There is a perception that eating healthy is an expensive proposition. While certain healthy food options do cost more than processed varieties, and other barriers exist in accessing healthy foods, such as food deserts and limited selection in certain groceries, the reality is that eating healthy is cheaper and easier than most people think.
On this theme, we have composed what we consider to be the top 10 entries for “bargain foods.” Bargain foods are defined by three parameters: health value, cost, and accessibility. Foods that are rated highly in all three categories are considered bargain foods. Below is the list of what we feel are the best bargains, as organized by the cost per volume of each food.
1) Eggs: 8 cents per egg
Unlike other high protein options, eggs are low in calories and an excellent source of omega 3. Not long ago, eggs were thought to elevate cholesterol levels, but luckily for eggs, the true culprit is saturated fats, not cholesterol itself.
2) Oatmeal: 10 cents per 1/2 cup
This breakfast option goes far and is flexible, and can be used for much more than a bowl of oatmeal. Throw this in a blender to make oat flour, include it in cookies instead of white flour, prepare an overnight oatmeal bake for the family, or add to a smoothie for a healthy way to consume your complex carbs for the day.
3) Beans & Lentils- Dried: 15 cents per serving and 34 cents per canned serving
A “superfood” is high in nutrients our bodies need but low in calories. Beans and lentils are superfoods because they fill us with nutrients, without the intake of unwanted calories. Bonus: They contain high amounts of fiber and protein to keep us feeling full.
4) Whole Grain Pasta: 16 cents per 1/2 cup cooked
With the Keto craze going strong, pasta gets a bad rap. Whole-grain pasta with ≥3 of fiber is a filling and healthy option in moderation. Where fiber goes, nutrients follow. Look for fiber in the grains you consume to ensure you are purchasing a healthy option.
5) Bananas: 19 cents per banana
Bananas are the highest-calorie fruit, but don’t let that deter you from consuming one. Each calorie is helping your body by filling it with electrolytes and complex carbs to keep your energy up throughout the day. It’s also one of the most portable fruits with its own built-in wrapper!
6) Whole Wheat Bread: 19 cents per 2 slices
Bread can vary greatly, and just because it’s high-calorie doesn’t mean it’s unhealthy. Choosing whole wheat or whole grain bread is considered the healthiest option, but there’s no need to give up white bread. They now make healthy albino wheat bread. Just look for the label, “white whole wheat bread.”
7) Sweet Potatoes: 29 cents per potato
Potatoes themselves are not considered to be one of the healthiest vegetables, but their sister food, sweet potatoes, are filled with nutrients and lower in calories. And there are all sorts of healthy ways to make sweet potatoes a great treat.
8) Carrots: 32 cents per 1/2 cup.
Carrots are one of the most versatile vegetables. Add them in a salad, toss in a stir-fry, eat them alone for a snack, or roast them as a dinner side. We love to snack, and carrots help satisfy this urge by giving us a healthy snacking option that is readily available.
9) Chicken: $1.26 per chicken breast
Chicken is considered a lean meat. This means it packs protein but is low in calories and saturated fats. Since it’s best to limit red meat to 1-2 times a week, it’s great to have a cost-efficient and healthy meat option. Chicken is one such option.
10) Nuts: These vary in how much of a bargain they are. Sunflower Seeds and peanuts are at the lowest end, and pistachios and cashews being at the highest end. These prices range from 22 cents per serving to $1.70 per serving.
Although nuts are marketed differently, they are all healthy for us! The two things to look out for with nuts are what is being added to them (seasoning, etc.) and the amount consumed. The more additives there are, the less healthy they become. Also, nuts fill us up and provide us with healthy fats, but they are high in calories, so moderation is essential when consuming.
As a final note, many people have the mindset that eating healthy is boring or unappealing, but as briefly noted above, this does not have to be the case. The reality is that healthy foods can be both fun, versatile, and tasty, but it takes a little time to invest in different recipes, methods of preparation, and other creative options if people are used to eating processed foods most of the time. Most of us have busy lives, but we still find the time to access or screens or engage in other means of entertainment. If we would just shift a little of this time to expanding our knowledge and preparation of foods, we would all benefit in many ways, including our psychological and physical health, and might just enjoy it more than we think along the way.
Theresa Scheller is a nutritionist and owner of Real You Wellness, www.realyouwellness.com. James Schroeder is a husband and father of eight children and a pediatric psychologist. He is the author of four books and numerous articles, which can be found on Amazon or his website, www.james-schroeder.com. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.