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Get fit while being frugal with these Jamaican meals

Monday, February 22, 2021


ARE you intimidated by the various diet fads and hard-to-pronounce programme names out there, that promise much but require a great deal of sacrifice and, most of all, money? Is that getting in the way of you living healthy, shedding the weight you need to, and reaching your fitness goal? Not to worry, there are ways to tweak your existing diet to get the same, or a similar effect.

The same frugal meals that you make for your family can get you started on that goal — and you don't have to visit the health food store for anything fancy.

Let's break down the nutritional benefits of some of your everyday, simple meals — meals you can make on a budget that will keep the weight off, and give you the needed vitamins and minerals.

Rice and mackerel

Canned mackerel is perhaps the cheapest fish product you will buy, and it is a good source of Omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids, protein, vitamin D, iron, and calcium when the bones are eaten. A 15-ounce can of mackerel is only 70 calories, and add that to a serving of brown rice and you're getting fibre, protein, iron, and other vitamins and minerals for a strong, healthy body.

Tuna salad

Tuna is chock-ful of essential nutrients such as Omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, B6 and B12.

Pair it with wholewheat macaroni and some veggies, and you're adding complex carbs, protein, fibre, iron, magnesium, and zinc. This meal strengthens your immune system, strengthens bones, improves your skin, gives you an energy boost, and promotes weight loss.

Liver and bananas

This Jamaican breakfast is so rich in nutrients that you're bound to feel a burst of energy immediately after consuming it. Liver contains significant amounts of folate, iron, vitamin B, vitamin A, and copper; and green bananas are rich in many essential vitamins and minerals — like fibre, potassium, vitamin B6, vitamin C and magnesium.

Mince and macaroni

We're not encouraging you to use this as a side dish like many Jamaicans do, or add it to another starch on your plate, but rather, to serve it as a full meal. Ground beef (or pork or chicken) is high in calories and fats, but these are essential fats. This is also a good way to include protein in your diet, and paired with wholewheat pasta and some raw veggies on the side, will give the needed energy boost for the day.

Sardine sandwich

Sardine is another canned fish that is extremely good for you — it's high in Omega-3 fatty acids which help prevent heart disease, vitamin B12, calcium and other minerals.

A sardine sandwich with wheat bread is a good filler for lunch — high enough quality to keep you full, but low enough in calories to keep you on your weight track.

Cho-cho cook up

The cho-cho (Chayote or Christophene) is cheap, available all over in markets, and is used by many Jamaicans as the 'protein' dish in their meals, cooked up with other vegetables and curried or stewed. This cheap meal is also a good source of folate, it protects against fat build-up in the liver, promotes heart health, and improves blood sugar. It's also a nice vegetarian option for those days when you don't want any chicken or red meat.

The key to staying fit with these meals, fitness trainer Lennox Richards said, is to eat in moderation, and include other food groups with them.

“So still enjoy the foods you like and can afford, but cut the usual portions, and make sure that you always have a salad on the side — even something like a simple cucumber tossed salad,” he said.

“There's really no excuse for saying that diet foods are expensive or out of your reach, because the same foods that you eat daily can be transformed into diet foods.”

He also encourages you to cook with healthier oils, and to go for wheat, instead of white products, go easy on the sugar, and supplement every meal plan with exercise.