Balancing my nutrition budget

by Karine Gale, RD

My father was a financial planner, so I learned early on the value of a dollar.  As a dietitian, there are some striking similarities between the principles my father taught his clients, and those I learned in my own profession.  Things like having a plan in place, balancing needs vs wants, and budgeting.

Budgeting and nutrition don’t typically get talked about in the same conversation, but the principles of budgeting can be a really useful nutrition tool!  The trouble is that research has actually shown people are more comfortable balancing their books than figuring out how to manage their calorie intake!

An easy and practical rule of thumb is to consider that you need approximately 2000 calories in a day.  Of course you may need a little more or a little less, but where food is concerned, big picture thinking and round numbers are ok (sorry dad!).  I round it out in my head as 3 meals and 2 (ok, more realistically 3) snacks a day.  Considering your own pattern of eating, you can figure out what ‘budget’ works best for you.  For me, I know I can ‘afford’ approximately 400-600 calories per meal and about 150 calories per snack.

Financially, when you overspend you go into debt.  Chronic debt, nutritionally speaking, means gaining weight!  The key then is spending within your budget so you maintain a healthy weight.

But there’s another, equally important nutrition principle that needs to be considered:  similar to balancing your home finances, you also need to ‘spend’ your calories on the right things.

Not all foods are created equal!  Within the 2000 calories, we have to obtain a certain amount of nutrients each day – the vitamins, minerals and other components of foods that our bodies need to be healthy, like protein, fat and carbohydrates.

That ‘approximate’ 2000 calories just makes the cut.  It gives you enough calories to meet your nutrition needs with only a little room to spare for extras.  That is why eating nutrient rich foods is so important and mostly avoiding nutrient poor or empty calorie foods, equally important.

The foods on Canada’s Food Guide are nutrient rich choices.  These include veggies, fruits, grains, eggs, beef, fish, chicken, legumes, dairy and so on.  One of the small pleasures of life is that I believe nature has given us many nutrient-rich foods that are also delicious and satisfying.  I think Canadian beef is definitely one of these! (see my post on Super-Foods)

With so much attention being paid to healthy weights and good nutrition, an interesting and appropriate concept to share is that of a nutrition budget.  ‘Nutrition spending’ means choosing healthful foods within your calorie budget; foods that will ensure you meet your nutrient needs without putting you into ‘debt’.  Making your calories count is a critical nutrition ‘budgeting’ principle…  As my father taught me long ago, I guess most things in life come down to balance and good planning, and managing both your finances and how you eat are no exceptions!

More: check out this post on Top 5 Beef Tips to help you save money & time and this list of Top 10 Grocery Shopping Tips to stretch your food dollar

About the Author:

Karine is a Registered Dietitian with Canada Beef Inc, passionate foodie and world traveler.  Beef, of course, is a favourite food in her home – providing nourishing and nurturing meals for her hubby, growing 5 year old and the friends and other family they often entertain.  There are not many conversations, either at work or at home, that don’t weave their way back somehow to food, recipes, nutrition, or beef.  “Is “beef” all you talk about at work?”, Karine’s son recently asked.  Karine proudly responded “yes”…

10 thoughts on “Balancing my nutrition budget

  1. I am a diabetic and I find it difficult to select the fresh items I would love to have in my diet. Beef as well as fish play an important role in our diet as I must be constantly aware of the carbs and sugars, fiber and sodium I am going to eat. I am looking forward to future articles by you and I hope you may be able to light some fire under my rather bland diet. We do have access to many fresh farm veggies for about 7 months but them we have to endure with the dreaded imports form south of the boarder or pay a kings ransom for local Hot House products. As a parting we love to BBQ all year round.

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