7 Budget Friendly Foods That Are Super Healthy Without Being Super Expensive
With so much focus on health these days, people are turning to cooking at home, but many are discouraged by the high cost of healthy eating. Sure, it's easy to get scared away by the prices at Whole Foods, but it is possible to buy super healthy foods that are also budget friendly. Certain more obscure health foods like hemp seeds or nutritional yeast can come at a premium cost, but there are plenty of everyday nutritious foods that won't take a hit to your bank account.
"A higher cost doesn’t always mean a cleaner bill of health," Ilyse Schapiro, MS, RD, CDN and co-author of the new book, Should I Scoop Out My Bagel? tells me over email. "The food industry has bombarded us with buzzwords like sugar-free, natural, gluten-free, low-fat, superfoods, fortified, enriched, and organic to help differentiate between foods. Sometimes these foods are healthier. Other times they come with heftier price tags, and in some instances, they are just really great marketing words that have little-to-no meaning or little-to-no nutritional difference."
When it comes to finding healthy food for cheap, Schapiro recommends shopping the farmer's market, buying frozen produce, and supplementing some meals with plant-based proteins like beans and legumes instead of meat. Preparing meals ahead can also help you plan what ingredients you can use in multiple dishes.
Next time you're at the grocery store and want to pick up some nutritious foods on a dime, consider these seven foods that are not only budget-friendly, but extremely healthy.
1. Nut Butter
"Nut butter can be inexpensive and is packed with protein and healthy fats," says Schapiro. "You can eat it basically at any meal: on toast for breakfast, on a sandwich for lunch, paired with an apple or banana as a snack, or even as part of dinner." From almond to peanut to walnut, any nut butter will do.
Protein-filled eggs are a nutritional bang for your buck. "Eggs are a great source of selenium, vitamin D, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and minerals such as zinc, iron and copper," says Schapiro.
3. Greek Yogurt
"Greek yogurt can be an excellent source of protein and nutrients," says Schapiro. "Not only does it contain B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, potassium, and phosphorous, but it also has plenty of probiotics. These nutrients can help with your skin, digestion, stomach, immunity, and even your metabolism."
Dried lentils can be purchased in bulk for very cheap, and they make a great protein-filled addition to salads and soups. They are a good source of iron, potassium, calcium, and fiber.
5. Whole Grain Cereals
Instead of loading up on the more common sugar-filled cereals with no nutritional value, consider opting for whole grain varieties such as Kashi or All Bran. "These are packed with whole grains and fortified with essential nutrients such as iron," says Schapiro. "Plus they have fiber, and paired with milk and fruit, can make a great breakfast or snack."
Canned beans usually cost a dollar or two, and you can also opt to buy the dried kind, which can last much longer and come at just as low of a cost. "Beans are heart-healthy, and they can help prevent many diseases," says Schapiro.
7. Frozen Vegetables
Buying frozen vegetables is a great way to get in your nutrients for very cheap. Frozen vegetables are often picked and frozen at their ripe freshness, so you get about the same amount of nutrients found in fresh produce at a lower cost.
Healthy food doesn't always mean expensive food, and when in doubt, also go for the fresher, whole option over processed and packaged foods, which often cost more and have less nutritional value.