Eating Healthy on The Broke End
Concerning ourselves over food sounds annoying especially with how easy nowadays it is to buy food. Or how cheap it is, especially when in a impoverish state. But we also cannot just buy healthy food when our money situation is dire. So we also have to acknowledge that healthy eating is not possible for all.
So how to eat healthy when on a strict budget?
For starters frozen vegetables are just as good as fresh ones. We have to remember these are ripe and can last a good while frozen.
So don't be afraid in buying frozen veggies thinking you won't get the same nutrition as you would with fresh. You will.
Also don't forget cabbage is pretty cheap as well, it is a sister food to kale and leafy greens, from antioxidant to fiber to vitamin C, cabbage is quite nutritionally dense. Cabbage is extremely versatile (soup, salad, stir fry, or sandwiches), and looks like it may have some super food cancer fighting qualities as well.
Canned veggies are also good a little bit more additives in them but when on a budget it's ok.
Meats are a big staple to our diets (unless vegan... well we will get to that in another post). When we looked at prices across the U.S., chicken and turkey consistently offered better values. However, don’t count beef out; there is almost ALWAYS a specific cut of beef on sale, and by targeting cheaper (and fattier) cuts, you can usually leave the meat section with a killer deal. We aren’t targeting these cuts simply because they’re cheaper. We understand that dietary fat is not the enemy, but an important part of a balanced diet.
Eggs are also big in meals, whether scrambled, poached, fried, etc. They are cheap and a good dense source of protein. Other alternative protein options would be quinoa, greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and one of the many types of nut butter.
Canned tuna can also be a steal albeit buying cut tuna is expensive. One can of Albacore Tuna contains approximately 120 calories, 28g of protein, and can cost $1 or less. This makes canned tuna a superb value and an awesomely lean protein source. Check out other canned fish, such as salmon, for some variety. And be sure to rotate canned tuna in and out of your diet to reduce risks associated with mercury.
Legumes (especially when purchased in bags), are one of the best price per nutrient values out there. Legumes such as beans, chickpeas, lentils, etc work great in a salads, soups, or even dips. Providing copious amounts of both protein and carbs, legumes offer a great value and easily satisfy macronutrient requirements. Be wary though, nutritional value will vary depending on your specific legume of choice!
Fruits provide one of the biggest challenges, especially in the United States, because they are so expensive relative to other food groups. Fruits can also be tricky.
But don't worry there are still some excellent cost efficient option for fruits:
Watermelon is cheap, but you'll wonder isn't it just water? Won't it just be better if I actually just drank water??? Well.... Yeah? But you forget watermelon is packed with lycopene (antioxidant), vitamins A and C, potassium, magnesium, and phosphorus, watermelon is a wonderful and easy to eat nutritional deal.
Bananas are another cheap fruits, not to mention, bananas are a great source of carbs. They also provide you with tons of potassium. They can be added to oatmeal, eaten as a snack, or if you want a cold treat, as a desert (frozen bananas).
Plums are packed full great micronutrients like vitamin A, K, and C, plums are an excellent source of fiber and carbs.
Although pears possess a good amount of natural sugars, they are another great source of fiber and vitamin C…and usually even cheaper than plums.
Other fruits that may be great nutritional deals in your area: cantaloupe, apricots, kiwis, and nectarines.
Oats are incredibly cheap, provide ridiculous amounts of both carbohydrates and protein, and fulfill other micronutrient and mineral requirements such as thiamin, folate, magnesium, and phosphorus. Oats are simple to make, can be prepared a variety of ways (sweet or savory), and can be bought and stored easily in bulk!
Milk! Has a low cost combined with high amounts of protein, calcium, and vitamin D makes it an attractive option when trying to meet high calorie requirements (if your body can handle the lactose).
Avocados are perhaps the densest food listed in this entire article, both calorically and nutritiously. Although they may appear costly, avocados can be an incredible price per nutrient value. Put them in salads, on sandwiches, or eat them plain with a little bit of salt! When your local grocery store puts avocados on sale, be sure to stock up!
A better nutritional value than normal potatoes (plus a lower glycemic load), sweet potatoes are a great source of carbohydrates, dietary fiber, and incredible amounts of vitamin A. Plus sweet potatoes sliced, covered in olive oil, and thrown in the oven at 375 for 12 minutes each side tastes quite delicious!
One of the best ways to add good fat without cholesterol or sodium is olive oil. Add extra olive oil to salads, meats, and legumes.
Raw almonds are a versatile option that can serve as a great supplementary source of protein and fat. While almonds can be a great value, be sure to buy them in bulk to optimize your price per nutrient deal. And if you haven’t tried almond butter and apple slices, you's missing out. Also make sure to try other nuts too.
No mater what value foods you plan to buy, be sure approach eating on a budget with a plan. You'll find that is you take advantage of healthy foods on sale (especially buy one get one free deals), many foods that aren't listed here will suddenly become a great value. If not check out local food markets and such where you'll find bargain food prices.