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The Saturday Skinny: You don't need to be wealthy to eat healthy and lose weight

By: Don Chaddock, Managing Editor
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Something I hear all the time is, "It's too expensive to eat healthy."

Money is tight in this economy but you don't need a bunch of cash to lose a bunch of weight. This week, we'll look at ways to save money while still losing inches and pounds.

LOOK FOR SALES

I scan the sales papers for the local grocery stores, getting the best deals on lean meats (chicken, fish, pork tenderloin and lean steaks), canned goods (black beans, garbanzo beans, kidney beans and tuna in water) and vegetables (frozen and fresh). This is also a great way to stock up on fruit. Grapes are pricey, so I only buy them on sale and freeze them as soon as I get home.

Farmers markets offer locally grown fresh produce and meats, so keep your eyes open.

PACK YOUR MEALS

While I can make healthy choices at a restaurant, it's much easier (and cheaper) to pack my lunches for work.

Rather than buying individual containers of yogurt, purchase the big tubs. This way you can pack 6-8 ounces of yogurt in a reusable container and save money at the same time.

Romaine hearts usually come three to a package for around $2-$3. Each one makes a salad. Adding in some kale (packaged chopped kale is also around $2) and baby spinach (also around $2 for a large package), means I can have a large healthy salad for about $1-$2. Top with black beans, sliced mushrooms and fresh salsa or low-calorie yogurt-based salad dressing.

WARDROBE REPLACEMENT

When I started losing weight, I suddenly found all my clothing too baggy. Clothing is expensive, but there are ways to find quick replacement clothes without breaking the bank. Thrift stores are a great way to accomplish this goal, especially if you have more to lose. There's no point in spending a fortune on clothes you'll only wear for a few months.

Rather than spending $20-$50 on a shirt, how about $3-$8 at a second-hand store? Many thrift stores are charity based, so you're also doing a good deed. Often, thrift stores carry new items (still with the original labels and tags on them from the retail stores). Consider this a viable option.

AVOID PROCESSED MEALS

I'm just going to say it: Don't waste your hard-earned dough on pre-packaged frozen "diet" meals. I can't tell you how many of those I ate over the course of two decades as I struggled with my weight. They left me unsatisfied and craving real food. Instead, I fill up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Expensive "diet" meals aren't required to lose weight, I simply needed to learn what to eat.

CUT OUT THE FAT

In order to lose weight, I stopped eating fat-laden or calorie-rich foods such as potato chips, ice cream, pancakes, biscuits, cookies, cake, pie, bacon and fatty cuts of meat. Once I eliminated these from my shopping list, the grocery bill dramatically dropped.

DON'T DRINK YOUR CALORIES

Instead of whole milk, buy non-fat milk. if you must, slowly wean yourself off the whole stuff, working down to 2-percent, 1-percent and eventually fat free. Don't use cream in your coffee, but instead use non-fat milk or soy milk.

If you're drinking a smoothie, consider it a snack. As I wrote about last week, I have three snacks each day. One of them can be a smoothie, but I can't have a smoothie and something else. Smoothies shouldn't be crafted with ice cream or other calorie bombs. They should be made with non-fat (or low fat) yogurt and real fruit.

Alcohol isn't cheap and it's full of empty calories. Avoid it. If you must imbibe, choose a clear hard liquor mixed with tonic water, or a small glass of red wine.

Juice isn't a healthy option, no matter what the package claims. Juice is a cup full of liquid sugar offering little in the way of nutrients. Read the label. Don't keep it around unless you're using it as a base for making sauces or smoothies.

OFFER HEALTHY OPTIONS

If I have healthy snacks around the house, I'm less likely to make poor choices. Potato chips? If I have them in a cupboard, I will probably sneak some after a hard day at the office. When I'm tired, hungry or stressed, it's easy for me to revert to old patterns.

Fresh fruit, yogurt or roasted sweet potato slices are all healthy options.

A box of fiber bars is also good. Some I've seen contain up to 50 percent of your fiber and are about 150-200 calories each. Drink plenty of water if you go this route.

BREAD ISN'T ALL BAD

Bread does get a bad rap and I do avoid it but I eat it on occasion. When I do, I make sure it's fairly healthy, such as the "double fiber" variety found on store shelves. Go for whole wheat bread, but don't make it a habit if you hope to lose weight.

BREAKFAST SHOULD BE HEALTHY

Kick your day off the right way with a healthy breakfast. Avoid cereal, bread, pancakes and other unhealthy foods.

If you don't have a lot of time for breakfast, there are a few cereals I recommend. Quaker Oatmeal Squares are pretty good and not too expensive. Also, the Raley's brand Nutty Nuggets (a knock-off of Grape Nuts) have less sugar and costs less than the name brand equivalent.

My usual breakfast is one banana, some frozen grapes (or a cut up apple or strawberries) and some non-fat plain (or vanilla) yogurt. Sometimes, I sprinkle ground flax seed over the top for extra fiber. It's quick, easy and healthy.

Egg whites can also be found if you look for the knock-off store brand. Raley's offers a version that's reasonably priced. Or, separate them yourself from regular eggs. Scrambled egg whites with some sauteed spinach, kale and mushrooms are a great way to start the day. Skip the toast and juice, opting instead for a piece of fresh fruit on the side.

GYMS AREN'T ALWAYS THE ANSWER

I'm not knocking gyms, but for those who are just scraping by, gyms aren't an option. Try investing in some hand weights and committing yourself to exercise daily, at least 30 minutes. Walk, hike or use a step stool and do step exercises at home while watching TV.

If you can afford a gym, do so. Many offer membership discounts around the holidays and New Year, so it's a great time to shop around.

MY JOURNEY

For those just starting to read The Saturday Skinny, I started out weighing 303 pounds. As of today, I weigh 186, having lost 117 pounds over 22 months. I did it without a trainer, dietician or any special plan. I made a decision to be healthier for my children and through one choice at a time, made day by day, I've gotten to this point.

Follow us at Facebook.com/SaturdaySkinny or on Twitter @saturdayskinny. Reach Don Chaddock at donc@goldcountrymedia.com.