Three statements or questions I hear constantly. My standard response: “boloney.” No, don’t go buy a package of bologna, that shit is terrible. But the “healthy eating is expensive” myth has got to go.
I get it, there are tons of “healthy food products” that are pricey – cashew butter, fancy gluten free crackers, avocado oil, coconut milk yogurt, organic frozen dinners, freeze dried fruit, $6 boxes of cereal. But you don’t need to buy any of these products to be healthy. You don’t even need to shop in the natural foods section at the grocery store. You just need to buy real, simple foods that are high in protein, fiber and/or healthy fat. I have multiple staples on my grocery list every month that cost pennies per serving. No health food stores required. Here we go –
1. Canned Tuna – 1 small can has 30 grams of protein. This is the perfect amount to stay full all afternoon. Mix with a little mayo, Greek yogurt and dijon. Bonus if you add celery.
2. Bananas – totally essential for smoothies, like my Breakfast Smoothie. Keep a bag of peeled bananas in the freezer + a bunch on the counter for quick banana-peanut butter snacks.
3. Natural Peanut Butter – I mean. Duh. Natural peanut is barely more expensive than fake peanut butter these days [you know the only way to make peanut butter that smooth is to add a chemical shit storm] and it’s so worth it. I use natural peanut butter as a healthy fat at least once a day. If I’m a little hungry before bed, I eat a big scoop to keep my blood sugar steady throughout the night.
4. Chicken Thighs – Gah! These are my favorite. There is nothing wrong with a boneless, skinless chicken breast, but these are literally half the price, twice the flavor and only contain marginally more saturated fat. Plus, chicken thighs contain far more iron than breasts. These work great in the slow cooker, pan fried and roasted. Swap out the chicken breasts in my Slow Cooker Buffalo Chicken for some thighs – I did it just last week!
5. Kale – A nutrient powerhouse and one of the most versatile greens in the kitchen. Make my Fall Kale Salad, stir into soups or throw a handful in your next smoothie. Kale has a couple grams of fiber per handful so it’s the perfect addition to anything that needs a fiber boost.
6. Greek Yogurt – Try to choose full fat or 2% here, but if you can’t, no worries. A cup of Greek yogurt should have a minimum of 15 grams of protein [Fage has 23!], so be sure to check the label. Use to make parfaits, sub for sour cream or use as a dip for a huge protein boost, and always buy plain. Flavored varieties, even organic ones, are super sugary.
7. Avocado – I know what you’re thinking – avocados are SO expensive. They usually range between $1-2.50 each. I’m including them because, really, how often do you eat a full avocado?* I generally eat 1/4 – 1/2 in one sitting, depending on how many other fats I’m getting in that meal. So per serving, they’re really economical. And while we all know avocados as a healthy fat, they’re also FULL of fiber [8 grams!]. I like to call these “insulin killers” because insulin jokes are funny to me.
8. Eggs – The complete protein. If you can tolerate eggs, you should be eating them every day. Full of protein, healthy fats, antioxidants, choline and B vitamins. Hard boil a batch every weekend and add to salads throughout the week or mix with a little avocado and salt for a perfect quick lunch. If you can get these farm fresh, DO IT. They taste 100xs better and contain so many more nutrients. Also, please don’t purchase the eggs that have been altered to have higher amounts of omega 3s. This is a marketing ploy and it’s just weird and wrong. When not in their natural form, omega 3s are not beneficial to health and if anything, they can have a negative impact.
9. Pears – Especially when they’re in season [now!]. They’re delicious and one of the most high fiber fruits you can eat. 5 grams per pear!
10. Sweet Potatoes – Potatoes are so inexpensive. Sweet potatoes can an extra punch of nutrients that come from their orange coloring. More color = more antioxidants, almost always. They also contain more fiber regular potatoes, so despite the fact that they are full of carbs, you’ll get a slower uptake of sugar into the blood and a slower insulin response. Always eat any kind of potato with a little fat like grass-fed butter or coconut oil to slow the absorption of carbs even further. If all this blood sugar and insulin talk doesn’t make sense, check out this post.
BONUS: Cuz I couldn’t help myself. Organic Half & Half or Heavy Cream – Yup, the grand finale. I said it. Go organic or at least hormone free – it won’t cost you much more and the avoidance of hormones is totally worth it. Add a touch of cream in pasta sauces and soups to add healthy fat [dairy fat is super healthy if it’s organic] and creamy deliciousness. I also want these on your grocery list if you drink coffee because it’s my life mission to destroy all artificial coffee creamers. I’m not saying drink heavy cream from the carton, but a touch here and there is both healthy and satisfying. Plus, if you read this post, you know that calories are stupid.
*I’m full of it because I totally eat a whole avocado [at least] when I make guacamole.
What am I missing?! What are your favorite healthy budget buys?