The Only Grocery Guide You Should Read Before Starting Your Diet
So you wonder how you are going to afford any type of diet? Stretching that weekly paycheck or stretching your student meal plan can be a daunting task. Whether it be a Student Diet, or whether it be another diet you are interested in, I’m here to help. I classify this as a Student Diet assistance concept, but this will truly be for an all encompassing diet schematic because it will focus more on your purchasing habits and less on your overall monthly income.
Your #1 Priority: Proteins
You may ask, why would proteins be my number 1, why not vegetables or fruits or grains? Because protein is THE building block of muscle building and recovery. I cannot stress this enough, protein should be your staple in every single meal you choose to eat. It is believed protein will actually curb your eating cravings more, due to breaking down at a slower pace, so not only will you allow your muscles to recover, but you will actually not feel the need to eat excess food.
But how much protein, does your diet need to contain? There are various schools of thought on this, and the best I can give you is an estimate for your body, it will have to be trial and error. There are suggestions that say, 1 Gram of Protein per 1 Lb. of weight, so an 180 LB, male will look at 180 grams of protein per day. The government suggests 0.8 Grams of Protein per 1 KG of body weight, it is roughly 56 grams of protein a day. There are some estimations which go as high as 1.5 Grams per pound, but most of those are recommended for bodybuilders, or extreme athletes. Again you will have to test and see what works best for your body there is no 100% correct answer, just ask any professional athlete or bodybuilder. If you would like a calculator to determine what the recommended amount is, here is a calculator.
For all the items listed below, for meats and fish, a rule of thumb for serving size at one feeding is approximately your fist, which should be roughly 4 oz.
Grocery Staples in a budget. Protein is such a broad topic, so what should your go to budget saving proteins be? Eggs are my #1, they are versatile, cheap, most of the time a dozen eggs is between $1.00 and $2.00 depending on what type you purchase. At $2.00 for a dozen it is roughly 0.41 cents a piece and each one provides you with 6 grams of protein. As a staple, I will not separate my eggs no matter what, yes there is fat, but eggs are a complete protein source and taking healthy fat away is not beneficial. You can make an easy omelet with vegetables, scrambled eggs, or an egg frittata if you have a stove readily available. If not? Guess what, eggs are super easy to microwave which is perfect for all of the college students.
Red Meat, this is also a really broad category. I stick with ground beef with lower fat levels, and if I’m lucky and they are on sale, I will get steak. I stick with a very strong principle to save money, however. When I purchase meat, I first look in the discount section, where there is clearance product. If it is within the date I will purchase and freeze immediately. If I purchase ground beef or steak, I always purchase in family sizes, usually buying in bulk will get you the lowest price. I will subdivide everything into individual freezer packages so there is no waste and I will freeze one individual portion so I can take one out of the freezer, thaw it in the fridge and eat it that day. If you are not going to freeze, make sure everything is cooked properly (check your food healthcare guidelines) and eaten in a timely manner. A cheap charcoal grill will suffice for how you need to cook, however, all of these can also be cooked on a stove top with a cast iron skillet.
Chicken and Fish. Farm raised chicken purchased in bulk packages, as well as wild fish. Chicken is a great staple in anyone’s diet, you can change flavors easily with spices, you can add marinades, or you can “Go Naked.” There is roughly 36 grams of protein in one chopped cup of chicken. Talk about a huge chunk of your protein intake from one easy source.
Fish is also a great source. Tuna in moderation is cheap, it is readily available, and it is easy to pack in your lunch if you are on the go. For all other fish, I would always suggest wild fish, yes I know it can be more expensive, however farm raised fish is not optimal based on what fish are actually fed what in captivity. Again, look for bulk size portions of fish or clearance as well. You can always as a butcher or fish market to portion your food for you, so it makes it easier to get single serving portions if you are not keen on completing this task yourself. My choices of fresh fish are Alaska, wild caught salmon, freshwater coho salmon, mackerel, and sardines. I would avoid farm fished tilapia, orange roughy, halibut, and atlantic salmon which is fish farmed in pens.
Nuts. The greatest way to snack without eating all the junk food. Avoid nuts packaged in oil, stick with raw or dry roasted when you are looking at ones to purchase. Look at almonds, cashews, pistachios, walnuts and peanuts. Avoid macadamia nuts and pistachios, they have the lowest protein amount and highest calories, which means the lowest bang for your buck. You can also look at nut butters. Again, natural is better when it comes to these. JIF offers a natural peanut butter in oil which is fine, I personally go for Nuts ‘N More Peanut Butter Spread, because it has 14 grams of protein in a serving, and I can consume it right out of a jar and take it with me wherever I go.
Protein Supplementation. I believe protein supplementation is a necessity in the fitness world, it provides easy access to protein with lower costs, but it also allows you to have an intake immediately before a workout and immediately after a workout, without having to stuff food down your throat. For me, eating a meal right after training is almost impossible so I stick with a supplementation to get my nutrients. Yes the grocery has proteins, like Muscle Milk and other competing brands, and I know this is a grocery post, but I am trying to save you money and online is the way to go for doing that. My go to choice on protein because of price, taste, and quality reviews and a well known company, is Optimum Nutrition, Gold standard in a 5 Gallon Tub. A 5 gallon tub is $57.99 with 73 servings which is 0.794 cents per serving. There are 24 grams of protein in each serving with only 1 gram of fat, and also includes 5.5 grams of BCAA’s and 4 grams of glutamine. It also has a choice of 20 flavors, I stick with the basics for me which is either Double Rich Chocolate, or Vanilla Ice Cream. Remember this is supplementation, this is not a meal replacement, about 1-1.5 hours after training you still need to eat a nutritious well rounded meal with an additional protein source as well as vegetables and fruits.
Fruits and Vegetables
I will cover fruits first and this is why, fruits are great, they really are, but dried processed fruits can cause great habits to be ruined. Fruits even though they have natural occurring sugar, however if they are processed they have all the beneficial nutrients removed, and you are stuck with a calorie dense sugar products. Some diets may not agree with my philosophy and that is perfectly fine. I eat whole, fresh fruits, in whatever quantity I want, I usually have some type of fruit with every meal, including breakfast and occasionally with my snacks. For me it doesn’t matter what type of fruits, however I try to stick with fiber rich ones. Raspberries come in first with 8 grams per cup, followed by apples, bananas, oranges and strawberries which have between 3-4 grams. If I can go to a local market and pick up fresh fruit I will, but out of season, I usually stick with apples and bananas. In my region, strawberries, raspberries, and apples are readily available at farmers markets and farms, and usually pick your own fruit farms, will allow you to have a lower cost.
Now vegetables. In my opinion you can never get enough and the greener the better. Green leafy vegetables have a ton of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and even though the young guns might not think so, they are great for your heart health. My staples are spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce and green lettuce, and kale. There are other choices such as turnip greens, collards and swiss chard, but for me taste is key, and if I do not enjoy eating it, I won’t force myself to. Don’t just stick with these vegetables, however, zucchini, squash, red, green or yellow bell peppers for an omelet, asparagus, carrots and cucumbers are also extremely beneficial in their own way. This is not a full list, just make them a part of your diet, and remember, eating farm fresh, and natural products are your best choice for the future. When you are cooking them, stick with steaming if possible, not frying, you can lose significant nutrients if you mistreat your veggies.
Now onto the dreaded, is a potato a vegetable? No, it is not, it is a starch. Yukon gold potatoes and similar are not beneficial to your health and I would not include them in your diet. If you want to include a potato then include sweet potatoes. They are high in vitamin B6, they include Vitamin C, iron, and another valuable nutrients, and they are cheap and versatile. The college budget loves sweet potatoes and so will any other diet.
Rice, yes I do consume rice in my diet. I use it for additional carbohydrates (energy) prior to working out, and because I can actually not throw up if I’m running or working out extremely hard. I would suggest brown rice for what I would consume, however white rice can still do the job. Remember starches are only needed in moderation and should not be a staple food in your diet. I use them to assist my workouts only and avoid starches due to carbohydrates (which I obtain from vegetables and fruits). The main reason I suggest rice and not a product like bread is because of price, because it is extremely cheap and you can buy enormous bulk containers and not break the bank. The other reason is most bread products are processed with tons of additives and it is not conducive of a positive diet outlook.
Beverages and Drinks
Avoid Sodas and Energy Drinks. I cannot state this and try to force it down your throat. Diet drinks are not good for you no matter what they say. All these drinks have astronomical levels of sugar, calories, and an unknown number of other products which are not beneficial to your health. If you want caffeine, stick with coffee. Not Starbucks and your mocha latte or some fancy drink, but black coffee. If you are thirsty, drink water, and if you want to save money, do not purchase a bunch of disposable plastic water bottles. Yes, it is horrible for the environment, but what is the point, when you can just fill up on water at the gym, or a friends house, or in your kitchen. All you have to do is find a water bottle, here is the one I use currently, The Traveller by SIGG
Planning Your Grocery Trip
This is probably the most important thing you should do before ever stepping foot out the door. Planning will lead to great purchase habits. If you have a list, you are more likely to stick by it and not pick random products off the shelf and throw them in your cart. Not only will it save you money in the long run, but if you plan, you can research what you are going to purchase and get the best quality products available. Also, creating a list beforehand will allow you to either find or use recipes which incorporate your healthy lifestyle, instead of trying to make recipes up on the fly or knowing what products you already have in your house.
Saving Money on Your Grocery Trip
The goal of every shopping trip is to save money. I stick by my rules which always say, if it’s not on sale or clearance, I will not buy it, and if there is a coupon available for it I always use it. I’m not a participant in the Extreme Couponing movement, however I’m not above using as many coupons as possible. Prior to going to the store, I will check coupons.com, redplum, as well as the theKrazycouponlady.com to see if they have anything of use to me.
If this isn’t a lot of information to take in, that’s great, it means you already have a great knowledge of how to make a quality diet plan and stick with it. If it is a lot, that is also okay, take the steps slowly, change one thing at either per week or per month and then add in another goal the next time. If you felt this article was beneficial to you, share it, it may be beneficial to someone else who wants to read it.
Work Hard, Stick With a Plan, and Eat Right, and you will achieve your goals.