Weight Control vs Price vs Nutrition – One Simple Philosophy to Make it Manageable in Todays Busy World May 27, 2013 weight management 6 Comments Eating on a budget can still be filling and nutritious. Recently the same question has popped up a few times: “how do I simultaneously eat “clean”, lose weight, and not blow the budget?” It does seem like a lot of the products that are tainted as “superfoods” come with a corresponding additional price tag; Therefore, I have always liked to look at nutrients as a “bang for you buck”, however rather than looking at the volume of food you get for the price tag (which is the measurement you will see in supermarkets as a price comparison “$/kg”), I like to look at it like this: 1. How full will you feel VS how much does it cost; AND 2. How nutrient packed (vitamins, minerals and antioxidants) is it VS how much does it cost. These two are not necessarily the same for every food, for example: You may feel full from processed meat due to the high protein content it provides (dot point 1), but you are not getting a very nutrient packed option (dot point 2). Then you sometimes have very nutrient packed foods but they won’t necessarily keep you that full for that long e.g. an apple. Finally, you have some foods that actually do fit both these criteria e.g a piece of salmon (but as we know, this does usually have the corresponding price tag I mentioned). So…what to do? Lets think about it this way, although per kilogram the piece of salmon costs a lot more than some other foods, because it sits so highly in the ‘filling’ and the ‘nutrient packed’ ends of the scale, you shouldn’t actually need that large a serve to get the benefits, hence the price per serve actually goes down compared to if you needed to eat a larger volume of another food to reap these same benefits and feel as full, or attain as many micronutrients (remembering that this could also potentially come with corresponding additional calories too). Salmon, hits the bill for both nutrient density and being filling! Then we have another example where people are unclear if to go for the 100% clean product, even though it might not be that filling or for the slightly more filling option that has one or two additives or preservatives. I’ll give an example (and with full disclosure, given I have been privileged enough to be offered to represent both these products in the past, you can rest assure I am not playing favourites with how I suggest you conduct your analysis): For someone looking for a bread alternative, you may be trying to decide if “clean” brown rice cakes, which are made solely from 100% brown rice, and are low in sodium, low in calories, but are also high GI, and low in fibre, are a good option; OR Goodness Superfoods high fibre low GI BARLEYmax wraps If the Goodness Superfoods BARLEYmax based wraps, which have a couple of natural preservatives, but also have 11g of filling fibre, resistant starch, and are low in sodium and low GI, are the preferred option. The rice cakes are cheaper, with a whole packet costing around $2.00 vs the BARLEYmax wraps at $5 for 5 wraps. I honestly think they both can be good options, it just depends what you top them with; thereby balancing out your budget, how filling the meal will be, and how many nutrients they can provide you. As an example, because the rice cakes are 100% clean, but are not high in protein or fibre, I would say that this is one of those times where the canned tuna in oil would be a great simple addition, this will be cheaper than purchasing a fresh piece of fish, but will still provide you with an array of beneficial nutrients (both for satiety and for your health). One example of toppings that can be put on the rice cakes to make them a more filling option. Whereas if you were selecting the BARLEYmax wrap, ideally you fill it with something that is home made, without any additives or preservatives e.g. make a breakfast burrito by scrambling some eggs and chopped up veggies to put in it, or make some home made legume based patties which are both filling and cheap, which you can put inside the wrap. This way, whichever option you select, you are balancing out how “clean” vs how “filling” vs “the cost” of the end meal or snack. Finding ways to make sure you get both the nutrient dense foods and the filling foods into your diet, even if they are not all at every sitting, will help ensure you can manage your weight, whilst still look after your insides. As another example, the Quest Nutrition bars that I continue to promote on my Facebook profile are extremely filling, having 20g of protein and 17g of prebiotic fibres; however, they are not nutritionally complete, and should not be seen as a complete meal replacement i.e just because they provide you with the same amount of protein as 80-100g of lean steak, does not mean they provide you with the same amount of iron, zinc and B12 as that piece of meat. Quest protein bars- absolutely fantastic product for weight management, but are not to replace entirely main meals due to the lack of micronutrients. If you were to only be eating for the protein and fibre, and forgetting about the nutrient density aspect, you would find that in time, you could start to feel quite weak and tired as a result of your micronutrient intake being low (irrespective of your weight coming down due to the calorie restriction). This is not going to be supportive of your overall wellbeing, or your ability to stick with your new way of eating. May have a similar nutritional profile based on protein or fibre to the bars, but there are an array of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that you get from the whole foods too. With this in mind, striking the balance between selecting the foods for their “filling” aspect, and their “nutrient density” aspect, needs to be considered as you continue to make food choices to attain your goals (no matter if they are body composition related, weight related, or health related). When cost comes into it, think about switching between which part of your meal will be the most costly between the carbohydrate source or the protein source. I have commonly seen people go for cheaper carbohydrate sources i.e short grain rice or white pasta, and then struggle with the cost of the animal based proteins. As a suggestion, why not go for a more filling variety of grain or alternative such as RicePlus, quinoa, or even the pasta varieties that can be found in health food shops such as mung bean. One of the noodle alternatives that is very high in protein. Although these are slightly more expensive than the regular varieties of pasta and rice, due to the much higher fibre and/or protein content of these foods, you could significantly cut down on the portion of protein that you need to purchase to go with your meal in order to keep you full. I suggest that sometimes you switch over to these more nutrient dense (albeit more expensive) grain sources or alternatives, and utilise cheaper protein sources such as eggs, legumes, quorn or canned fish to balance out your meal (and the resulting price). Quorn- super filling, high protein, high fibre, rich in omega 3’s..and a plant based protein source. Utilising canned tuna to extend a meal whilst funds get invested into fresh vegetables. Utilising canned tuna to extend a meal whilst funds get invested into fresh vegetables. Utilising canned tuna to extend a meal whilst funds get invested into fresh vegetables. Also remember, that if you cook more than you need, and end up throwing food out because it goes bad before you get to consume it, that is literally throwing your money in the bin (money that could have otherwise been invested in other ingredients for later in the week). If you need extra assistance with understanding which foods provide which parts of this nutrient, filling, and costly part of the equation, please just ask, I myself, or another dietitian, can assist you in creating meal ideas that work for you and/or your family, that everyone can enjoy, and will be nutritionally, economically and waist friendly sound! If you have any ideas on budget saving meals, or nutrient packed and filling meals please do share them with us all. For now, The Travelling Dietitian x Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window) Related 6 Responses Brett Parker May 27, 2013 Hi Kara, Great post, and you have nailed it once again! I am very fortunate that I have a love of good food, have experience preparing it and buy in season as much as possible. Also as my life revolves around food, I tend to know what a good deal is and buy things in bulk. I am also PARTICULARLY fortunate that I have an amazingly busy fruit and vegetable market near me where its not uncommon to boy boxes of tomatoes, lettuce, spinach, capsicums, banana’s, grapes, (whatever is in season) for usually between $5-8 a box…..yup a box (thats about 4-5 kg’s usually). Now I am in food service so I use these in my cafe where I work, but you could always share them with friends or family. Regardless, it only takes a little bit of planning to save heaps and eat well. Here’s some of mine that are easy as: 1. Always, always try to plan for the week and do a big shopping on one day of the week. Top up bread, milk and perishables during the week. If you plan your meals, you will buy only what you need, and you will not spend on impulse or buy things you don’t really need. 2. During the week when you do your top up, try to go after work. Supermarkets ALWAYS discount later in the day. You will get bread, occasionally hot chickens, and other perishables often at HALF price or less. 3. Every time you go for a top up, check out the meat section. I hunt all the time for cheap meat. When it’s close to its use by date (yes….check it, but only once in 10 years has the meat been off!) it will be discounted (often by 30-40%). Take it home and freeze it for use later. 4. A little known hint. The big supermarkets have realised that a lot of people are time poor and are now selling pre-cut ready to bake / steam vegetables these days. Funny thing is, most people are not taking advantage of it, and these are also often reduced. I wouldn’t pay full-price, because $7 for a pre cut pumpkin is ridiculous, but discounted to $3.50 and now we are talking. 5. Finally, on the lines of what Kara has already mentioned, try to cook meals where you cut up meat with veg. A 300g steak chopped into a stir fry, curry, stew, or even skewered on kebabs with veg will easily feed 4 people. Happy Cooking! Brett Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian May 27, 2013 AMAZING advice Brent! Thanks for sharing with others (these are from a chef/up and coming dietitian!) – So true about going late at night and the produce being discounted! I used to go at like 11pm, no one is there so you save time in the lines as well! Log in to Reply Hannah Cee June 2, 2013 Great post Kara! I agree with Brett on supermarket shopping at night – I went to my local Coles the other night just before closing, and got two bags of pre-cut soup veg (carrot, onion, leeks and celery) for 30 cents each!!! I added some potatoes, canned tomatoes, stock, and made a soup to last a few days, was delicious 🙂 Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian June 2, 2013 Thanks Hannah! Great to hear you actioned Bretts advice too 🙂 Soup sounds yum! Log in to Reply Rosie June 20, 2013 Where do you get quest bars Australia? I’ve always wanted to try them. I love your site. Log in to Reply Travelling Dietitian June 20, 2013 Hi Rose, most Aussies purchase the quest bars online from iherb.com as this is cheapest. You can find them in some specialty health food shops (but they cost double the price) or GNC is meant to be starting to stock them too now from my understanding. Thank you for your compliments on the site. I’m really glad you are enjoying the posts! 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