Improve your heart health – on a budget

by Carolyn Thomas  @HeartSisters

Is it possible for us to follow a heart-smart lifestyle and still stay within a tight budget? What if we can’t afford to join a pricey gym? And can those of us counting pennies still afford to purchase those heart-healthy but expensive foods every day? Here are tips from two savvy experts who say YES to all of the above:

According to Canadian dietician Cara Rosenbloom:

“It just takes a little bit of extra planning and a little bit of extra thought to eat healthy while still saving money.”

Rosenbloom’s advice includes:

  • Look high and low: Most packaged and processed foods are found on the inside aisles of your grocery store. Did you know that the most expensive products are often placed at eye level? No-name and store brands and other less expensive items are either placed above or below the centre shelf.  Shop the perimeter of the store for most healthy foods.
  • Make the grade: You can find inexpensive but healthy buys in the grocery store by choosing ‘B’ grades instead of ‘A’ grades for foods such as meat, chicken, and frozen or canned produce. B grades will have the same taste and nutritional value, but may vary slightly in appearance.
  • Bulk up: Buying nutritious non-perishable food in bulk (think grains, dried beans, nuts, seeds, brown rice, whole grain pasta) is also a good way to save money. Bulk bins and club packs can cost less, but only buy as much as you can use before the product reaches its expiry date. Wasting food is never economical.
  • Go for the basics: Purchasing food in its close-to-natural state will likely save you money. Consider that a one kilogram bag of whole, unpeeled carrots costs about three times less than the same size bag of pre-cut and peeled baby carrots.
  • Use a slow cooker: Cooking inexpensive meat or chicken in a crock pot (at a low temperature for a longer time) will produce moist and delicious dishes, without heating up the whole kitchen. Inexpensive meats that are great for the crock pot include flank, round or sirloin. Chicken drumsticks, wings and thighs are less expensive than breast meat. 
  • Look for these basic ingredients, which are frugal finds all year round:

* Vegetables and fruit: apples, bananas, oranges, potatoes, canned tomatoes, carrots, cabbage, celery
* Grains: oats, barley, whole grain pasta, rice and cereals
* Milk and alternatives: store-brand yogurt or cheese, evaporated skim milk
* Meat and alternatives: eggs, peanut butter, beans, chicken thighs, plain unbreaded frozen fish, canned light tuna or salmon packed in water

How about improving our heart-smart fitness while we’re pinching pennies?

You don’t need a gym membership to keep fit, says Michael Esco, an exercise physiology expert:

“The thing people need to realize is that for optimal overall health, physical activity is what’s recommended. That’s any bodily movement that results in energy expenditure. For good heart health, we don’t really have to go to the gym or health club – even just walking every day is great exercise.”

To keep physically fit on the cheap, Esco recommends that we:

  • Buy a pedometer: A simple device, which can be bought for less than $20, can spur more activity.  Esco says: “Studies find that just by wearing the pedometer, people walk an extra mile to two miles a day.  Aim for 10,000 steps per day.”
  • Get a jump-rope“It’s a less expensive device that can really get your heart rate up,” he says. “You can achieve a comparable workout to what a gym would give you.”
  • Use your own body weight as resistance: “People can go a long way doing push-ups, sit-ups and body weight squats,” Esco claims. Heavy cans of vegetables, bottles filled with water or sand and inexpensive elastic bands can also provide weight resistance.

Other budget-friendly exercise aids include stretchy exercise bands (starting at $3) for muscle resistance training, hand weights ($5 – or make your own by filling milk jugs with handles with water or sand), and an exercise mat for the floor ($15).

Find more tips for good nutrition on a budget, or try these heart-smart recipes from the Heart & Stroke Foundation.  

And then go outside for a nice long walk. 


One thought on “Improve your heart health – on a budget

  1. This article is misleading. It doesn’t specify why (if at all) buying grade “B” is better for your heart than grade “A” foods? It doesn’t specify why (if at all) buying in bulk is better for your heart?


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