–Alan Freishtat, Healthy Living Golden Age

It sometimes seems that in order to stay healthy, it might cost a lot of money. Granted, not being healthy will ultimately cost more money than buying healthy food, but for many it seems like we must spend a lot of money to buy healthful food, see a dietitian, buy exercise equipment, go to the gym or have a personal trainer. However, it doesn’t have to be that way.

Many years ago, before I was a fitness trainer, I used to sell freshly squeezed orange juice. One potential client told me that Coca-Cola was much cheaper and he would stick with that. He was right about the price, but the cost of unhealthy choices is much higher. I’m sure that over the years you have read about superfoods; foods like wild Alaskan salmon, organic blueberries, pomegranate seeds, quinoa and various berry juices will do wonders for your health, but they are very draining on your wallet. Many people can’t afford these types of foods on a regular basis but want to be healthy. So what can one do? There are definitely solutions.

Historically, we know that the highest rates of overweight and obesity fall in the lowest income groups. Higher income families are more likely to purchase whole grains, fish, lean meats, low-fat milk and fresh produce. On the other hand, lower income families go more for cereals, pasta, and potatoes. Let’s take a look at how we can make less expensive substitutions.

Superfood Alternatives

Teri Mosey, a holistic nutrition and culinary consultant in New York, says “The foods being advertised as superfoods are [simply] whole foods from nature that have been around for thousands of years. They are just getting their 10 minutes of fame.” Here are some thrifty substitutions for the hyped but pricey foods that frequently show up on “superfood” lists.

Instead of Salmon: Try tuna for some good fats, says Jenna A. Bell, PhD, senior VP and director of nutrition for Pollock Communications in New York. “Canned tuna in oil has one gram of saturated fat but also 2.5 grams of unsaturated ‘good’ fat.”

Instead of Quinoa: Turn to barley, oats and brown rice, says Bell. “These grains are less expensive than quinoa and are often sold in bulk. I love oats and barley because of their special fiber: beta glucan. It’s good for your heart , and research shows that it helps you feel fuller longer, so you’re less apt to overeat.”

Instead of Almonds or Walnuts: “For nuts, shop in bulk and select a store brand,” says Bell. “Peanuts can be cheaper, and if they’re unsalted, they’re a great nut choice.”

Instead of Superfood Meats (e.g. grass-fed beef): Try affordable poultry, such as chicken breasts bought in bulk, says Muth. Or eat eggs, which are inexpensive and protein-rich and high in heart- and brain- friendly omega-3 fatty acids, she adds. Other inexpensive and protein-rich proteins include tofu, low-fat cottage cheese, organ meats such as liver, and inexpensive cuts of meat (cooked in a slow cooker to make them tender).

Keep Your Vegetables Affordable: “Frozen vegetables are frozen at their peak of freshness and retain more nutrients than canned varieties.” says Ami Lenning, a chef and fitness professional in Michigan. “A bag of frozen mixed vegetables and some lean protein can easily become a stir-fry, served with brown rice for a healthy, low-cost meal,” she says.

Exercise on Your Own: As far as exercise goes, you don’t have to join a gym, you don’t have to buy exercise equipment, and you might not require a personal trainer. The only necessary expense for those on a tight budget is comfortable clothes and a good pair of shoes for walking and running. Exercise can entail outdoor walking or using DVDs indoors. You can do push-ups and abdominal exercises using your own body for resistance among other muscle-building exercises. And stretching certainly does not require equipment.

Limited funds should not be an excuse when it comes to staying healthy. Whether it is in the realm of the food we purchase or our commitment to exercise, there are cheaper and highly beneficial alternatives. Save your money for an occasional vacation because that is healthy, too. Eating right and exercising all within your budget will add hours to your day, days to your year, and years to your life.