Many people are looking at ways to reduce their cost-of-living expenses.
Besides mortgage or rent payments the other big expense is feeding the family or household. And… if we’re on a restricted budget AND want to lose weight (and keep it off) AND want to eat healthy foods what can we do?
We’re led to believe that fresh, healthy un-processed foods are more expensive when compared with processed, take-away, or fast foods.
Over the decades we’ve been lectured with a simplistic message “Weight loss is just about eating less (calories) and moving more.” Who hasn’t tried that, only to discover that this strategy does not work in practice, as it makes you hungry and hunger is the enemy of weight loss.
Now, here’s a question. Are you hungry for calories, or hungry for nutrients, especially essential nutrients that are “essential” as your body cannot create them?
These essential nutrients must come from our diet. The most essential nutrients are essential amino acids (proteins) and the best, most bioavailable sources are animal-sourced proteins from meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy (including dairy-based protein powder).
Vegetable sources of protein have much lower bio availability, so you have to eat larger amounts (and consume more calories) to achieve satiety. They may also come with added carbohydrate content, which may be problematic for some people.
Here’s an important key to weight loss:
Researchers at Sydney University observed that animals and humans will keep eating until their intake of essential amino acids (proteins) is optimised.
There have been studies where people are divided into two groups fed the exact same meals, but one group having a low-protein variant, and both groups allowed to eat as much as they desired to satisfy themselves. The low-protein group ate a lot more and took in hundreds of extra calories. For weight loss, food quality matters.
Equally, the optimal protein group were satisfied with less. And so, protein may be the most important key to losing weight without hunger.
There are two important things to note:
- It is not about just meeting your minimal daily protein needs (around .8 g per kg ideal body weight) but optimising your daily intake (target 1.2 to 1.6 g per kg ideal body weight). If your ideal body weight is 60 kg, then your protein target is between 72 and 96 g per day. If you divide this by 4 meals (3 main meals and 2 snacks) that’s between 18 to 24 g protein per meal, and 9 to 12 g per snack. Two eggs provide just 12 g protein, so consider having three eggs, or two eggs and bacon in a meal.
- If you do eat less to lose weight AND only have minimal protein intake, it’s likely you’ll lose more metabolically active muscle. This will reduce tone, strength, and metabolism, and increase your chance of (fat) weight regain. That would not be healthy sustainable weight loss.
So, what’s the plan for “How to Lose Weight on a Budget”:
- Plan your meals and snacks around protein sources that have high bio availability.
- Plan for optimal intake of protein.
- Front-load each meal with protein. Your mother may have said “Eat your veggies first” but we’re suggesting you try eating your protein first.
- Eat slowly and stop eating when satisfied.
- Stick to the one-plate rule, where you serve your plate, take it to the table and enjoy your meal and company. This is the opposite to putting food in the middle of the table for people to help themselves.
- Eat slowly. You need to give your body the time to assimilate the essential amino acids for them to start triggering satiety (I feel full) hormones. Try putting your knife and fork down between bites.
- Except for protein powder, avoid all ultra-processed foods, and refined vegetable oils.
- When shopping for your proteins the most economical cuts include mince (great for burgers, meatloaf, pizza base), sausages, a whole chicken, or chicken legs instead of breast, pork, lamb and beef ribs, flat steaks like flank, skirt and hanger, pork shoulder, beef brisket (cooked slowly), a whole turkey and chuck eye steak. Canned fish, sardines and eggs are great value proteins as well. Cost effective dairy sources include cottage cheese, hard cheeses, and natural Greek yoghurt.
- Always cook double the protein you need, and store half in a container for cold cuts for a quick protein-based meal (breakfast, snack, or lunch) the next day.
- Stock up on meat cuts when they are on special and freeze them for future use.
- Never throw out salad or vegetables. Use in muffins, frittatas, omelettes, or roast left-over vegetables and combine for lunch with protein cold cuts.
- Start your own herb garden to add flavour to your meals.
If you’re reading this and think “This way of eating sounds so boring.” You owe it to yourself to try it.
Front-load your meals and snacks with quality protein and feel more satisfied. You might just find you end up eating less, magically lose weight (without hunger) and spend less money overall on your food budget. After all, carrying excess weight has a negative effect on your health and lifestyle.
Combine this way of eating with a daily walk in the sunshine (Vit D for health and circadian rhythm reset for sleep) and some regular resistance-based exercise and you have a winning combination for long term sustainable weight loss, and healthy living.
For more personalised meal planning strategies and ongoing accountability, speak to one of the Healthy Inspirations team.