If you follow me on twitter, you might have noticed that I’m a bit of a health nut. Working out keeps me sane. I eat as healthy as possible, but definitely don’t deprive myself (balance is key, my dear readers).
There are those that claim eating healthy is expensive and that’s why our country is so overweight. Unfortunately those people are just misguided, because healthy foods on the cheap are ‘a plenty in my grocery store. In fact, I’ve noticed that when I don’t stock up on snack-y, processed foods and instead fill my cart with minimally (or zero) processed foods, my total bill is much cheaper.
Without further ado, here are the top 7 healthy foods that are staples in my pantry:
- FRESH GARLIC. Garlic spices us every dish. I like to saute onions and garlic in extra virgin olive oil as a delicious topping for my chicken and fish. It’s also great in stews, soups, salads, and omelets! Garlic is chock-full of antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, and anti-inflammatory compounds. So, eat up during the cold and flu season! Cost for one garlic bulb: ~30-40 cents.
- ROLLED OATS. As odd as it sounds, oats are practically a cheat meal for me. They are so delicious and so versatile. I eat traditional oats (i.e. not out of a bag) with cinnamon and almonds for breakfast and this keeps me full all morning long. I also love adding oats to yogurt (a la Swiss Oatmeal), pudding, and cookies! Be good to your heart with oats – whole grain, all natural, rolled oats help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. Oats also stabilize blood sugar which means NO sugar crashes! Cost for 42 ounces of oats: ~$3.00
- POPCORN KERNELS. Next time you’re in the popcorn aisle of your store, look way up or way down. You’ll most likely see one or two bags of all natural popcorn kernels hidden behind an array of boxed popcorn. The only catch is that in order to make these little kernels uber-healthy, you need to invest in an air-popper. I bought one about 3 years ago for $15 and it still works great. Popcorn is a great source of fiber (5 grams per serving), protein (4 grams, who knew?!), and healthy fats. This is a frequent nighttime snack at my house! Popcorn is great plain, dashed with sea salt, or topped with melted olive oil based butter. Cost for 32 ounces: $1.35 (32 ounces lasts forever!)
- DRY BEANS. I challenge you to stop buying canned beans that have been processed and contains artificial ingredients that you can’t even pronounce. Not only do you get more bang for your buck, but there’s only one ingredient listed on a bag of dry beans: beans. We all know beans are full of fiber (maybe a little too much?), but they also contain tons of protein (a plus if you don’t eat meat), and provide that jolt from carbs without the crash afterwards. Plus, the dark, rich colored beans contain lots of antioxidants! There are so many uses for beans – soups, salads, dips, taco-topper, burrito-filler, salad-topper, and even brownies! Cost for 16 ounces: ~$1.25
- FROZEN BERRIES. Two disadvantages to fresh berries: they’re only in season a short amount of time and they’re (usually) high-priced even when in season. The solution: frozen berries. I like frozen berries much better because they never go bad (well, not for a long time) and their generally cheaper. The deep, dark color of berries means their loaded with antioxidants – especially blueberries. Berries are a great fruit for those avoiding sugar since they only have about 5-10 grams of sugar per serving, while most fruits have 25-50 grams per serving! Surprise, surprise, berries also boast a good amount of fiber per serving – sometimes as much as 8 grams. I love to throw berries in my cereals, oatmeal, and yogurt as well as just have a big bowl on berries by themselves! Prices vary: anywhere from $1.50-$3.00
- EGGS. Eggs are an egg-celent (couldn’t resist) source of protein at a budget-friendly price. Many people rely on chicken, fish, and beef for protein, but – unlike eggs – these foods are usually expensive. I eat eggs as snacks and as meals, so they have many uses, including: hard-boiled eggs as snacks, omelets, scrambled eggs, “fried eggs”, egg sandwiches, and of course, they can be used for baking. Cost for 12 eggs: ~$1.50
- YOGURT. When buying yogurt, look for fat-free, low sugar, generic varieties. Manufacturers can be sneaky and hide tons of sugar and fat in yogurt without you even knowing it! As with all dairy products, yogurt is a good source of calcium. However, the superstar nutrient in yogurt is really the Probiotics. Probiotics are live, friendly bacteria that keep your body healthy and help it to fight off bad bacteria. Probiotics also help regulate your digestive system. As someone who’s experienced problems with imbalances of good and bad bacteria, I rely on yogurt quite a lot to load up on the good guys. Plus, it’s more fun than taking a supplement! Yogurt can be used as a topping to oatmeal, mixed with nuts/fruits/oats, topping to pancakes/waffles, or just right out of the carton! Cost for one off-brand fat-free 6 ounce yogurt: 33 cents
These are foods I LOVE and swear by! I think this is key when finding balance in a healthy lifestyle – experiment and find foods that you love that seem like a cheat to you, but they really aren’t!
What are you favorite healthy foods on a budget?
**Disclaimer: Prices may vary. These are the prices I’ve found at my local discount grocery store. Prices may also vary across different parts of the country. Nutritional information can be found here.