More than ever before, people of all ages and walks of life are choosing to lead a heathier lifestyle in terms of their physical wellbeing and daily nutrition. Having the internet at our fingertips means we’re more conscious of the nutritional value of the food we put into our bodies. Unfortunately, the wealth of information can be overwhelming, and coupled with constant, ever- changing fad diets, can be confusing and cause many to give up before they’ve really given it a chance.

To make matters worse, the exorbitant price of anything with a ‘health food’ or ‘superfood’ label is enough to turn anyone on their heel in the opposite direction of their journey to healthy living. The general perception is that you have to have extra cash to burn if you’re really going to commit yourself to eating ‘clean’. This is a misconception. One can shop and prepare healthy meals using your everyday grocery store items. The trick is to make a list of the basic items you’ll need, and stick to it.

Below are some shopping suggestions for affordable, everyday items to start prepping healthy meals, as well as the best/ healthiest cooking methods to help maintain a daily, balanced eating plan.

How to shop meat

Chicken and fish- the leanest meats (those with the least amount of fat) are also the most affordable! The variety of healthy meals one can make with just these two meats alone, are vast. Skinless chicken breasts are the best way to go, although it’s ok to buy chicken pieces as these can still be prepared in a healthy way. As for fish, tuna is the least expensive and leanest kind available. Hake is also a great choice, as long as you steer clear of the crisp, bread- coated variety.

Budget shopping tip: Wherever possible, buy your meat in bulk as you’ll pay less per item when compared to buying one or two small packs. These bulk packs can be divided into smaller meal portions, frozen immediately, and used as needed.

How to shop vegetables

Spinach, carrots, garlic and broccoli are your best picks in terms of vegetables/ garnish and are all very versatile with regards to the number of healthy yet tasty meals you can prepare. You may also opt for vegetables like potatoes, corn, squash or butternut, but be wary of their starch content as these are high in carbohydrates- so moderation is key when it comes to consumption.

Quick meal ideas: Chicken or fish wraps, stir- fries, steamed, baked or shallow fried chicken breast or fish portions with quick boiled, crunchy vegetables, baked potato and green salad.

Salads as a meal

Shredded lettuce, cut-up cucumber, tomatoes and a seasoning of salt, pepper and mixed herbs provides the perfect green salad base. You can then add your cooked chicken pieces/ breasts, tuna or hake pieces. Steer clear of creamy salad dressings however, as these are notoriously high in oils and fat. Opt for a splash of balsamic vinegar and/ or virgin olive oil instead.

Meal preparation

The healthiest methods of cooking includes boiling and steaming, both of which can easily be done on your home stovetop, microwave or in the oven. Air-frying is also a better alternative to frying in oil or butter. Baking is another alternative which uses very little, if any oil. Pan- frying can be done in moderation, but stick to shallow frying with olive oil.

Many of the current popular diets glorify going hours without food (fasting), eating only a certain colour of fruit or veg, eating for your specific body type, or measuring every single portion of food or drink before consumption. Once again, it’s easy to become overwhelmed and confused by the ever- changing, often contradictory information, and it need not be. Following the healthy shopping tips and preparation methods listed earlier, means you can save money while still getting the items you need to eat healthy meals, daily.

Also, it’s important to allow yourself a normal snack or ‘cheat-meal’ once or twice a week, as long as you don’t overindulge or binge-eat, and commit to maintaining your regular healthy eating plan the rest of the time.

So as you can see, the items one needs to prepare healthy meals need not be expensive or found exclusively in health food shops. A few everyday ingredients can provide so many tasty meal options, you never need get bored with eating the same thing over and over. Combined with the all-important 8 glasses of water a day, and minimum of 30 minutes of exercise, 3 days a week, your journey to healthy living can get started in no time!

How are you eating and preparing healthier foods this year?