We all aspire to maintain a comprehensive wellness regimen that includes eating right, supplementing and exercise. However, being healthy isn't cheap. Buying quality organic food, purchasing supplements from a reputable brand and having access to the appropriate exercise facilities can cost - and cost a lot!

Also, with the holidays and the new year fast approaching, many of us will get caught up in this festive time of year. And with good reason. The holidays are a time of celebration with family and friends. They are a time of gift giving, parties and good food. Meaningful experiences with family and friends become a priority. And, with that, nutrition and exercise take a back seat.

All of a sudden, you are confronted with a two-headed monster. On one front, how do manage the  expense of maintaining a comprehensive wellness regimen, especially during the holidays where a great deal of money is spent.  On the other front, how do you overcome the temptation to completely blow off any semblance of health for an entire month (or more) - a dilemma indeed.

I will address the ladder first. For me, I really begin to focus on healthy eating, supplementing and exercise in advance of the holidays. I am no different than many of you. In the weeks leading up to the holidays, it is human nature to stray from the disciplined habits established during the year.  You may not always have control over which foods are served during the holidays, but you can still practice healthy habits.  For example, be prudent and use moderation. Don't splurge every day during the holiday season. Celebrate only on certain days. Remember, the holiday season can last for up to six weeks.

The key is showing restraint and making every effort to maintain discipline.  Don’t give up your holiday favorites. Again, enjoy them in moderation. Do you best to stay away from seconds or thirds.

Choose your foods wisely at dinner parties. Raw fruits and vegetables, with a small amount of dip, are great choices. Limit the number of high-calorie foods, such as rich desserts or appetizers. Enjoy only one or two of your favorite items and eat small portions. Also, you can avoid indulging by eating a small, low-calorie snack before starting the main meal.

Booze is a holiday favorite and something that will sabotage the best intentions during the holidays. Cap you cocktails at two per occasion. Alcohol is loaded with calories and will pack pounds FAST!

Burn those extra calories with exercise. I know that may be a tall order during the holidays. But there are ways around this.  Some of my favorites are riding a stationary bike, walking or running on a treadmill or using a Stairmaster while watching television. You will not believe how quick time flies by when you exercise while watching TV.  Some of the best football is on during the holidays! Other suggestions include taking the stairs instead of the elevator or finding a parking space in a remote corner of the grocery store parking lot.  These short periods of exercise burn calories and will keep the weight off during these vulnerable times.

Healthy Food on a Budget

The harsh reality is that it is cheaper to eat unhealthy foods. My little girl is a normal kid. She loves fast food. On occasion, I will let her indulge.

Unfortunately, in this challenging economy, one of the first things we cut back on are healthy foods. Add to that the upcoming holidays, and our budgets are squeezed even further.  How can we afford to eat healthy when money is tight? Well, there are foods that provide profound health benefits, that taste great and don't break the bank. That said, consider shopping at health food stores rather than chain supermarkets. Health food stores are everywhere. These stores have fresh, organic foods, the highest quality vitamins and supplements, and a source of reliable nutrition information.

The following is my Top 10 list of nutritious foods for less:

  • Apples: There are many different types of apples - all delicious. Most are very inexpensive and can satisfy any raging sweet tooth, especially during the holidays.
  • Bananas: A favorite food for everyone from infants to elders. Sports enthusiasts appreciate the potassium-power delivered by this high energy fruit.
  • Broccoli: Can be prepared raw or cooked, broccoli can be worked into a wide range of dishes. And for under a dollar a serving, worth every penny in nutritional value.
  • Eggs: One dollar will get you a dozen. And don't believe the media when it portrays eggs as a contributor to high cholesterol. A complete myth.
  • Nuts: A great source of healthy fats!  If you keep portion sizes in check, many types of nuts (such as walnuts and almonds) are south of a dollar per serving.
  • Oats: Foods high in soluble fiber are often overlooked - and that's a shame. Oats are quick and unbelievably great tasting. A buck will buy breakfast for a week!
  • Potatoes: No, french fries are not healthy!  As long as your potatoes are not fried or buried in fatty dips, potatoes can be a part of a nutritious diet on the cheap.
  • Spinach: A dark green and leafy vegetable, spinach is a great source of vitamin C and iron.
  • Wild Rice. A special type of edible grass, wild rice will cost more than the white rice most of us eat.  However, it is an excellent low fat, high fiber grain. This type of rice has a dark chocolate-like color and has a nutty, smoky taste due to the outer case it retains after harvesting.
  • Whole-Grain Pasta: Refined or processed pasta is completely void of nutrition. However,  whole-grain pasta is a very healthy pasta alternative.

Supplements for Less

Nutrition-conscious people make every effort to work dietary supplements into their health regimen. In this day and age of processed foods, what are we REALLY putting into our bodies? In fact, processed foods have an adverse affect on peoples' health. That's why dietary supplements are so crucial. But, are they affordable? I spend more than $200 a month on a wide range of supplements. However, most cannot afford this. But, you can buy efficacious supplements that will have minimal impact on your wallet. That said, when it comes to dietary supplements, budgeting isn't just about buying inexpensive products. Be sure the supplements you buy are high-quality and supported by science.

The following is my Top 5 list of quality dietary supplements for less than $65 per month:

  • Multivitamin
    You really need to be vigilant about what you eat to get all the recommended daily nutrients. If you’re busy and on-the-go like most of us, this could be a challenge. In my opinion, we all need to supplement our diet to truly get what the body needs. There are 13 essential vitamins (A, C, D, E, K, B12, and the 7 B-complex vitamins) that regulate crucial body systems. We acquire some nutrients from food. However, with processed foods being so prevalent today, nutrient intake from food is becoming much less efficient. Taking a multivitamin is a great start to any supplement regimen and everyone (from kids to adults) should be taking a multivitamin. Talk to your health care professional about which multivitamin is best for you.

 

Approximate Cost: 100 tablets (2-month supply), Suggested Retail Price (SRP): $20.95

  • Fish Oil

For years the mainstream media has been reporting on the benefits of fish oil. Studies have shown that the Omega-3s found in fish oil helps prevent and fight heart disease, cancer, depression, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, ulcers, diabetes, hyperactivity and other diseases. Omega-3s can be found in flaxseed, walnuts and a few other foods. However, the most beneficial form of Omega-3s contain 2 fatty acids – EPA and DHA – which can be found only in fish. EPA and DHA are essential in preventing and fighting both physical and mental illness, Be sure to take fish oil products from companies that follow strict procedures to eliminate environmental contaminants to assure the highest purity of its fish oil supplements.

Approximate Cost: 120 softgels (2-month supply), SRP: $23.95

  • Probiotics

I will never forget what a health professional told me years ago: “Health begins in the gut.” That’s why probiotics are critical. The intestinal tract is filled with an enormous number of beneficial bacteria called probiotic bacteria. They are called probiotic bacteria because the term “probiotic” means “for life”. The body is designed to have a symbiotic relationship with these probiotic bacteria. Probiotics help to digest food, kill harmful microorganisms and assist us in functioning properly in many ways. It is crucial to have a large population of probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract as this will promote proper digestion and keep harmful, disease-causing microorganisms at bay. If the percentage of good bacteria is too low, compared to the bad bacteria, the body will function poorly.

Approximate Cost: 120 capsules (2-month supply), SRP: $38.95

  • Vitamin C

Vitamin C is one of the safest and most effective nutrients on the market. It has a wide range of benefits including promoting immune health, supporting cardiovascular heath, assisting with prenatal health challenges and even promotes eye health, among other benefits.

Approximate Cost: 100 capsules (2-month supply), SRP: $15.95

  • Whey Protein

Whey protein is an excellent protein choice for anyone whose wants to maintain and improve their health and for healthy aging. Whey protein isolate, the purest form available, is unsurpassed as a source of the essential amino acids required in the daily diet. Essential amino acids are the building blocks for healthy muscles, skin, nails and other body tissue.

Whey Protein makes a difference for the following reasons:

Whey protein is a naturally complete protein, meaning that it contains all of the essential amino acids required in the daily diet. It has the ideal combination of amino acids to help improve body composition and enhance athletic performance.

Whey protein is a rich source of branched chain amino acids (BCAAs), containing the highest known levels of any natural food source. BCAAs are important for athletes since unlike the other essential amino acids, they are metabolized directly into muscle tissue and are the first ones used during periods of exercise and resistance training. Whey protein provides the body with BCAAs to replenish depleted levels and start repairing and rebuilding lean muscle tissue.

Whey protein is an excellent source of the essential amino acid, leucine. Leucine is important for athletes as it plays a key role in promoting muscle protein synthesis and muscle growth. Research has shown that individuals who exercise benefit from diets high in leucine and have more lean muscle tissue and less body fat compared to individuals whose diet contains lower levels of leucine.

Whey protein is a soluble, easy to digest protein and is efficiently absorbed into the body. It is often referred to as a “fast” protein for its ability to quickly provide nourishment to muscles.

Whey protein helps maintain a healthy immune system by increasing the levels of glutathione in the body. Glutathione is an antioxidant required for a healthy immune system. Exercise may reduce glutathione levels.

Approximate Cost: 2 pounds, powder (2-month supply), SRP: $29.95

I also encourage you to view the “Product Reference Library” that resides on this website for more product ideas.

You Don't Have to Join a Gym

Many people associate exercise with having to join a gym. Gym memberships have come down dramatically in recent years (less than $25 per month). However, if joining a gym isn't realistic for your budget, there are ways to design a comprehensive exercise regimen for next to nothing.  All you need is the great outdoors or a room in your home.

The basics for any exercise regimen is a strategic combination of cardiovascular exercise and resistance training.

Normally, when people think of cardio workouts they automatically assume that you have to do it on  expensive exercise equipment. Not true. Any form of exercise that raises your heart rate for an extended period of time will have an effect on your cardiovascular system. Your cardiovascular routine may include:

  • walking
  • running
  • swimming
  • climbing stairs

If the weather prohibits you from going outside, try a stationary bike or jumping rope. Plus there are dozens of exercise videos available that make for an excellent workout.

Resistance or strength training is an important part of an overall fitness program. With a regular strength training program, you can reduce your body fat, increase your lean muscle mass and burn calories more efficiently. And you can do this very inexpensively as well. As mentioned earlier, strength training can be easily done at home. Consider the following:

  • Using your own body weight. You can do many exercises with no equipment and only your body weight. Common resistance exercises include:
    • Push-ups: There are many different types. Works a wide range of upper body muscle groups.
    • Pull-ups: Works a wide range of upper body muscle groups.
    • Crunches: Works the abdominals.
    • Leg squats: Works a wide range of lower body muscle groups, abdominals and core.
  • Resistance tubing. Resistance tubing is inexpensive, lightweight tubing that provides resistance when stretched. There are many different types of resistance tubes. They can be bought in most sporting goods stores.
  • Free weights. Barbells and dumbbells are classic strength training tools and are inexpensive.

The holidays are a time of year where fiscal responsibility and discipline will go a long way toward maintaining a comprehensive health regimen - even during the holidays. You don't have to spend inordinate amounts of money to eat healthy, supplement and exercise. I assure you that you can enjoy your holiday season and exercise healthy habits, which will make your holidays that much more enjoyable. Plus, these routines will carry into the New Year. What could be better than that?