And…Under 300 Calories!
As summer slowly inches away, inexpensive ways to eat healthy and keep off the inches becomes more difficult. Fresh fruits and vegetables are the least expensive when purchased locally in season – even better if you can grow them yourself. But what do you do when the colder months set in? You can find some of the healthiest foods year round in your grocery store that won’t put a big strain on your wallet – or your waistline. These 9 healthy cheap foods are packed with nutrition and cost less than $3.00.
Serving Size: 1 cup (cooked)
Cost: 40 ¢
A grain of rice has several layers. To make white rice, the milling process removes the first few layers of the grain. The result is a perfect, polished, white grain of rice with nearly no original nutrients left. Brown rice, on the other hand, is a whole grain. Processing removes only the hull, preserving the nutritional value of the grain. Brown rice contains more fiber than white contains and provides you with essential minerals like magnesium and zinc.
Serving Size: ½ cup (Red Kidney Beans, dry)
Cost: 30 ¢
A powerhouse food packed with fiber and protein. Beans also have a low glycemic index, meaning, they release energy over time into the blood stream. Beans can leave you feeling more full and satisfied without a sugar or fat crash.
Beans are extremely economical too. They are available dry and in bulk with a lot of varieties available, which you can add to just about anything. Even the cans are affordable, but watch the sodium.
Serving Size: 1 egg
Cost: 25 ¢
Eggs are making a nutritional comeback. Contrary to popular belief, eggs are not cholesterol bombs. Eating one or two eggs a day shouldn’t increase your risk of heart disease or stroke. In fact, eggs are loaded with protein. Just one egg will give you 11% of your recommended daily allowance of protein.
Serving Size: 1 medium spud
Cost: 1.19 ¢
These tasty produce treats are gaining popularity. Available year round, sweet potatoes are versatile, low in calories, and loaded with great nutrition. In one spud you get a nice serving of calcium, fiber, potassium, vitamin A and Vitamin C. Don’t skip the skins; they’re loaded with antioxidants.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Cost: 1.20 ¢
Yum, fresh tuna! But, restaurant-quality cuts of tuna are expensive to buy on a regular basis. On the other hand, canned tuna has all the nutrients in a more affordable package. Tuna is a tremendous source of protein and contains a good amount of minerals, vitamins and essential omega-3 fatty acids.
Canned tuna does contain mercury, so you shouldn’t eat it every day. Try to buy the chunk light tuna in water instead of albacore. It’s cheaper and contains a bit less mercury.
Whole Wheat Pasta
Serving Size: 1 cup (cooked)
Cost: .18 ¢
Whole wheat (or multigrain) pasta has nearly three times the amount of fiber as regular pasta. Fiber not only lowers your risk for heart disease and diabetes, but it fills you up faster and for longer. You will get about 7 servings out of a box. Pair with a marinara sauce or turn it into a pasta salad!
Serving Size: 1/2 cup (peas)
Cost: .35 ¢
Fresh vegetables are certainly the prime choice for eating healthy. But frozen vegetables can be just as nutritious, frozen and packed at their peak ripeness. Besides being more expensive, if you’re not careful about the timing of fresh produce you can literally be throwing your money away. Frozen vegetables will last several months in the freezer and are relatively inexpensive, if you look for the store brands. Buy in bulk and your savings will increase even more.
Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Cost: .28 ¢
Studies show that cooking certain foods makes it easier for the body to absorb nutrients. Tomatoes are one of these foods. Cooked tomatoes allow the body to absorb more lycopene – a powerful antioxidant. And, if you combine lycopene with a small amount of fat, say olive oil, the body absorbs it even better. You will also get a nice dose of vitamins A and C.
Serving Size: ¼ oz
Cost: 2.28 ¢
Steak? Steak! You don’t have to throw red meat out the window, you just need to chose the right cuts. Lean cuts of beef have less saturated fat than a typical cut and contain healthy amounts of protein, iron, zinc and vitamins. Leaner cuts also cost less, but they tend to have less taste and are tougher. Chefs recommend marinating the meat overnight before grilling or broiling. Adding an acidic marinade – like vinegar or orange juice – will actually break down some of that tough connective tissue.
*All calories and costs are estimated.
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