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5 Ways Start-up Founders Can Eat Healthy on the Cheap

January 3, 2013
URL: http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/225180

It’s often said that start-up entrepreneurs have poor eating habits. Exhibits A and B: the Ramen diet and an often unhealthy penchant for Lucky Charms.

And though many entrepreneurs simply never learned to “cook,” mostly, their poor dietary habits are the result of too little time in the day and not enough money in the bank. In other words, spending top dollar on organic produce or burning hours cooking healthy meals just isn’t part of the business plan.

But that doesn’t mean healthy eating should face the chopping block. YoungEntrepreneur.com talked to young treps and experts about the best strategies and go-to foods that will have you eating well and feeling great, all while staying in the black. Here are their five tips:

1. Prepare, prepare, prepare. In his best-selling diet book, The 4-Hour Body, serial self-experimenter Tim Ferriss advocated rotating between the same list of meals week in and week out. His logic? It’s far easier to make healthy eating a habit when you don’t have to slave away in the kitchen each time you eat.

That’s a strategy that Andrea Lo, the 26-year-old founder and CEO of online fundraising platform PiggyBackr, uses to save money and eat healthy. Lo, who packs lunch and dinner each day, prepares a regular rotation of meals (usually sandwiches and salads) in advance.

Related: A Note to Young Treps: Put Down the Ramen

“I usually buy several bags of salad (only two dollars!) and stock up on Tupperware,” Lo says. “I alternate different types of cold cuts, frozen chicken strips, tomatoes, nuts, beets, cheese and avocados to keep variety.”

You can also batch your cooking on a weekend to prepare for the coming week. Once the meals are prepped, you’ll save time putting together meals each day and avoid the temptation of grabbing fast food when you’re too tired to cook.

2. Practice portion control. When you’re so busy you can’t remember what day it is, it’s easy to miss meals -- and overeat when you do prepare food. To cope, Kathryn Minshew, the 26-year-old founder and CEO of career-oriented social networks the Daily Muse and Company Muse, packs salads in wide-mouthed 32-ounce mason jars for her lunches.

“Mason jars keep greens fresh, won’t leak and are the perfect size for salads for one,” Minshew says. “Start with the dressing or sauce on the bottom, layer different ingredients in the middle and end with greens or herbs on top. Just mix them up when you’re ready to eat!”

The mason-jar strategy can also work with soups, stews or your morning granola and yogurt. Eating reasonable portions won’t just keep you fit: it’ll also save you money.

3. Buy in bulk. When you prepare meals in advance, you get to take advantage of bulk pricing. Dried beans, quinoa, cereals, granola and pasta all cost less when you go big. Plus, they’ll keep for a long time. This rule can also apply to perishables: A big freezer can easily accommodate enough chicken, beef and frozen veggies for weeks of meals.

Related: 13 Tips to Stay Motivated in the Dog Days of Summer

While a membership with a warehouse store might not otherwise fit into your budget, bulk-buying makes it totally worth it. You can also try online: Amazon’s Grocery and Gourmet Foodsection sells many non-perishables at rock-bottom prices.

4. Get the most out of meals. Lunches and dinners out can be unavoidable for the ever-networking young trep. They’re also expensive compared to the food you cook. To save money, Piggybackr’s Andrea Lo always scales up her meals.

“I purposely order something with a bigger portion (usually just one or two dollars more), so that I can save half for a meal the next day,” she says. It also makes sense to order an extra portion of your favorite restaurant’s latest deal or happy hour special: as long as you’re out, why not take advantage of it?

5. Eat more kale. Kale isn’t just a healthy superfood, it’s also dirt cheap: a fresh bunch will run you about two dollars, and it can be prepared in dozens of different ways.

Related: How to Prevent Your Business From Ruining Your Personal Life

“If you aren’t making your own kale chips, you need to seriously re-examine your priorities,” says Keenahn Jung, the 27-year-old co-founder of Piggybackr. “I can eat buckets of nutritious kale this way, and I can snack on it while working.”

To make kale chips, strip the leafy part of the vegetable away from the stalk. Rub the leaves with olive oil (or, Jung suggests, olive oil mixed with soy sauce) and bake for about 15 minutes until crisp. You’ll quickly find out what all the foodies are raving about.

What are your top tips for eating healthy on the go? Share them in the comments section below.