A desire to lose weight does not mean you need to spend money on a gym membership or expensive supplements. One of the best ways to keep your weight under control is through your diet. By changing what you eat and how you eat, you can lose several pounds.
A weight loss diet can fit any budget. There are many superbly healthy foods that you can buy when you’re on a budget. At the same time, buying budget-friendly foods does not mean that you need to compromise on taste.
Also, when you are on a budget, you can save money by cooking at home as much as possible, buying seasonal foods and purchasing certain items in bulk.
Losing weight is a tough task, but knowing what foods are good for you is half the battle.
Here are the top 10 best budget foods for weight loss.
When it comes to weight loss, a healthy breakfast is a must. A delicious and healthy breakfast option that can suit any budget is oatmeal.
Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber that can keep you feeling full longer and keep hunger pangs under control until your next meal.
A bowl of oatmeal daily can also help your metabolic health.
A 2016 study published in Nutrients concludes that both short- and long-term oat intake had significant effects on controlling hyperglycemia, lowering blood lipids and reducing weight. The study recommends oats as a good whole grain for overweight diabetics.
When eating oatmeal, avoid adding sugar. Instead use stevia, honey or spices like cinnamon or nutmeg to give it flavor. You can also top it with healthy nuts and fruits.
2. Greek Yogurt
Another good and healthy breakfast option is Greek yogurt. Buying a container of yogurt will not cost you much.
This yogurt contains probiotic bacteria that can improve the functioning of your gut, which in turn protects against inflammation and leptin resistance, the main hormonal driver of obesity.
The high protein in yogurt can help you feel full longer and ward off hunger by keeping your blood sugar levels steady.
Also, the high amount of calcium in it supports the process of weight loss.
A 2003 study by the University of Tennessee found that eating three servings of yogurt a day can increase fat loss.
Furthermore, the protein content in Greek yogurt causes reduced hunger, increased fullness and delayed subsequent eating, according to a 2013 study published in Appetite.
3. Air-Popped Popcorn
If you love eating popcorn, instead of salted or buttered popcorn, try homemade air-popped popcorn mixed with different spice blends. This is much cheaper and also aids weight loss.
One cup of plain, air-popped popcorn contains very little calories and a good amount of fiber, which can keep you full for a longer time. Air-popped popcorn also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, potassium, vitamin A, phosphorus, zinc, manganese, iron, and copper.
In a 2012 study published in the Nutrition Journal, participants reported less hunger, more satisfaction and lower estimates of prospective food consumption after 6 cups of popcorn as compared to potato chips.
Another 2012 study published by the American Chemical Society found that popcorn contains more of the healthy antioxidant substances called polyphenols than fruits and vegetables.
You can eat some air-popped popcorn anytime you feel hungry to keep you feeling full without adding loads of extra calories.
One budget-friendly fruit that deserves to be on this list is grapefruit. Packed with vitamin C, fiber and water, grapefruit aids weight loss. The vitamin C content has a direct impact on metabolism, which is important for burning fat.
It’s also low in calories and can help you feel full longer. Plus, this fruit is rich in vitamins A and B6, potassium, folate, thiamin, calcium, iron, copper, phosphorus and magnesium.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of Medicinal Food found that half of a fresh grapefruit eaten before meals were associated with significant weight loss. Although the mechanism of this weight loss is unknown, it would appear reasonable to include grapefruit in a weight-reduction diet.
In fact, a 2015 study published in the African Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology found that grapefruit juice is better than sibutramine, an anti-obesity drug that enhances satiety since its weight-loss effect lasts longer and also did not affect brain noradrenaline.
Eating an apple daily will not only keep the doctor away but also keep your body weight under control.
Apart from being low in calories, apples are a rich source of fiber, which means your stomach stays satisfied longer and prevents you from overeating. Plus, the antioxidants in apples may give a boost to your metabolism, which is important to get rid of stored fat.
Apples also contain other important nutrients including vitamin C, B-complex vitamins, calcium, potassium, and phosphorus. They are also low in calories and contain no fat or cholesterol.
A 2003 study published in Nutrition reports that apples may help contribute to weight loss.
Whenever you feel hungry in between meals, just grab an apple. As most of the nutrients are present just under the skin, it is a good idea to eat apples with the skin. Make sure you rinse the skin well under running water. Or, you can soak the apples in a bowl filled with water mixed with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar for 10 minutes, then rinse under tap water and dry them with a paper towel.
6. Green Tea
If you have the habit of drinking coffee, then it is time to switch to green tea. Whether you make coffee at home or buy a cup at a café, coffee costs more than green tea.
Also, green tea is much healthier than coffee and even supports weight loss.
Green tea is loaded with antioxidants, which may boost your immune system. In fact, the catechins in green tea hinder the storage of belly fat and aid rapid weight loss.
A 2014 study at Pennsylvania State University found that epigallocatechin gallate in green tea slows down weight gain by restricting fat absorption and increasing the body’s ability to burn fat.
Another budget-friendly vegetable that you must include in your weight loss diet plan is spinach. This green leafy vegetable comes very cheap but is very high in nutritional value.
Spinach is low in calories and carbohydrates and packed with nutrients and fiber to fill you up. Spinach will increase the volume of your meals, without increasing the calories.
It also has calcium that aids the fat-burning process.
A 2014 study conducted at Lund University in Sweden found that a spinach extract containing green leaf membranes called thylakoids reduces hedonic hunger (cravings for unhealthy foods) up to 95 percent and increases weight loss by 43 percent.
You can enjoy this versatile food in a salad, vegetable juice, green smoothie or soup.
8. Beans, Legumes and Pulses
Beans, legumes, and pulses are healthy foods that you can buy in bulk and enjoy daily.
They are rich in fiber and protein. This means just a bowl of cooked beans, legumes or pulses can keep you full for a longer time. They also contain little to no fat and are cholesterol-free.
In addition, they are packed with iron, magnesium, potassium, and folate. These foods also have a low glycemic index, which means the carbohydrates in them do not significantly raise blood sugar levels.
A 2016 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating about a ¾ cup of pulses each day can led to a weight loss of a ¾ pound. The conclusion was made after a systematic review and meta-analysis of all available clinical trials on the effects of eating pulses.
9. Cottage Cheese
Cottage cheese made from curdled milk is readily available in the market, or you can even make it at home. Cottage cheese has a sweet and fresh taste that most people like.
Being a dairy product, cottage cheese tends to be high in protein, making it very satiating and keeping you full for a longer time period. The high calcium in it also aids the fat-burning process.
In addition, cottage cheese contains vitamin A, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, selenium and zinc.
You can eat cottage cheese as a snack after seasoning it with some herbs. You can also use it in sandwiches, salads, soups and stir-fry dishes. Make sure you opt for low-fat or nonfat cottage cheese.
It is true that carrots are good for your eyes, but they are also good for your weight and your pocketbook.
Due to the high fiber and water content in carrots, they can increase satiety and decrease calorie intake.
This crunchy and tasty vegetable is also a good source of beta-carotene, vitamin K, potassium and antioxidants.
A 2006 study published in the British Journal of Nutrition found that the fiber content and physical structure of carrots have a positive effect on satiety and subsequent intakes when eaten as part of a mixed meal.
You can munch on carrots in between meals as a healthy snack. You can even dip them in your favorite hummus or salsa for added taste.
Expert Answers (Q&A)
Answered by Ms. Jennifer Burns Katafigiotis (MS)
What role does metabolism play in your weight status?
Metabolism is a complex and fascinating biochemical process by which what you eat and drink is converted into energy that your body needs to function. During this process, calories that you take in through food and beverages are combined with oxygen in the blood to manufacture energy for your bodily functions.
Even at rest, your body is still in need of energy for basic functions such as breathing, cell repair, blood circulation, and much more. Your basal metabolic rate is the number of calories your body utilizes for these vital functions.
Factors that help to determine your basal metabolic rate include your body composition and size; if you have a larger body frame and/or have more muscle mass, you will have a higher metabolism (burn more calories) even at a resting state. More muscle mass contributes to higher caloric burn.
Your gender plays a role in basal metabolic rate as well, again in relation to muscle mass. Men tend to have more muscle mass and less fat mass than women of the same weight and age, thereby contributing to an increased basal metabolic rate for men.
As you get older, muscle mass tends to decrease while fat mass increases, which contributes to a slowing down of basal metabolic rate regardless of your gender.
Your metabolism affects the amount of basic energy that your body needs. How much you eat and drink along with your physical activity level, muscle and fat mass, age, and gender are the things that ultimately determine your weight status ( i.e., weight maintenance, gain or loss).
Is it possible to reduce weight without dieting?
It isn’t possible to reduce weight without dieting. It is possible to reduce weight with dieting. Both statements are true.
First, we’ll need to establish what the word “diet” means, as it has often come to have negative connotations associated with it. Simply put, across sources such as Oxford, Meriam-Webster and Cambridge dictionaries, the word “diet” refers to the food and drink a person habitually eats.
The real question is, what is your end game when it comes to the food that you eat? Is it to help the environment, save animals, follow religious doctrine, improve diabetes, lose weight, or a combination of many of these objectives? The topic now becomes rather complex in its simplicity, and often, becomes a task that seems too daunting to take on.
So let’s first refer to what has been said here about basal metabolic rate and the influencing factors when we look to change our weight status, and then change the question from, “Is it possible to reduce weight without dieting” to, “Does my current diet contribute to my desire to reduce weight”?
You need to have a thorough understanding of your basal metabolic rate, your caloric intake, the macro nutrient composition of your caloric intake, exercise type, duration, frequency, muscle mass, etc., and then look at what your new “Diet for active weight loss” will look like. There is no “one size fits all” approach to reducing weight because we are all not one size to start with.
Please provide some additional tips or inputs to help our readers achieve healthy weight loss in a cost-effective manner.
Here are some approaches to jump-starting a weight reduction lifestyle.
- Move. More today than yesterday and more tomorrow than today.
- Lift weights to build muscle. No gym, fancy equipment, or cute outfit is needed. You have what you need with you right now as you read this. On average, your arm weighs approximately 5.3% of your total body weight, depending on your gender and other factors. A leg is about 17.5%. This means for a 175 lb average person; an arm weighs approximately 9 pounds or 4 kg and a leg weighs 30.5 pounds or just under 14 kg. Arm lifts, leg lifts done while reading this article will help you get in some energy using, muscle-building activity.
- Water. Drink it. Always as your first choice. Dehydration shows up first as hunger, which makes even the most dedicated reduction diet harder to follow. Whenever you think you feel a little hungry – use that as a cue to drink a glass of water. Of course – if your physician has indicated that you need to adhere to specific water intake limits, follow your physician’s directive.
- Fill half your plate with vegetables, one quarter with starchy vegetable/carbohydrate and the last quarter with lean protein. This will help to balance out your nutritional intake, decrease portions and calories until you zero in on a weight-reducing diet program that works for you.
- Use smaller plates. Plate sizes have increased by 2 inches on an average, over the past few decades. Bigger plates = bigger portions = higher weight = unhealthy you.
- Eat slower. Studies have shown that it takes approximately twenty minutes for your belly to tell your brain that you are satiated. If you are a fast eater, your plate is empty before the signal is delivered and it becomes easy to reach for second or even third servings. Slow down. Chew more. Take a drink of water between bites. Put your fork down between bites. Put less on your fork. Be present at meals – no screens or eating in the car. Take time to enjoy and savor your meal.
- Respect your food. Show it love and appreciation.
Not one of these seven tips cost you any money, but the investment in yourself and your health is beyond invaluable.
About Ms. Jennifer Burns Katafigiotis, MS: Ms. Burns is setting the standard for how to combat the overweight and obesity epidemic plaguing our children. Her commitment to childhood nutrition education is changing the way pediatric physicians address weight status through nutrition education and behavior change.
She holds an M.S. in Nutrition Education and Food Science, and believes strongly in paying it forward; mentoring undergraduate and graduate students and teaching at the University level.