July 8th, 2013
Most people believe that shopping on a budget means they have to buy fillers and food extenders, and that eating healthy can be too expensive. Fillers add a lot of calories to your diet, but have no nutritional value. The truth is, there are many nutrient-dense and easily digested foods that contain more per calorie of the vitamins and minerals your body needs, and they’re available for reasonable prices. These whole foods are called “superfoods.” With less processing, they yield a higher nutritional gain, and can be eaten raw or cooked at a low temperature.
Here are 22 foods in 7 categories that are both healthy and inexpensive, costing under a dollar per serving. More calories do not equal better nutrition, and these healthy alternatives give you more bang for your buck.
1. Oats and Grains
Oatmeal – A 1/3 cup uncooked serving is only 10¢ and delivers 4 grams of soluble fiber, which can help reduce “bad” LDL cholesterol. The quick-cooking oats are just as healthy as steel-cut if you avoid the oatmeal packets that are loaded with added sugars.
Quinoa – This whole grain costs 25¢-75¢ per uncooked 1/4 cup serving, depending on where you buy it. It’s packed with fiber and protein to make you feel full longer, and takes 15 or 20 minutes to cook. It also delivers more calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper, manganese, and zinc than other grains.
Brown rice – Substitute a 25¢ serving for white rice and get more fiber; a 1-pound bag yields 10 servings and buying in bulk can save another 25%-30%. Stretch your meal and get complete protein and antioxidants when you pair with beans and vegetables.
Barley – This cereal grain has a nut-like flavor and costs 50¢ per 1-cup cooked serving. It’s rich in manganese, selenium, phosphorus, copper, magnesium, iron, zinc and potassium.
Kale – A 60¢ 1-cup cooked serving has 10 times the daily value of bone-healthy vitamin K and 3 times the daily value of vitamin A. It’s also high in lutein and zeaxanthin (3 times more than spinach), which help your vision. Dark leafy greens are loaded with vitamin C, vitamin B, and calcium.
Cabbage – A 27¢ 1-cup serving has only 22 calories, is an excellent source of vitamins C and K, fiber, and detoxifying sulfur compounds. Red cabbage also has anthocyanins, an antioxidant that is thought to keep your heart healthy and brain sharp.
Broccoli – a 36¢ serving delivers more than the daily requirement of vitamins C and K, plus fiber, vitamin A, and antioxidants.
Carrots – A 32¢ 1-cup serving delivers beta-carotene and 4 times the daily value of vitamin A, to help build bone and contribute to immune function.
Beets – At 50¢ a serving in season, they’re high in Vitamin C, iron, magnesium and potassium. The greens are very nutritious as well, adding vitamin C, calcium and iron.
Sweet potatoes – A 50¢ serving of sweet potatoes has more manganese and iron than regular potatoes, and are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium and beta-carotene. They can be substituted in many recipes that call for regular potatoes.
3. Nuts and Seeds
Almonds – A 63¢ 1-ounce serving (23 nuts, 162 calories) has 37 percent of the daily value for vitamin E, as well as calcium, fiber and folate, and as many flavonoids as a cup of green tea.
Flax seeds – Add them to smoothies, cereal, or breads to provide up to 8 grams of fiber per 2-tablespoon 10¢ serving and 2600 mg of Omega 3 oils, a necessary nutrient which our body cannot produce.
Sunflower seeds – Buy them raw and in bulk for $1.25 per pound to get 76 percent of the daily value of vitamin E; a snack serving size is 1 ounce for 8¢.
Sesame seeds – They’re 40¢ an ounce, a good source of calcium, magnesium, tryptophan and copper, and can be sprinkled on many foods.
Tea – At a cost of only 10¢ per tea bag, both green and black tea are loaded with antioxidants to boost your immune system and promote heart health.
Oranges – You can get your entire day’s worth of vitamin C in a single 34¢ orange, plus 3 grams of fiber and water to keep you feeling full for only 70 calories. The orange color means it delivers vision-boosting beta carotene, too.
Apples – A single 28¢ apple offers some vitamin C, a type of fiber called pectin, antioxidants and polyphenols that are heart-healthy.
Bananas – For about 12¢-25¢ each, 100-calorie bananas provide fiber and potassium. In addition, they suppress acid in the digestive tract to alleviate heartburn and help guard against ulcers.
Tuna – Canned tuna, at 48¢-77¢ per 3-ounce serving, delivers Omega-3s at a cost much less than salmon. Dietary guidelines recommend cutting back on meat, and eating tuna up to twice a week is a good alternative. The economical chunk light tuna comes from smaller tuna fish and is lower in mercury than white albacore tuna.
Beans, peas, and lentils – At 15¢ per 1-cup serving, these are the cheapest source of protein as well as a good source of fiber and potassium, which makes them great for your heart. A cup of lentils provides 18 grams of protein and 16 grams of fiber, cooking up in only 15 to 30 minutes without presoaking like beans. You can save by buying a $1.90 bag of dried beans for 15 servings, instead of a 99¢ can with two or three servings.
Peanut butter – In 2-tablespoon 21¢ servings, it delivers mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, vitamin E and zinc to improve cholesterol and lower the risk of heart disease. Choose natural peanut butter to avoid partially hydrogenated oils and sugar.
Eggs – At 17¢ each and only 80 calories, a single egg packs in a lot of nutrition. The whites have 4 grams of protein per egg, while the yolks deliver some vitamin D plus lutein and xeanthanin, to lower the risk of age-related vision loss and blindness.
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