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How to stretch your healthy food budget even further in retirement

How to stretch your healthy food budget even further in retirement

Looking for ways to eat healthy on a retirement income? We’ve put together a quick guide to healthy foods that could help you manage your budget - and boost your health and wellbeing.

If you’re worried about maintaining a healthy diet in retirement you’re not alone. Since 2012, the Malnutrition Task Force has been addressing low weight and weight loss in later life. They report that more than 1 million people aged over 65 are either malnourished or at risk of malnourishment.

A nutritious and balanced diet can not only help to prevent illness such as heart disease, diabetes and osteoporosis, it can also aid in the management of pre-existing medical conditions, give us more energy and even boost our mood.  

As we age, our bodies are less able to digest, absorb and metabolise vital nutrients. This is why it is extra important that intake of the right food is high enough to keep us well. 

1. Let’s start with protein

Health experts recommend that pensioners increase their protein intake to help reverse frailty. Sources of protein are vital for the growth and repair of the body and for the maintenance of good health.

Protein is often viewed as the most expensive component of a meal, but it doesn’t need to come at a cost. In fact, many readily available foods are cheap and high in protein. Milk, eggs, canned tuna, Greek yogurt and cottage cheese are good examples. 

Chicken and turkey are both high in protein and are thought to stave off frailty and muscle weakness. Poultry doesn’t need to be expensive either, with turkey mince and chicken thighs giving you the health benefits at low cost.

2. Vital vitamins

A varied and balanced diet should ensure you get all the vitamins you need, but it’s worth looking at a couple of particular interest.

Vitamin D helps maintain bone strength and prevent degenerative disease such as osteoporosis. The ability of the skin to synthesise this vitamin from sunlight decreases with age, causing our bones to become porous and brittle. Most people can’t absorb all the Vitamin D they need from the sun during the winter months, so appropriate food or supplements can help to boost levels.

Oily fish like salmon, sardines and mackerel are rich in vitamin D, and a couple of portions of these a week should be sufficient. The good news when you are on a budget is that canned or frozen fish can be cheaper than fresh, yet it’s still a good way to get that lovely vitamin D.

Vitamin B12 is also important, as our ability to absorb it decreases with age. B12 deficiency can increase our risk of anaemia and neurological problems such as memory loss. Lean meat, milk, cheese and eggs are all excellent sources of Vitamin B12. 

3. Complex carbohydrates

Complex carbohydrates are fantastic sources of slow release energy to help you maintain stable blood sugar and consistent energy levels through the day. They’re high in dietary fibre, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants – so they are great alternatives to white bread, pasta, cakes and sweets.

Oats, brown rice, rye, buckwheat and quinoa are all good choices. A top money saving tip is to buy these as dry goods for your store cupboard in bulk.

4. Fruit and veg

A handy rule of thumb is to choose brightly coloured fruits and vegetables. These are usually packed with essential vitamins and minerals, while having a low calorific profile.

Oranges, peppers, squash, aubergines and berries are also loaded with powerful antioxidants that counteract free radicals - harmful compounds known to increase the risk of chronic diseases like cancer. 

5. Omega 3

Omega 3 fatty acids can help to protect us against heart disease, alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and benefit joint health and mobility. Omega 3 has also been linked to eye health and a boost to the immune system. 

Fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring are all good sources of omega 3. For a quick fix, try also sprinkling a little chia or linseed over your cereal.

Easy-to-cook recipes

The BBC Good Food site is a reliable source of tasty recipes. Here are five of their dishes that won’t break the bank:

Curried Cod - An easy-to-prepare one-pot dish with cod, chickpeas, ginger and spices for a hearty lunch or dinner. 

Sweet Potato and Chicken Curry - This recipe uses low-cost chicken thighs rather than breast. It has just seven ingredients and takes under 30 minutes to prepare.

Red Lentil and Carrot Soup - Warming and budget-friendly, this soup is packed with antioxidants to boost your immune system.

Creamy Tomato Risotto - Simple but full of flavour, a quick and easy midweek meal with rosemary, basil and sweet cherry tomatoes.

Pea and Broad Bean Shakshuka- Filled with cheap, seasonal vegetables like peas, broad beans and asparagus, this plant-based dish is healthy and nutritionally balanced.

Time for a health check?

If you are worried about your health, it could be wise to get a health check before making changes to your diet. Consider visiting your GP for a check-up including establishing your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. 



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