Committing to wellness doesn’t have to be the pricey endeavor that leggings retailers and fancy salad shops want you to think it is.
Cooking dinner at home instead of eating out, for example, was associated with healthier diets and lower spending on food overall, according to a recent study from the University of Washington School of Public Health.
If you’re used to springing for fast food or ordering a lot of takeout, it’ll take dedication to start planning meals and cooking for yourself. Working out cheaply or for free will also require researching options and discovering what you enjoy.
But you’ll feel stronger and more in control of your health — and budget — so give these strategies a try.
- Know what ‘healthy’ means
First, understand what counts as “healthy.”
The MyPlate Checklist Calculator from the U.S. Department of Agriculture offers personalized guidelines for the amount of fruit, vegetables, grains, protein and dairy to eat per day. Use the nonprofit Environmental Working Group’s Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce to decide which fruits and vegetables to splurge on. The “Clean Fifteen” lists foods least likely to contain pesticides, which means you can select their cheaper, nonorganic versions.
Adults should do aerobic exercise (like walking, swimming, biking or running) at moderate intensity for a total of 150 minutes per week or at vigorous intensity for 75 minutes per week, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Two or more days of muscle-strengthening activities, such as push-ups, crunches or yoga, are also recommended.
- Start small and shop with intention
Look for ways to add fruits and vegetables to meals you already eat, says Jessica Matthews, senior adviser for health and fitness education at the American Council on Exercise. If you eat eggs every morning, she says, throw in some chopped mushrooms or spinach.
To save money on groceries, start by planning two dishes for the week, says Erin Chase, founder of the blog $5 Dinners. She recommends building your meals around a protein — a meat or meat alternative — that’s on sale that week.
- Craft your own workouts
Opt for at-home or other do-it-yourself workouts using free resources. The website for the American Council on Exercise has a library of step-by-step workout tutorials you can search by muscle group or experience level. If you enjoy fitness classes, you can find free online classes at sites like DoYogaWithMe.
To stay motivated, add workout blocks to your personal or work calendar; set specific, attainable goals; and make a plan to stay accountable with a friend. Maybe you and a work colleague will train for a 5K run together and do muscle-strengthening exercises twice a week.