Expert Tips for Living a Healthy Lifestyle on a Budget

A new study reveals a common tie between America's most obese states. News flash: Getting out and staying active doesn't have to cost you an arm and a leg.

September 8, 2014

Usually bad news requires you to sit down, but we're suggesting you stand up this time around. According to the latest report released from Trust for America's Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, obesity rates are once again on the rise. Rates have increased in six states including Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, New Jersey, Tennessee, and Wyoming, and decreased in none. Tied for the most obese states? Mississippi and West Virginia. And perhaps the most alarming tidbit: Nine out of 10 of the unhealthiest states are in the south.
More: The Secrets to Boulder's Slimmest-City Status
The reasons cited for this unhealthy trend, says Jeff Levi, executive director of Trust for America's Health, are "a one-two punch of our worsening eating habits and lack of exercise, thanks to an increase in fast-food outlets, low accessibility of affordable healthy foods in many neighborhoods, and the numbers of hours we spend sedentary." 
The question arises: How is it possible to move more and eat less on a budget, especially when it's difficult to afford healthier food options, a gym membership, or both? Good news: If your biggest problem sticking to a healthy diet is in your budget, Rachel Begun, MS, RDN, has the solution. 
Problem: Eating 'out' too often
Solution: Meals eaten at restaurants, both fast food and wait service, contribute significantly more calories than meals made at home. To save money while also saving calories, brown bag your lunches and make as many dinners at home as possible.
Problem: Fresh fruits and vegetables are too expensive
Solution: Fruits and vegetables are the most nutrient dense foods you can eat, meaning they offer a bounty of nutrients for very few calories. When fresh produce is out of your budget, don't hesitate to rely on dried, frozen or canned options, as they can be just as nutritious as fresh. Just be sure to choose options without added sugars, salt and other unwanted ingredients. 
Problem: Out of control snacking or too much on-the-go eating
Solution: We are a snacking nation, meaning most of us eat many of our eating occasions are on the go. While pre-packaged snacks may be more convenient, they are expensive and many are not the most nutritious options. Take a few minutes out of your day to make your own snacks and bring them with you. You'll save money and calories, while getting the nutrients your body needs rather than empty calories.
More: 15 Healthy Grab-and-Go Snacks
If the problem is a lack of access to a gym because of high prices, Bryan Krahn, CSCS, NYC-based personal trainer, online coach, and fitness blogger, says not to stress. His 5 suggestions for a cheap workout, no payment required include:
1. Walking: A 30-minute walk around the block is great low impact, low cost exercise. 
2. Shadow boxing: You may feel like you look silly, but that's not the point here. Invoke your inner Floyd Mayweather and alternate 2-minute "rounds" of throwing punches with 60 seconds of rest. 
3. Running stairs or hills: A killer cardio workout that's great for developing lower body definition. Plus, it's a lot more entertaining than a steady pace for 20 minutes at a time. 


4. Playground fun: Most playgrounds have high bars and parallel bars. That means chin-ups, pull-ups, muscle-ups, dips, and leg raises. 
5. DIY Bootcamp: You don't need a fitness instructor yelling at you to perform burpees, jumping jacks or mountain climbers. Vary the duration and/or speed of the workout to mix it up and keep it challenging.