By Tracy East, Consumer Education Services Inc.
Striving to eat the right foods and maintain a healthier lifestyle are goals that many people set for themselves. Low Cost Healthy Foods are in high demand for those who want to feel and look their best, but shopping for “the right” foods can seem daunting. With the heavily advertised “superfoods” and high-end health food stores that are everywhere today, retaining great nutrition may seem unattainable on a budget. Fortunately, the idea that you have to spend a lot of money to be healthy is a misconception. You can find an abundance of low cost healthy foods at any neighborhood grocery store. The foods listed below are not only simple to prepare, but also excellent for your body–and your bank account.
- Oats: As a breakfast staple, oats are versatile and particularly affordable when bought in bulk. This gluten-free grain can be prepared in many ways, whether it be oatmeal, overnight oats, or even homemade granola, just to name a few examples. Oats are full of fiber and will keep you satiated all morning long, so you can more easily resist the temptation of a mid-morning snack. You can buy a 42-ounce container of oats for $4 to $5, but you can often find it for even less at select stores. At under 20 cents a serving, a bowl of healthful oats is one of the most affordable breakfasts around.
- Brown Rice: Brown rice is a gluten-free, complex carbohydrate that pairs well with nearly any vegetable and protein. A standard portion of brown rice provides one serving of whole grains, which are essential for heart health. Brown rice is also high in fiber, manganese, and magnesium. A 1-pound bag of brown rice costs between $1 and $3, and its long shelf life makes it a pantry staple.
- Whole Wheat Pasta: Whole wheat pasta is a healthier alternative to traditional white pasta and is a delicious way to get another serving of whole grains in your day. With far more fiber and protein than white pasta, this complex carb is good for heart health can help regulate hunger. A 1-pound box of whole wheat pasta costs about $1.80 to $3, so you can make this nutritious swap without exceeding your budget
Fruits and Vegetables:
- Bananas: Bananas are one of the most affordable fruits available. Excellent to eat with breakfast or as a portable, 100-calorie snack, bananas are full of potassium, fiber, and magnesium. At around 20 to 30 cents each, bananas should always be on your grocery list.
- Frozen Berries: Buying berries frozen not only saves money, but also allows you to eat these antioxidant-rich fruits all year round. Try stirring some frozen berries into your morning oatmeal, or add some to a smoothie for natural sweetness and added fiber. While fresh berries can perish within a few days after purchase, frozen berries can last in the freezer for several months.
- Carrots: Whether you munch on baby carrots as a low-calorie snack or cook up whole carrots as an addition to a balanced dinner, carrots are rich in vitamins A and C for skin, eye, and immune health. Carrots sell for around $1-$1.50 per pound, making this veggie affordable as well as delicious.
- Spinach: Spinach is a popular and powerful green that’s great in salads, smoothies, or cooked and paired with a hearty grain. It’s low in calories and high in calcium, magnesium, iron, and potassium. A 16-ounce bag of spinach costs less than $3, so you can enjoy this leafy green guilt free.
- Frozen Peas: A 12-ounce bag of frozen peas is often sold for under $1, making it one of the cheapest vegetables available. Despite the low price tag, peas are full of fiber and protein, making them a fantastic addition to a balanced lunch or dinner. Peas are also a low-calorie carbohydrate and contain vitamins K, C, and B1.
- Dry beans or legumes: Beans and legumes, such as black beans, garbanzo beans, and lentils, are a great way to round out a meal with plenty of protein and fiber. Beans and legumes have no cholesterol and hardly any fat, making them a go-to source of protein for healthy eaters. By purchasing beans dry and preparing them at home, you’ll save quite a bit of money. A 1-pound bag of dry beans usually costs $1 or less, so you can enjoy a serving for under 20 cents.
- Eggs: If a wholly plant-based diet isn’t for you, consider getting your protein from eggs. Often called a complete protein, eggs contain vitamins D and B-12 for bone and metabolic health. You can prepare eggs in a multitude of ways, for either breakfast, lunch, or dinner. A dozen eggs are commonly sold for $1 to $2, making an egg one of the most affordable sources of protein available.
The low cost healthy foods listed above prove that even those on a tight budget can enjoy healthful, nourishing foods with every meal. Next time you step into a grocery store, remember the many nutritious, affordable ingredients available to you. Incorporating these foods into your diet will have positive effects on both your physical and financial well-being.