempting into your trolley and just buy what you need. Plus you can ensure you eat a range of foods over the week so get your quota of fish, lean meat, rice, pasta, potatoes and different vegetables etc.

4. Don’t ever go shopping when you are hungry. This is a BIG MISTAKE!¬† You lose all sense of rationale and you’ll only end up with junk. Trust me I know!

5. Give yourself rules when the cupboards get low. My husband and I take it in turns to rustle up dinner when we are getting towards the end of the week. We are not allowed to buy anything to supplement or accompany our meal. This suits our competitive natures and we have had alot of fun. I think only once (when my husband cooked) it was inedible so don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!

6. Invest in a breadmaker. I bought one last October and without a doubt it is the best gadget I have ever bought! We use ours at least every other day and I am pretty sure we’ve got our money back already. A 750g loaf only costs about 40p to make and what’s even better, you can show off you made it yourself, people will be so impressed! You also know exactly what’s in it – you can control the salt and there will be far fewer additives and the smell as it bakes!………and you just can’t beat the taste of warm, fresh-out-of-the-‘oven’ bread mmmmm ūüôā

7. Cook with more veggies! Protein, especially meat is expensive so bulk out your meals with nutritious vegetables that will make your dinner tasty and satisfying and your meals will go further.

8. Batch cook. When you are making a meal,¬† particularly if it’s a one pot wonder,¬† double the quantities, portion it up and stick it in the freezer. That way you’ll always have a fall back plan so you’re less likely to get that takeaway menu out the kitchen drawer. It also helps if everyone in the family eats the same thing.

9. Don’t automatically throw away your leftovers. Think how you can reuse them and make a new dinner – see tip 5! Soup is always a winner. Just chuck it in the pot and play soup roulette ūüėČ It also really makes a difference if you watch the portion sizes so you don’t have to waste food unnecessarily.

10. Take a packed lunch to work. I know this can be a tricky one. Who has time to make their lunch in the morning. Well I don’t either so I do it the night before……or I ask my husband very, very nicely and I am lucky enough that he will make mine. I take leftovers or homemade bread / sandwiches with some soup roulette. I bet if you added up how much you spent on bought lunches per week,¬† per month and per year you would be shocked!

11. One of the main reasons why people eat a lot of processed food (apart from the low cost) is that we simply don’t make the time to cook and now we seem to have forgotten how to cook. My last suggestion is ask someone you know who is a good cook to help you out or teach yourself! A good way is to get a bunch of friends together and cook together. Why not have a simple cooking night when you can make a main course and dessert each. You can set the rules so it’s healthy and support each other in healthy eating. You’ll be on ‘Come Dine With Me’ in no time!

That’s it for me now but I’d be really interested to see what ideas you have!¬† Comments on a postcard please ūüôā

This is an interesting article How to eat healthily on ¬£1 a day¬†which shows you CAN eat cheaply so it’s worth a read if you need some inspiration!

Chocolate fact of the day no.5

 Chocolate could lower our risk of diabetes?

Whoops, this was published yesterday by mistake without me even finishing it! Lets try again…………….

Earlier this month, the Daily Mail reported that ‘eating dark ¬†chocolate¬†can improve thinking, decrease appetite and lower blood pressure‘. So this is where I have been going wrong all this time, I must eat more chocolate?!

I hold nothing against Daily Mail readers BUT as I often say to my students, you need to read between the lines when reading newspaper articles. ¬†All too often the press give an over-simplistic viewpoint and in this case, potentially misleading information. According to Wikipedia (another not-always-so-reliable-source in my eyes) the Daily Mail has¬†an average daily circulation of 1,708,006 copies¬†with¬†a daily readership of ~¬†3.95 million – that’s an awful lot of people being taken down the wrong path!

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Type 2 Diabetes is very much associated with diet and lifestyle.  It occurs as a result of excess Calorie consumption; each time we eat, we release insulin whose job it is to get glucose from our blood stream into our cells (so they can use it for energy).  Overeating (particularly excess sugar) means that our body releases loads of insulin and over time, we start to become unresponsive to it.  If insulin no longer works effectively in our body we are unable to regulate our blood sugar levels properly and we end up with high blood sugar Рthis is diabetes. In the UK, ~ 2.9 million people are affected by diabetes and 90% of these suffer from type 2 (Type 1 is less common and is quite different; as a result of the body not producing insulin at all).

The Mail referred to the original article,¬†published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry and revealed that an antioxidant in cocoa can prevent mice from gaining weight and that it also lowered their blood sugar levels, so they concluded dark chocolate could help prevent Type 2 Diabetes. ¬†I have a problem with this and must say these are very premature assumptions that these effects will directly translate to humans and that even then the effect would be significant. ¬†The antioxidant they talked about was a type of flavonoid (see yesterday’s blog) called ‘oligomeric procyanidins’, or PC for short. Apparently, these flavonoids appear to¬†possess the greatest ¬†anti-diabetic properties¬†of all the polyphenols¬†in cocoa but I don’t think this means we¬†should¬†all rush out and¬†fill¬†the¬†cupboards with it……..not just yet!

I think we need to be cautious with these findings, certainly until we hear about further supportive evidence and remember that chocolate is still a food that could contribute to the development of Type 2 Diabetes; no matter what type of chocolate we’re eating, it will cause your blood sugar levels to rise and in light of this it‚Äôs best to limit chocolate consumption to small amounts. We need to bear in mind that¬†any potential benefit can easily¬†outweighed with excessive consumption.

Secondly, the calorific content of chocolate is relatively high and therefore over-consumption of chocolate could lead to weight gain, leading to obesity which also raises the risk of heart disease.  A proven method of reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes is to maintain a healthy weight, and contrary to media reports, a diet rich chocolate is not going to help you with that.

To give you an idea of what I mean, here is the fat and sugar content of the different types of chocolate. ¬†I am not on commission for Green and Blacks, this is just the information I found (on Tesco’s website) –


Green and Blacks 85% DARK  (per 100g)

Calories 630. Carbohydrate 22.2g of which Sugars 13.8g Fat 53.5g


Green and Blacks MILK (per 100g)

Calories 545. Carbohydrate 50.4g of which Sugars 47.9g Fat 32.6g


Green and Blacks WHITE (per 100g)

Calories 580, Carbohydrate 51.3g of which Sugars 51.3g, Fat 38.2g


So even ‘just’¬†40g (a typical chocolate bar amount) of the 85% cocoa bar contains ~21g fat (that’s nearly a third of a women’s daily fat allowance of 75g). ¬†Interestingly this particular brand of dark chocolate contains the most Calories and fat, yet there we were, all thinking that dark chocolate is the best. ¬†It might be in terms of flavonoid and tryptophan content but perhaps¬†less is more should be the¬†mantra¬†with chocolate.

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You will see over half the white chocolate is just sugar (that’s 20.5g sugar in a 40g bar, equivalent to >4 teaspoons of the white stuff :-/ ) and the milk chocolate is not far off that either. ¬†This is not good for stabilising your blood sugar levels and certainly not good for reducing your risk of developing type 2 diabetes in the long term. ¬†Cadbury’s Dairy Milk has always been advertised as containing ‘a¬†glass and a half of milk in every half pound bar of chocolate‘. ¬†This marketing makes chocolate appear to be a good choice?¬†that it could be viewed as a good source of milk, that it might even be good for you…..I am thinking of the old ‘Guinness is good for you’ advert (no¬†that’s not true either!)¬†So beware of advertising and marketing ploys, chocolate needs to be consumed in small amounts; foods in moderation are fine in my book.

What about diabetic chocolate?

Generally speaking, diabetic chocolate is made by replacing some or all of the sugar content with artificial sweeteners like maltitol or¬†sorbitol. ¬†Sweeteners are often 100’s-1000’s of times sweeter than sugar but they do not get absorbed in the gut, hence the 0 Calories value. ¬†Oddly enough they can give quite a bitter taste and some people just can’t stand the taste of them. ¬†We do¬†need to be a bit careful too¬†as sweeteners can¬†have a laxative effect and you will certainly find this out if you eat too many of them! ¬†Some people find diabetic chocolate to be a good alternative¬†compared with regular chocolate, however many with diabetes find diabetic chocolate to not have enough redeeming benefits and that a little bit of the real stuff, as part of a healthy diet is a better choice.

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So have a bit of the good stuff and enjoy it!

Happy Easter ūüôā

Oh and I have only just found the buttons on here that mean I can change my font size, text colour and all sorts. Its only taken me 2 weeks, but at least I can make my posts look a bit more fancy now!