Eating Healthy and Balling on a Budget

Photo via @bhudgnasty/Instagram

by Brandon Hudgins

from Be You, Be Real

Since Wednesday night’s #GoingtheDistanceLive podcast (which I’ve posted below) I’ve had a lot of additional questions. I have decided to write down some of the things that I talked about during the episode. Please keep in mind that I am not a doctor, or a licensed nutritionist, but I do have an Undergraduate Degree in Health and Wellness as well as a Master’s Degree in Exercise Science, where nutrition classes were required. While the majority of my expertise in nutrition comes from an exercise minded approach, there are certainly some universal principles that can be applied. Since finishing graduate school in 2011 my eating habits have changed drastically. But I also believe it is one of the major factors in my physical body (vasculitis aside) feels healthy enough at 31 to continue to run at an extremely high level. As I stated in the podcast, some of these changes were finance based and others health based as I read new research that was shedding light on some classic misconceptions we’ve had for 40 or 50 years. Since exercise and nutrition consume the majority of my life I figured I’d impart some of the lessons I’ve learned. If many of you are just now making the switch to healthy eating, you might be scared of spending more money, or scared that you can never eat things you enjoy again. Rest assured, I’m here to help. I’ve been eating healthy and balling on a budget my entire adult life. While this blog won’t be dedicated to a particular “diet” in general, it will be largely based on eating more real food.

To begin, I hate the word diet. It implies there will be an end to it or that you’re following some new fad the Kardashian girls are currently doing to look so attractive in doctored photos. What you should be after is sustainable and enjoyable nutritional habits. Controlling your eating habits is extremely hard. According to science, quitting sugar has proven to be one of the most difficult substances to kick. Often only second to opiate addiction (Oxycontin or heroin). As you make a change to your eating habits you will most likely find yourself craving old foods. From what science understands your gut bacteria (the healthy bacteria in your body that aids digestion and controls a host of functions in your body) adapts to your eating habits. So if you have been feeding it crap food for years, it’s going to be hard to kick those urges. The urge to eat is an instinct to keep us alive, it’s second to finding water. We can go days without food, but not nearly as long without water. Your body processes need energy to function, that energy comes from food. Since the human body hasn’t yet evolved to having food readily available at all hours of the day, we have to learn to either resist those urges or feed your body things that satiate that hunger for longer hours. As I stated at the beginning of the podcast on Wednesday night, the single best piece of advice I can give you while attempting to live a healthier lifestyle and also lose items off your grocery list, kick refined carbohydrates and sugary foods. Don’t even walk down those aisles. There is no reason to ever be on the cookie aisle. There isn’t one healthy thing on that aisle that your body needs. If you don’t buy cookies, ice cream, candy bars, and other assorted junk like soda, then you won’t have it around at home to consume. Yeah I know technically Oreo’s are vegan, but there isn’t one single ingredient in them that you should be eating. Don’t think just because I’m a professional athlete, a vasculitis patient, or healthy eater, that there are times when I don’t crave a sugary treat, but since I don’t keep them in the house I don’t eat them on a regular basis. To get them I have to go seek them out, like today after a super hard session at the track I rewarded myself with a nice big donut from Harris Teeter.

I could probably spend this whole blog post ranting about the sugar industry or other unhealthy habits, but that’s not the whole point of this blog. The clean eating movement is another recent fad that has caught people by storm. I hate the term. It implies food is dirty. Unless your food is unwashed it’s not dirty. I prefer real eating or something along those lines (I’m terrible at marketing ideas and terms). Eat real foods. Foods that your body knows how to process. Our ancestors didn’t grow up eating Frosted Flakes for breakfast, ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch, and pizza for dinner. It’s a lot of nasty refined carbohydrates and sugar that will ultimately kill you. As I mentioned in the podcast, many people’s bodies actually don’t do well with carbohydrate digestion and get a giant insulin spike and leaves their blood glucose levels high. That’s something that is super easy to check and relatively inexpensive. Blood glucose monitors are $15 at CVS and you can eat a big pasta dinner or several slices of bread, wait 2 hours and test your blood glucose levels. Chances are they will be super high, unless you are one of the lucky ones. After cutting out crappy sugar treats everyday, checking blood glucose levels are probably the 2nd easiest change to make. If you are one of the lucky ones that can handle them well, or an athlete that needs high glycogen levels, then make sure you are buying grains that are good for your gut bio as discussed. But just because you have a high demand for glycogen doesn’t mean that you have to get them from refined carbohydrates. Things like fruits, and vegetables are just as good a source if not better. Now if you are like me and can’t quite afford to eat all your carbohydrates in fruits and vegetables, and your body is decent at handling refined carbohydrates, then sticking with whole grains is always better!

Now that we have an idea of what aisles to shop on, and we’ve saved ourselves at least a few dollars, here’s proof that you can ball on a budget and still eat healthy. Below is my normal grocery list.

Obviously things change from time to time or we splurge and get something like steaks, but all of these items on this list I consume on a regular basis.


apples – $3.99
bananas – $2.50
oranges – $3.99
bag of peppers – $2.50
mushrooms – $1.99
spinach – $2.50
avocados – $1.80
red potatoes – $3.99
grass fed, organic ground beef – $5.99
heirloom pasta (or Italy made pasta) – $1.99
store brand pasta sauce – $2.50
store brand granola – $1.90
greek yogurt – $4.50
eggs – $2.00
store brand bags of frozen broccoli – $3.00

Bi-weekly or longer:

coffee – $9.99
store brand oatmeal – $2.50
store brand blueberries – $2.99
store brand peanut butter – $2.50
calf liver – $4.99
salmon – $11.00
store brand frozen chicken – $7.99
store brand brown rice – $1.99

If I can feed myself all the calories I need to run 70-80 miles a week on a budget, I promise you can too! As I mentioned in the intro, I’m not a doctor or registered dietitian, most of my knowledge has come through trial and error as well as consuming boat loads of research. If you are ever in doubt or don’t feel right when making changes please consult your doctor.

A few other topics discussed in the video, but for the sake of time and your sanity here are a few links that have more information:

Intermittent Fasting:

Anti-Inflammatory Diet:

Dr. Rhonda Patrick: I’ve run across a lot of smart people in my readings, but this woman might take the cake (pun intended)! I’ve learned a ton through her podcast and articles. She not only does research herself, but stays up to date on almost all research as it pertains to healthy living, nutrition, gut health, etc… If I’m ever in doubt about something I hear, I go to her website:

Going the Distance Live #10

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