The age-old debate of eating healthy or eating cheaply is arguably more challenging to navigate than ever before, with costs of groceries continuing to rise with inflation – leaving many British Columbians putting disease prevention on the back burner.
The World Cancer Research Fund says that there were an estimated 18.1 million cases around the world in 2020 – one of the biggest causes of inflammation leading to diseases like cancer being high consumption of processed food and red meats, as well as a high salt intake.
Victoria-based nutritionist, Sandra Gentleman, said that while fast food is inexpensive it is harmful to longterm health.
A healthy diet encompasses all food groups, exercise and avoids processed food, Gentleman told Black Press Media.
Quinoa, couscous, or rye bread as whole grains are affordable options and seeds are often more affordable than nuts and higher in vitamin E. Gentleman said that canned fish with bones is an amazing affordable option because it is high in omega 3, reduces inflammation, has absorbable calcium, vitamin D, and is an alternative to red meat.
Consuming fish twice a week is ideal for an anti-inflammatory diet as well as leaner proteins like chicken, she said, adding that smaller fish like salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel are particularly beneficial in disease prevention.
“We eat for many reasons including social, nutritional, and joyful and in a society built around convenience it is important to think about how the foods we eat can impact us in the long run,” Gentleman said.
Vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds and beans are great sources filled with antioxidants and polyphenols that help a person prevent disease, she said. Meanwhile, brightly coloured berries are full of fibre and reduce inflammation. Nuts and seeds are also full of healthy fats also known as monounsaturated fats which help lower cholesterol levels and reduce risk of developing disease.
Gentleman uses an 80-to-20 rule, meaning 80 per cent of the time a healthy diet is followed, and during the 20 percent, you can consume unhealthy foods.
The best place to buy whole foods are farmers’ markets for the best variety and local options, Gentleman said.
Beans and Lentils are inexpensive plant-based proteins with fibre, great for longevity and disease prevention, while flaxseed, hemp hearts and pumpkin seeds can be an affordable in bulk.
To extend meal preparations and relieve grocery budgets, Gentleman recommends cooking chicken for the week instead of a single day: roasting some for dinner, putting some aside for sandwiches and using the bones to make broth for soups.
She also suggests keeping track of monthly spending looking for patterns of unessential items. Other strategies include freezing meal prep for the week to avoid throwing out leftovers.
The perimeter of the store is where you’ll find most of the whole foods, Gentleman added.
“Look for fresh produce on sale or frozen because it can reduce food waste and still nourish the body,” she said. “Make a list, don’t go shopping when you’re hungry or tired.”