If you read the menus provided in many weight loss and diet books, you might get the impression that losing weight is an expensive proposition. Lean cuts of meat, boneless, skinless chicken breasts and fresh produce -- typical staples of weight loss menus -- can put a crimp in your budget, but low-calorie meals don't have to be expensive. Buy fresh produce in season, avoid cheap, packaged meals and plan your meals in advance to take advantage of grocery specials. To make it easier, build up a repertoire of low-cost, low-calorie meal ideas that will help you stick to a diet even when your cash reserves are low.
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Cheap Breakfast Ideas
Skip the name-brand, ready-to-eat cereals. Store-brand cereals have the same nutritional value and low calories, but cost less. Top a bowl of cereal with half a sliced banana and low-fat milk for a healthy, low-calorie breakfast that costs less than a dollar. Instead of buying small containers of flavored yogurt, buy a quart of plain yogurt. For breakfast, spoon 1/2 cup of yogurt over two or three large, sliced strawberries. Sprinkle a teaspoon of sunflower seeds over the top and drizzle with just enough honey to sweeten the yogurt to taste.
Build your lunches around inexpensive sources of protein, such as canned tuna, hard-boiled eggs and dried beans. For lunch at your desk, dress half a can of tuna with lemon juice, spices and a drizzle of olive oil and pack it into a small container. When it's time for lunch, stir in 1/2 cup of chopped fresh tomato and scoop it up with whole-grain crackers. Instead of buying containers of hummus, make your own at home with a can of garbanzo beans, a clove or two of garlic, lemon juice and a little olive oil. Pack up a plastic container of homemade hummus, wedges of pita bread and a piece of fresh fruit, such as an apple or an orange, for lunch.
Diet Dinners on a Budget
International dishes add variety to your diet and are often inexpensive to make. Make Mediterranean dishes, such as lentil soup and tomato-mint salad, a part of your dinner repertoire. Lentils are inexpensive, easy to prepare and full of essential nutrients, including protein. You can use them in hot soups, cold salads -- even bake them into bread or veggie "meat loaf." Serve a lentil dish with whole-grain bread and a fresh salad for a complete, inexpensive, low-calorie meal.
Hearty salads are another low-cost alternative dinner choice. Instead of iceberg lettuce, substitute other leafy greens, such as spinach or Swiss chard, which pack more nutrients and may be less expensive at some times of the year. Add chopped hard-boiled egg, small amounts of cooked, lean meat or cooked dried beans to supplement the protein content of the meal.