How to stay healthy on a budget in the new year
Those $125 doctor visits can add up during the cold and flu season -- and any time of the year when you just don't feel your best. Your health is largely due to lifestyle -- namely, diet and exercise habits -- but that doesn't mean you have to go broke buying organic foods and fancy gym memberships. Certified holistic health practitioner Carolyn Harrington says it's easy to stay healthy on a budget. She shares five easy and economical ways to adopt a healthy lifestyle in the new year.
Make healthy living a New Year's resolution
If your usual New Year's resolutions to never eat sugar again or go to kickboxing class every day leave you discouraged and ready to give up on your goals this coming year, Harrington has a new perspective on healthy living for you. Instead of having too-high expectations for yourself, think more practically. "With New Year's Eve around the corner, now is the perfect time to take a moment to reflect on the year, make New Year's resolutions to finally kick those bad habits goodbye, and focus on changes to help you live a healthier life without breaking the bank," the mind-body expert suggests.
Eat locally and seasonally
You can save money while improving your diet by eating locally sourced foods that are in season. "It's no secret that you are what you eat, and fresh items are much healthier for you than processed, boxed meals," says Harrington, who is also the creator of Maty's Healthy Products, a line of all natural, gluten-free products for immune support. "If you go to your local supermarket, buying all organic products will cost you a fortune. Instead, visit your local farmers markets, which are loaded with fresh, seasonal ingredients picked within the last few days, so they're nutrient-rich. In addition, you're helping out your local farming community."
Have a healthy sweet tooth
It's true: White flour runs rampant in most processed baked goods you get at the supermarket. Instead of perpetuating a sweet tooth that leads to bingeing, Harrington recommends ditching the processed white flour sweets. "White flour is notorious for spiking your blood sugar levels" she explains, and has had much of the vitamins and nutrients destroyed in the refining process. "Instead, satisfy your sweet tooth and bake your favorite treats with soy flour, which is loaded with protein and fiber, is sodium-free and even has an added bonus of iron, thiamine and potassium." You can find soy flour at your local health food store and Harrington assures that your family and friends won't taste the difference.
In addition, while you're making your own desserts, Harrington recommends swapping out sugar for natural sweeteners like xylitol and stevia to help keep your blood sugar under control and cut calories.
Fight off the sniffles
Harrington knows that the end of the year is when everyone around you is coughing up a lung or has a serious case of the sniffles. But that doesn't mean you have to turn to over-the-counter medications if you happen to catch a cold or flu bug. The holistic health expert recommends investing in smart medicine. "Many cough syrups are loaded with codeine, which might help your cold, but will negatively affect your sleep in the long run. Plus, many contain questionable ingredients," she explains. "Try natural remedies," she advises, such as Maty's all-natural cough syrup, which contains buckwheat honey, apple cider vinegar and zinc, and can be mixed into your daily cup of tea. And it will fit into your budget -- it costs less than $10 and will last several months.
Get a green thumb
There's no question that fresh herbs can deliciously boost the flavor of a meal, but buying them from the grocery store can be very expensive, and they don't last long. Harrington suggests growing your own. "Visit your local art supply store and purchase a few small pots for planting," she says. "Fresh herbs will look great sitting on your kitchen windowsill, and the best part is that they won't go bad." Having pots of fresh herbs in your kitchen means you can snip whatever amount of greens you need and the plant will continue to thrive.
Exercise on a budget
Gym memberships are a large monthly expense, and a waste of money if you aren't actually going there to work out. Harrington recommends doing a variety of workouts that don't cost much. "Many cities are now offering free exercise classes outdoors, and you can check out fitness DVDs and books at your local library," says the naturopath. You can exercise outside and in your own home for free, but if you find that you are more likely to stick to your fitness routine at a gym, get a budget membership, skip the expensive classes and personal training, and make sure you actually use your membership.