Health-conscious diets can often seem intimidatingly expensive, especially when it comes to cutting out specific foods, such as refined sugar, and replacing them with costly, albeit healthier, alternatives. Next to a standard bag of white sugar, a bottle of agave nectar can look like it’s going to hit your wallet pretty hard! But when you’ve started asking yourself “Just what is cholesterol?” or “What is the deal with processed sugar?” it can be hard to look at that value-brand bag of synthesised food in quite the same way.
One way to instantly cut a lot of the crud from your diet is to examine your basic larder ingredients and see how many of them you can replace with raw, whole ingredients. This is less about aggressively eliminating all of a certain food from your home and more about giving you control over exactly what goes into your body. Raw products tend to be either unadulterated ingredients in themselves or created by companies that subscribe to a “less is more” attitude when it comes to additives, so you have a better idea of what you’re consuming when you cook with them. The downside is that these food items – raw cacao or coconut oil, for example – can be expensive to buy, and that’s going to put a lot of people off.
It doesn’t have to be this way! Sometimes, buying health-conscious ingredients can actually work out cheaper. Take the aforementioned raw cacao, for example: a large bag of raw cacao nibs (that’s actual cacao beans) will set you back about £9. This seems steep when a box of cocoa powder from the supermarket could cost you as little as £1, seemingly giving you much more weight for your money. The thing is, though, that generally speaking raw ingredients are much purer than their processed counterparts – so for flavourings such as chocolate, you’ll need to use far less of the pure ingredient. This means that two teaspoons of ground cacao nibs can easily pack the flavour of an entire ½ cup of cacao powder!
When you’re asking the deep questions on the meaning of life – like what is cholesterol? – it’s not just the price and the thought of losing out on fry ups that can seem daunting. There are so many conflicting opinions and recommendations out there that it’s easy to become overwhelmed and give up. This is not a good idea when you’ve just spent a small fortune filling your larder with hard-to-find ingredients relating to one particular dietician’s declarations. It’s a good idea to try a variety of dietary changes, and choose products that will cover several bases at once. Do some reading before you invest. Be clear you know the answer to “what is cholesterol?” and what it is doing to your body before you decide how you want to tackle it.
Coconut oil is a great option to look into, and is transferable between many different diet choices. It’s vegan, low cholesterol, raw, great for use in gluten-free baking, and has many applications around the home aside from cooking. Coconut oil is low in saturated fats, and great for frying, roasting, and even hair care. A jar of the high-end stuff could set you back £10 from a health food shop, but the trick is to do your research and shop accordingly. Because coconut oil is used extensively in Caribbean cooking, it can be found for as little as £2 a jar in a Caribbean community supermarket. High-quality dried fruit from the Middle East, such as Medjool dates, are readily available (and far tastier) from a Palestinian grocer. Usually when an ingredient is expensive, it’s because it’s been re-branded for a Western audience, so think outside of the box!
Kitchen items of all kinds can be re-purposed for your new diet. Once again, the key is to get creative! Many recent cookbooks rely heavily on the use of very expensive food processing equipment, but you don’t need to spend big to invest in your health. Something as simple as a popcorn machine can be an amazing source of healthy, low calorie snacks – especially when the popcorn is shaken in a bag with a little oil and a seasoning of your choice (try fresh black pepper and a pinch of chili salt – delicious). You might also consider something like a slushie machine, which can be found at a reasonable price online, and doesn’t have to be loaded up with violently coloured sugar syrup to produce a cooling treat – try adding a jug full of blended peaches instead, for an iced drink that’s additive-free and far healthier (and cheaper!) than anything you can buy in a high street coffee shop!