Eating a quality, nutritious diet is critical to health and wellbeing. Without the right foods, your body and mind cannot function as nature intended them to. Unfortunately, a small budget can make eating well seem impossible. Nutritious but expensive foods are not an option for those with limited resources. Thankfully, there are plenty of foods that are as inexpensive as they are healthy. Here are thirteen of the foods that best combine together these two qualities.
An affordable staple in many parts of the world, rice is more filling and much healthier in its brown (unprocessed) form. Brown rice is an excellent source for fiber and contains such nutrients as selenium and iron. What’s even better is how versatile brown rice is. While it can be eaten on its own, brown rice can also serve as an ingredient in many delicious recipes, from soups to stews to casseroles.
Dirt cheap, filling, and packed with nutrients, oatmeal is an almost perfect food for folks without much cash to spare. Oatmeal is an especially good source for fiber, which is necessary for the digestive system to function properly, and can help lower cholesterol. Oats also contain omega-3 fatty acids, potassium, and folate. When buying oatmeal, consumers should avoid flavored varieties, which contain added sugar.
Bananas maintain a low price year round, and are extremely healthy to boot. This natural snack food is notably high in potassium, B vitamins, and fiber, and has smaller quantities of vitamin A and healthy carbohydrates. Bananas are especially helpful to the budget consumer since most fruits are not particularly cheap.
Since they provide lots of protein, beans are as filling and satisfying as they are cheap. Enjoyable on their own, beans are a great way to boost a meal’s nutritional content, since they can be used as an ingredient in many different recipes. Beans are also a valuable source for such nutrients as potassium, an excellent way to consume enough fiber, and often contain antioxidants. Plus, beans can be bought in bulk for greater savings.
Though most nuts are expensive, almonds are a happy exception. Almonds are the ideal snack since they provide a quick burst of energy and are much healthier than most other snack foods. Healthy (monounsaturated) fats, magnesium, vitamin E, and vitamin B are the most significant of the important vitamin and minerals found in almonds. Almonds are a valuable source for protein and fiber as well. Studies have found that almonds contribute to heart health and help lower cholesterol.
Sandwiches, one of the cheapest and most convenient meals there is, are too often created with nutrient-poor white bread. A far better choice is fiber-rich whole-wheat bread, which is just as inexpensive, but much healthier. A grain’s nutritional value is almost entirely contained in its germ and bran, which are generally removed except in products like whole-wheat bread.
Vegetables are crucial to any diet, and spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense veggies there is, making it an excellent choice for those on a budget. Spinach is packed with vitamins and minerals such as folate, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin K, and vitamin E. Though spinach on its own may be unpalatable to some, it can also be used as an ingredient in salads, soups, and many other dishes.
As convenient as a food can be, canned tuna is an economical way to get a significant amount of the protein and calories the body needs every day. Even better, canned tuna is a great source for omega-3 fatty acids, which are necessary for many basic bodily functions and are crucial to brain health. Vitamin B12 (crucial for processing food into energy) and niacin (which helps the skin and digestive system stay healthy) are found in tuna as well.
Although high in fat, milk’s nutritional value to cost ratio simply can’t be ignored. Since it is high in protein, milk will help drinkers feel full and satiated for longer. Milk is a great source for calcium (crucial to bone integrity), vitamin D, and potassium. Also found in milk are such minerals and vitamins as phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin B12. Bottom line: milk provides a fantastic nutritional bang for its buck.
High in protein, peanut butter will provide a big energy boost and stave off hunger for hours — two qualities important to people needing to save on food. Though peanut butter is rich in fat, this fat is mostly healthy, heart-friendly monounsaturated fat. Magnesium, vitamin E, and potassium are also found in peanut butter.
Besides the specific veggies mentioned above, frozen vegetables of almost any type are a great deal for consumers. Surprisingly, frozen vegetables are also generally at least as healthy as the fresh stuff. As soon as they are harvested, frozen vegetables are flash frozen, locking in almost all available nutrients. In contrast, fresh vegetables start losing their nutritional value immediately after being picked. Cheaper and healthier — frozen vegetables are a fantastic buy.
Eggs are so rich in protein they could be described as nature’s answer to protein powder, which means that consuming a hard boiled egg will promote feelings of fullness and provide a big energy boost, making them an excellent value purchase. Plus, B vitamins, vitamin D, iron, and carotenoids are found in eggs.
A classic budget-friendly meal, normal pasta is, however, not especially healthy. A much better choice is the whole-grain variant of pasta, which is still extremely cheap. Whole-grain pasta is more nutritious than regular pasta because it contains three times as much fiber, double the calcium, extra protein, and higher amounts of substances such as selenium, phosphorus, B vitamins, magnesium, manganese, and copper.
As the above list clearly shows, the idea that eating nutritiously and saving money are mutually exclusive is wrong. Neither a limited budget nor a desire to cut expenses is a serious barrier to eating a good diet. The key is simply to prioritize consumption of foods that are both cheap and highly nutritious — such as those listed in this article.