Wild salmon and organic produce aren’t cheap! But don’t despair because you’re on a budget; there are plenty of good-for-you items that offer a big nutritional bang for your buck.
Here are 8 expert picks to add to your cart today. (Lose up to 15 pounds in just 30 days with thisrevolutionary superfood plan from the publisher of Prevention!)
They’re a good source of lean protein and a main ingredient for meals ranging from stir-fries to salads and stews. “Not only are skinless thighs a lot cheaper than breasts, they’re more flavorful and easier to cook because they don’t dry out as readily,” says Monica Reinagel, a nutritionist and author of Nutrition Diva’s Secrets for a Healthy Diet.
Fish are known for having tons of health benefits, but buying wild salmon and king crab legs can empty your bank account in a hurry. Reinagel suggests cod as a healthy and budget-friendly choice: It’s loaded with vitamin B12, iodine, and selenium. “Canned chunk light tuna is another bargain,” she says. “It’s also much lower in mercury than white tuna.”
Most of us could use more fruit and vegetables in our daily diet, and one affordable way to fit them in is to opt for the frozen variety (and sadly, that doesn’t mean strawberry ice cream). “Frozen fruits and vegetables are a no-brainer,” Reinagel says. “They’re just as nutritious or more so than fresh,” because they’re packed at their peak. And there’s virtually no waste because they can stay frozen for a long time—no more discovering moldy fruit in your fridge’s produce drawer weeks after you bought it.
“They’re an inexpensive source of lean protein, taking the place of pricier poultry, meat, or fish in dishes like soups, stews, and chilis,” says Joy Bauer, RDN, a health and nutrition expert for NBC’s Today show and author of From Junk Food to Joy Food. She notes that both canned and dried beans are heart-healthy, and that a recent study shows they may help you lose weight.
Though peanut butter may seem like a kids’ food, Bauer says not to count out that creamy (or crunchy) goodness if you’re a little strapped for cash. “This protein-packed spread also boasts healthy fats, and the combo can help keep you feeling full,” she says. She suggests choosing natural peanut butter (no added sugars or oils) and limiting yourself to 2 Tbsp per serving so that the calorie count doesn’t get out of hand.
Hardboiled, over-easy, or in an omelette, “there are dozens of reasons to love eggs,” Bauer says. “They’re a high-quality source of lean protein, they are so versatile (you can enjoy them for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snack), and they’re inexpensive.” If you’re looking to save some calories, try mixing one whole egg with a few egg whites. (Make sure you don’t make these mistakes when making scrambled eggs.)
Potatoes are another affordable whole food packed with nutrients. “At about $1 per pound, they’re a real bargain,” Bauer says. And these orange-hued super spuds contain more nutrients (such as beta-carotene, vitamin C, and fiber) than their white cousins. “One of my favorite ways to use them is to create these deals Sweet Potato Fries.”
“When it comes to healthy breakfast dishes, it doesn’t get any cheaper than oats,” Bauer notes. “This whole grain dish is loaded with fiber, protein, and other beneficial nutrients.” One serving (½ cup dry oats) contains 5 g of protein and 4 g of fiber—and it will only cost you 150 calories and about 30 cents. For the best value, go with the big canisters instead of the boxes of individual packets. (Make your own oatmeal packets with these recipes.)