Eating Well on a Budget Wellness Tips


We’re going on two solid weeks of quarantine in my area, and we recently started a shelter-in-place lockdown. Gyms have been closed for several weeks and now all parks, beaches, and government-owned trails are either shut down or we have been recommended to steer clear. While necessary, these closures can make it seem impossible to find a way to stay active (not to mention find the motivation to do so)!

While it may not be your preferred way to be active, video workouts can be a saving grace when your gym and equipment (and much of the great outdoors) are unavailable. Many different Youtube creators have been generating free fitness-related videos for years, all of which are at your fingertips. With these Youtube channels, there’s something for everyone!

Important: As with any new fitness regimen, make sure to have your doctor’s approval and use this form to help you assess your risk to safely incorporate new exercise. Discontinue any movement that causes sharp or shooting pains, modify as needed, and progress gradually.



1. POPSUGAR Fitness



  • Type of workouts: All kinds – cardio, barre, boot camp, kickboxing, Zumba/latin dance, strength and toning, Pilates, yoga, and more
  • Reasons you might love it: Think of POPSUGAR as a live, video version of a fitness magazine workout. They have many skill levels of balanced, well-rounded workouts with certified trainers, and they often instruct on modifications. If you love female-oriented workout classes, this is a great place to start!
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: The models are very fit and dressed like fitness models. You’ll swear they aren’t breaking a sweat. Staying fit and aesthetic is their job – for most of us, that’s not the case. If that’s going to be discouraging, you may prefer a different channel.


2. Fitness Blender

HD wallpaper: Fitness couple doing working out exercises in the ...

  • Type of workouts: Cardio, HIIT, kickboxing, strength training
  • Reasons you might love it: Fitness Blender offers a no-frills approach to video workouts. The set is very simple (one exercise demonstrator on a white background), the workouts are balanced, and you’ll definitely get your sweat on. There is no background music so you can play your own favorite tunes.
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: If you love a high-energy, music-pumping group fitness experience, the simplicity of Fitness Blender may not offer the atmosphere you crave.


3. The Fitness Marshall

File:TheFitnessMarshall.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

  • Type of workout: Hip hop cardio dance
  • Reasons you might love it: With all due respect, Caleb (aka “The Fitness Marshall”) is like a very hip, very modern Richard Simmons. He’s high energy, he’s hilarious, and he is an EPIC hip hop dancer. His videos are inclusive of a variety of shapes, sizes, genders, races, and sexual orientations. He sometimes messes up and totally plays it off – no perfection needed, just have a blast dancin’!
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: Obviously, if you don’t like dancing or hip hop music, this is not the channel for you. You should be forewarned that while most are, not all of his videos may be appropriate for your kiddos. Since everyone’s kids are home now, you might want to screen individual videos before putting them on the big screen.


4. Yoga with Adriene



  • Type of workout: yoga (you’re shocked, I know)
  • Reasons you might love it: Adriene has a darling, low-pressure personality and her videos are very peaceful and relaxing. She has yoga videos of all lengths and for all situations (headaches, anxiety, back pain, stress, sore muscles, and more). If you’re new to yoga, her 30 Days of Yoga is a great place to start while in quarantine. Plus, if you’re lucky, her adorable dog Benji will make an appearance!
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: This may be dangerous Internet territory but I would be remiss if I did not mention that yoga sometimes encourages spiritual practices. Emptying your mind and connecting with the spiritual realm provides opportunities for harmful spiritual attack. While Adriene rarely incorporates these practices, you should be aware. Take the videos for the excellent stretching and breathing exercises, and use the time of mental clarity to meditate on God’s word or to pray (Philippians 4:8).



5. HASfit



  • Type of workout: cardio, strength, and some equipment workouts
  • Reasons you might love it: Led by two certified personal trainers, the workouts are balanced and effective and come in a wide variety of lengths. Got 10 minutes? Got 45? There’s a video for that. They have options for all skill levels – they even have an awesome seated workout. If you have some home equipment you’d like to utilize (dumbbells, kettlebells, etc.), they’ve got you covered.
  • Reasons it may not be a good fit: If you don’t love calisthenics or you prefer a workout that is a distraction from the fact that it’s exercise (i.e. dancing or kickboxing), this may not be the channel for you.

Hopefully these Youtube channels may provide you with some fresh activities to try while you’re riding out the Coronavirus storm. Hang in there. Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to be as active as you normally are. This is a difficult time for many of us, and while activity can help with stress reduction, it won’t help if you’re stressed about the workouts themselves. Give yourself some grace and patience as you find your footing. Look for workouts you really enjoy, and stay safe and healthy!


You Might Also Like

How to Make a Binge-Watching Workout

How to Meal Plan on a Budget (step-by-step walkthrough)

How to Choose an Exercise Plan that Works


Exercise Wellness Tips


This fruit-and-nut granola bar recipe is versatile, nutritious, and delicious. Make it with ingredients you already have – clean out that pantry and save money!



Eating Well on a Budget Recipes



We interrupt our regularly scheduled keto feature to bring you “Nutrition in Quarantine!” We are in strange times, folks. Many of us have been in Coronavirus quarantine for at least a few days now and some are struggling to access the foods they typically eat. Now is a great time to complete a pantry or freezer challenge (or both!). These challenges involve “shopping” and meal planning primarily from the foods available in your pantry or freezer. They are typically used to prevent food waste, clean out your cupboards, and save money on food. In this case, the challenge will accomplish these goals as well as help you navigate nutrition throughout your time at home. I’ll take you through the process of a pantry challenge step-by-step. I’ll also be holding a Facebook Live event this Friday, March 20th at 12:30 pm PST for Pantry Challenge Q&A. Mark your calendars to join me on my Dietitian on a Diet Facebook page!


advertising Facebook Live pantry challenge


So let’s start our pantry/freezer challenge!


Step 1: Take Inventory

This can be a tedious process, but it’s crucial that you at least have some written representation of what is available to do the challenge most effectively. If it’s been a while since you’ve cleaned out your freezer or pantry, this could take a while but the silver lining is, this challenge will be easier the more you have available! I recommend separating your list into things that need to be used up (usually perishable foods or those nearing expiration), and things that you have available but will keep for a while. To simplify the process, feel free to lump foods you know you have into categories. For example, instead of writing “flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, etc.” it’s fine to write “baking supplies.” Each week it will be easier since you’ll have the list from the week before.



Here’s my first week pantry challenge inventory for an example:

Need to use up:


Dairy cottage cheese x 2
cream cheese
frozen ricotta cheese
cheddar cheese
1/2 gallon chocolate milk
Veggies asparagus
water chestnuts
pickled beets
baby tomatoes
mixed veggies
frozen stir-fried veggies
frozen pumpkin puree
frozen diced onions/peppers
canned green beans
Protein hummus 2 links chicken sausage
1 frozen cooked pork chop
1 large frozen swai fillet
2 pcs cooked frozen carnitas
frozen cooked turkey
2 c. frozen ham
frozen ground beef
2 whole turkeys
frozen top round steak
dry beans/lentils
mixed nuts
Grains/Starches red potatoes
corn meal
3 whole wheat + 8 white hot dog buns
frozen tater tots
6 sesame seed hamburger buns
frozen cheddar jalapeno bagels
1/2 box Cheez-Its
pita bread
Ethiopian injera bread
baking supplies
Fruit dried fruits/raisins frozen berries
15 gallons apple cider
frozen plums
canned peaches/pears/applesauce
Miscellaneous beef broth
ground flaxseed
red curry paste
Schezuan seasoning

Step 2: Mix and Match to Make Meal Ideas

Sometimes groups of foods will stand out to you as things that go together well. For example, in my list, I see turkey, tomato, onion, pitas, and hummus that could go together to make gyros. Make a list of possible meal or recipe ideas that you see from the list you have available. For certain rarely-used ingredients, think of the recipe you bought them for in the first place. For me, I buy MaSeCa corn flour to make pupusas (Salvadoran savory corn “pancakes”). I have never actually used it for anything else. Fortunately for me, I see the rest of the ingredients for pupusas on my list, so that’s going to be an option.

A couple of tips for this step:

  • Catch-alls: Curries, stir-fries, soups, scrambles, smoothies, and compotes are all examples of dishes that can be made with a wide variety of different fruits and vegetables. For more info on catch-alls, check out this post.
  • Recipe by ingredient resources: Websites/apps like Supercook or the Diabetes Food Hub (even if you don’t have diabetes!) allow you to search their databases by the ingredients you have available.

You can see my list of possible meal ideas below.

  • turkey dinner w/mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans
  • Thai curry
  • lasagna casserole
  • gyros
  • macaroni and cheese
  • steak, potatoes, and veggies
  • breakfast cookies
  • baked beans w/ham and cornbread
  • masala lentils w/Ethiopian injera bread
  • pupusas
  • fruit & nut granola bars


Step 3: Select Your Meals

Decide if your goal is to get through the week without shopping at all, or if you plan to make a small grocery shopping trip. Skim your list to choose meals that use as many of your “need to use up” ingredients as possible, and don’t need ingredients you don’t have or can’t substitute (if you’re aiming not to shop – I’ll have a post coming up soon on making substitutions!). If there are things that you will need, make a shopping list. Here’s my first week’s meal plan:

Monday: steak, potatoes, veggies
Tuesday: leftovers
Wednesday: lasagna casserole
Thursday: Thai turkey red curry
Friday: macaroni and cheese with sausage
Saturday: potluck (bring 2 gallons cider)

Step 4: Shop if Needed

Head to the store and pick up the few things you might need if you’re planning to shop. With my first week, I was able to cut my grocery bill from my usual $100 per week to only $54!


Hopefully these tips will help you feel more confident in using the food that you already have in your pantry or freezer. Not stressing about food can be a huge comfort in the midst of all of the confusion. I would be remiss if I did not mention that my greatest source of peace and comfort in all of this is knowing that God is in control, that Jesus died for me, and that no matter what happens, I’m in good hands. I hope you know the same peace and comfort, so the stresses of the world shrink in comparison to His goodness and grace. Hang in there, folks – we will get through this!



You Might Also Like

The Must-Try Meal Planning Hack to Stop Wasting Time and Money

Save Time with 5 Healthy Convenience Foods

Top 5 Tips for a Quick Healthy Breakfast

Eating Well on a Budget Wellness Tips

Depending on who you ask, you might find anti-inflammatory recommendations that encourage complete elimination of sugar and carbohydrates to decrease inflammation. This reasoning is often used as support for a keto diet ____. As is frequently the case, though, those recommendations are likely unnecessary extremes and everything is case-by-case. For one thing, you can probably achieve the anti-inflammatory benefits you’re looking for while still including well chosen, nutrient dense complex carbohydrates. Secondly, why over-restrict if we can still enjoy some tasty treats in moderation? That’s how we balance meeting health goals and living a life we love! So what does the research actually say about carbs and inflammation?

Multiple studies have linked consumption of concentrated sugar and simple carbohydrate consumption with increased levels of inflammation.1-2 A long time ago I talked in this post about what happens when we eat carbs and how we break them down into blood sugar to use as fuel. Those fuels are stuck in the blood until insulin comes around to let them in to our cells.  Research draws a strong link between chronic inflammation and insulin resistance.3 This is a vicious cycle because insulin resistance means that blood sugars get stuck in the blood without a way out, causing fat storage and inflammation.4 Stored fat then produces inflammatory factors which make insulin resistance worse! Not fair.

So what can we do about it? Well, we can aim to cut inflammation off at the pass by changing parts of our lifestyle and the foods we eat to combat inflammation and give our cells a helping hand with that blood sugar. With regard to carbohydrates, we can do a couple of things specifically:

  1. Focus on eating more complex carbohydrates than simple carbohydrates like sugar. What does that mean? Well, complex carbohydrates are long chains of sugars that take much longer to digest, break down, and enter our blood, thus making our blood sugar much more stable (and preventing inflammation from blood sugar spikes). Simple carbohydrates are individual sugars or tiny chains of sugars that break down very quickly and enter the blood rapidly, causing a sharp spike in blood sugar that is inflammatory. Complex carbohydrates like whole grains, beans, and vegetables are connected with lower levels of inflammation.5 Same goes for high-fiber carbohydrates like fruit.
  2. Avoid eating too much carbohydrate at once. Just like with diabetes, the key to preventing carbohydrate-induced inflammation is keeping the blood sugar from going too high. Eating controlled amounts of carbohydrate throughout the day can help keep your energy up and your inflammation down.




Do I recommend keto to my clients?


You’d have to be living in a mole hole to not have heard of the ketogenic diet. Everyone knows someone who’s on it. What everyone wants to know is whether or not keto is safe and effective. Does the keto diet work for weight loss? Is it dangerous?  Is the keto diet nutritionally balanced? Is it easy to follow? There is SO much to say about keto so I’m going to make this post a quick overview. I’ll make more in-depth posts about these topics along the way (with a lot more references), so check back for more info!


What does the research say about the keto diet?

Research about the effectiveness of the keto diet (or similar low carb, high fat diets) for weight management is somewhat mixed. Most of the time, keto-like diets are successful at causing weight loss.1-2 Unfortunately, the research also indicates that the success of keeping that weight off long term (1 year or more) is low (and no better than with other types of diets).3-5

Research on keto’s effects on other health markers (cholesterol, blood glucose, insulin, inflammation, etc) is also mixed. Some studies show the keto diet improves cholesterol markers, others demonstrate that it makes them worse.1,6 Research on inflammation is once again, annoyingly, unclear and conflicting.6-7 For the most part, blood glucose and insulin levels do tend to improve1,6, likely because carbohydrates (and therefore the need for insulin) are largely a non-factor in a ketogenic diet.

With all of the conflicting information, it’s no wonder everyone is so confused about the keto diet. In a future post, I will go much more in-depth about what the research says and what conclusions we can pull from it.



Is the keto diet dangerous?

This answer is a little convoluted (you’re shocked, I know). Short-to-moderate length studies looking to evaluate the safety of the ketogenic diet have mostly unearthed no dangerous results (other than those mentioned above).1 However, few of those studies have looked at the long-term effects of the ketogenic diet (or similar very low carb diets) on metabolism.2,8 By far and away, my largest caution with the keto diet is its long-term effects on metabolism. This is also the main reason I do not recommend the keto diet for my clients and I am not following the keto diet during this feature.

Eating so few carbs mimics a “famine” situation, causing your body to rely more on its body fat stores than on blood glucose. So far, that sounds great, right? But your body expects this to be temporary (think caveman days – in Spring/Summer, the carbs will come back!). After a while, if carbohydrates don’t increase, your body resorts to a more sustainable long-term plan. Your body knows it can’t keep burning through the fat stores – it would rather slow down metabolism and try to preserve its fat stores as much as possible. This nearly always leads to fatigue, brain fog, feeling cold, and a weight loss plateau. Often at this point people become frustrated with the lack of results and begin to eat more carbohydrate. Your body is jazzed – “Spring/Summer is here! We survived! Boy, that was a long one. Next time, we will be even more prepared for Winter.” Translation: we will store more fat. These shifts are backed by documented hormonal changes in mice and humans,4,8-9   and are linked with the weight regain mentioned earlier.

The take-home message: In the long run, very low carb diets like keto teach your body how to store fat more effectively.


Is the keto diet nutritionally balanced?

The answer is a big it depends. I would venture to say that the average keto diet is not nutritionally balanced. I would follow that up by saying that it is possible to eat a nutritionally balanced keto diet, but it takes a lot of intention. Here are some of the nutritional weaknesses I see in keto diets:

  • Fiber – Fiber is a type of carbohydrate that composes the structure of certain plant-based foods. Since fiber doesn’t break down into blood glucose, it is not actually limited on the ketogenic diet and will not interfere with ketosis. At the same time, it comes in primarily carbohydrate foods, so the carb limitations often make it quite tricky to get enough fiber while avoiding other carbohydrates. It can be done with certain high-fiber foods such as nuts and seeds, avocados, and berries.
  • Vitamin C – While you can certainly get vitamin C from certain keto-friendly vegetables (hey, peppers!), a lot of the best vitamin C sources are fruits, which are very limited on a keto diet. You can definitely make a point to eat vitamin-C containing foods, but you have to make the point to do so.
  • Saturated fat – These are the types of fats that are primarily found in animal foods. Being a high-fat diet, unless someone is being very intentional in their food choices, a keto diet is typically quite high in saturated fats. While there are some debates around the appropriate recommendations for saturated fat,10 most keto-dieters I’ve talked with are eating WAY more than even some of the higher evidence-based recommendations. High saturated fat intakes are associated with high levels of cholesterol and increased occurrence of dementia.11-12 Keto dieters can buffer this impact by limiting intakes of high fat meats (sausage, bacon, ribs, hot dogs, etc) and dairy in favor of lean and grass-fed meats and reduced fat dairy. Focus on including a variety of plant-based fats like nuts, seeds, avocado, and olive oil.



Is the keto diet easy to follow?

This kind of depends (do you see a theme here? It seems nutrition rarely has a clear answer). Some people absolutely LOVE meat and veggies and aren’t so big on the carb-y stuff, and keto totally rocks their world. Others – most, if we’re honest – enjoy at least some carbohydrate foods (or the option to eat them without ruining ketosis) on a regular basis. With ketosis, it’s kind of an all-or-nothing thing. You either need to be in and mostly stay in ketosis or regularly meet your carbohydrate needs. Bouncing back and forth or riding the low-carb-but-not-quite-low-enough-for-ketosis train is generally not an enjoyable ride. Many clients complain about low energy, brain fog, fatigue, and weight fluctuations, particularly coming in and out of ketosis. Digestive disturbances come up frequently as well.

My average client finds keto to be a social and nutritional bummer, because it restricts a lot of foods – particularly delicious and commonly social foods. It can also be a challenge for some to consume enough fat to promote ketosis and meet caloric needs. I can’t even count how many clients and friends have followed keto for a few weeks or months, convinced it was going great, only to decide it was too restrictive and they weren’t enjoying their food quality of life or feeling their best. The same high dropout trend is commonly seen in studies about low-carbohydrate diets.3 When deciding about a diet, be sure to take the nutritional and safety factors into account as well as your personality, favorite foods, and family/friends.


You Might Also Like

What the Research Says about Intermittent Fasting

The #1 Thing You MUST do to Save Time Living a Healthy Life

Anti-Inflammatory Add-Ins and Supplements



  1. Dashti, Hussein M et al. “Long-term effects of a ketogenic diet in obese patients.” Experimental and clinical cardiology vol. 9,3 (2004): 200-5.
  2. David S Ludwig, The Ketogenic Diet: Evidence for Optimism but High-Quality Research Needed, The Journal of Nutrition, nxz308,
  3. Phelan, S., Wyatt, H., Nassery, S., DiBello, J., Fava, J.L., Hill, J.O. and Wing, R.R. (2007), Three‐Year Weight Change in Successful Weight Losers Who Lost Weight on a Low‐Carbohydrate Diet. Obesity, 15: 2470-2477. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.293
  4. Cardillo, S., Seshadri, P., Iqbal, N. The effects of a Low Carbohydrate vs. Low Fat Diet on adipocytikines in severely obese adults: a three-year-follow-up on a randomized control trial. Eur Rev Med Pharmacol Sci vol. 10 (2006): 99-106.
  5. Foster, G., et al. A randomized trial of a low-carbohydrate diet for obesity. N Engl J Med (2003); 348:2082-2090
    DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa022207.
  6. Rosenbaum, M., et al. Glucose and lipid homeostasis and inflammation in humans following an isocaloric ketogenic diet. Obesity. 2019 Jun;27(6):971-981. doi: 10.1002/oby.22468. Epub 2019 May 8.
  7. Shen, Y., Kapfhamer, D., Minnella, A.M. et al. Bioenergetic state regulates innate inflammatory responses through the transcriptional co-repressor CtBP. Nat Commun 8, 624 (2017).
  8. Goldberg, E.L., Shchukina, I., Asher, J.L. et al. Ketogenesis activates metabolically protective γδ T cells in visceral adipose tissue. Nat Metab 2, 50–61 (2020).
  9. Cooper, E. The Metabolic Storm: The science of your metabolism and how its making you fat. Seattle Performance Medicine. 2015. 2nd edition.
  10. Enos, R., et al. Influence of dietary saturated fat content on adiposity, macrophage behavior, inflammation, and metabolism: composition matters.
  11. Enos, R., et al. Influence of  The Journal of Lipid Research. 2013), 54, 152-163.
  12. Greenwood, C., Winocur, G., High-fat diets, insulin resistance and declining cognitive function. Neurobiology of Aging. Volume 26, Issue 1, Supplement (2005) 42-45.
  13. Barnard, N. D., Bunner, A. E., Agarwal, U. Saturated and trans fats and dementia: a systematic review. Neurobiology of Aging. Volume 35, Supplement 2 (2014) S65-S73.