There’s a misconception that lives in many people’s heads (and, okay, on Instagram) that living a healthy life requires an abundance of time and money. Time because surely being a wellness goddess requires frequent trips to the farmers’ market to buy fresh ingredients and the ability to devote hours to making healthy, home-cooked meals. And money because, well, it’s expensive to buy foods healthy food bloggers often write about, such as almond flour and avocado oil.
Is it easier to live a healthy life if you’re rich in both time and money? Sure, virtually everything is easier. But according to registered dietitian Melissa Rifkin, RD it’s absolutely not necessary. Some of her favorite foods are super cheap (we’re talking less than $3 cheap) and have a long shelf life. Here, she shares her seven favorite cheap healthy foods she loves adding to her cart.
One note before you start shopping for the cheapest healthy foods: If you buy online, some retailers (Amazon, we’re looking at you) may make you buy in bulk. This is one case where it may be cheaper to do your grocery shopping IRL.
The cheapest healthy foods one dietitian loves
1. BARILLA WHOLE WhEAT PASTA, $1.28
One super easy, dietitian-approved meal: A cup of whole wheat pasta (which has fiber, magnesium, iron, and B vitamins) tossed with a cup of cooked frozen veggies. With just two ingredients (and about 60 seconds of actual active cooking work) you’ll master the “50 percent rule” of making half your meal veggie-based.
2. MAHATMA BROWN RICE, $2.59
There’s a reason why rice is a staple food for many countries all over the world: It’s cheap, versatile, and healthy. To get the maximum health benefits, Rifkin recommends going for brown whole grain rice, which is lower on the glycemic index than its white counterpart. (That means it won’t hugely spike your blood sugar levels, which can affect your mood or energy.) It’s also a good source of fiber, protein, iron, and magnesium.
3. WHOLE FOODS 365 FROZEN VEGETABLE MEDLeY, $1.49
“Frozen fruits and vegetables are the perfect staple to keep on hand,” Rifkin says. “You can incorporate them into your daily meal plans and in times of need.” Because they’re flash-frozen at peak ripeness, Rifkin says that sometimes frozen fruits and vegetables are even more nutrient-rich than their fresh counterparts. While a bag of frozen veggies typically won’t last in your freezer a full 12 months, it can stay in there a good eight to 10 before going bad.
4. SUN FARM ORGANIC DRIED NAVY BEANS, $2.95
Beans are a great healthy staple food, especially if you’re living the plant-based life as they are high in vitamin B and iron; many people who don’t each much meat need to be especially conscious of these two nutrients. Rifkin says beans are also high in fiber and protein, too. “And they can last in your pantry for two to three years—it’s mind-blowing!” she says.
5. WHOLE FOODS 365 CRUNCHY PEANUT BUTTER, $2.49
“Peanut butter can last up to two years and is a great healthy staple because it’s high in protein, fiber, healthy fats, and contains biotin, phosphorus, and magnesium,” Rifkin says. Just be mindful of the sugar content as many brands on the lower end of the price scale can be a bit high.
6. SUNKIST CANNED TUNA, .75 each (or $5.96 for 8)
Add a serving of tuna, salmon, or sardines to your salad instantly makes it more nutrient-rich and if you go the canned route, it’s one of the cheapest foods at the grocery store. “Canned fish is chock full of nutrition, a high-protein food which contains all essential amino acids as well as omega-3 fatty acids,” Rifkin says.
7. REGAL GROUND TURMERIC, $1.69
While turmeric is called out here, Rifkin says virtually all dried spices and herbs are a healthy win. Not only do they add more flavor to a dish, they amp up the nutritional content, too. And they can last for a good four years in your pantry, too.
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