Good news: Shedding pounds doesn’t have to mean shelling out $10 a day for green juice. Instead, take a smart, practical approach to losing weight by prepping meals at home, eating smaller portions and shopping wisely for nutritious, affordable ingredients.
That’s where this list comes in, highlighting items that offer the most nutrition for the money in five key categories: protein, vegetables, fruit, dairy and grains. Get to know these all-stars and stock your kitchen without emptying your bank account.
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Poached for breakfast, hard-boiled for lunch or cooked in a healthy spinach omelet at dinner, eggs are affordable, protein-packed and versatile. The 2015 Dietary Guidelines removed language that limited egg intake because new research has shown the cholesterol in eggs doesn’t necessarily affect blood cholesterol. That means unless you have special dietary concerns, it’s fine to enjoy one egg per day or a couple of three-egg omelets per week.
Packed with fiber, this quick-cooking legume is an affordable pantry staple that pairs well with healthy veggies. Black beans, chickpeas, black-eyed peas or kidney beans are also great choices; you’ll save more if you skip the canned variety and soak and cook them yourself.
CHICKEN AND TURKEY
For a lean protein staple, reach for poultry. Buy whole, bone-in cuts for the best price. Removed the skin and use low-fat cooking methods such as poaching to maximize health benefits. Ground turkey is also a smart, affordable choice. Skip processed deli versions of the meat which are high in salt and additives — and also tend to be more pricey.
With lots of protein and healthy omega-3 fatty acids and a lower price than almonds or pecans, look for walnuts that can be purchased raw and in bulk. Store extra in the freezer to extend their shelf life. Roast them quickly for a delicious snack as-is. Walnuts are also a perfect addition to oatmeal, cereal, salads, stir-fries or even a simple pasta with greens.
DARK GREEN VEGGIES
Broccoli, collards and kale are packed with vitamins and minerals, yet cost less than many other veggies. They’re also hearty enough to last in the fridge unwashed for 3–5 days, meaning it’s less likely they’ll go bad before you can use them. When buying greens, including romaine and spinach, purchase whole heads instead of bagged or packaged clamshell versions to save money.
An amazing nutrition bargain, carrots are packed with antioxidants and phytochemicals. Buy regular carrots in bulk for the best price and go beyond the stick: grate them into salads or try a side dish of steamed coins or sweet, whole-roasted carrots.
With more fiber than white potatoes and a natural sweetness that makes them easy to enjoy without tons of added butter and sour cream, the super-affordable tuber is a great choice for building a healthy diet while saving money. Try them simply mashed, roasted or sliced into healthy baked “fries.”
Bananas are available everywhere, from the corner market to Costco. This fiber-rich, potassium-packed fruit is perfect for breakfast and as an on-the-go snack. If you have trouble with the fruit turning spotty and brown, unpeel and freeze them to use later in homemade banana bread, healthy smoothies or banana “ice cream.”
These fragrant melons cost far less per serving than berries and most other fruit; plus, they last much longer. One melon provides enough that you can eat it at breakfast, toss it into a lunchbox, mix it into a fruit smoothie — and still have half left for the next day. Honeydew or watermelon are also great choices.
Buy large containers of plain, unsweetened yogurt and the cost per serving sinks instantly (avoid higher-priced individual serving-size yogurts). Calcium-rich and packed with probiotics that improve digestive health, plain yogurt is great in smoothies, homemade dips like tzatziki or even as a low-calorie substitute for mayonnaise or sour cream.
Low in fat and high in calcium, cottage cheese might be one of the most old-fashioned diet foods, but it’s ready to be rediscovered. If you’re watching sodium, check for that as content varies by brand. Alongside toast at breakfast, with fruit for a mid-morning snack, as a side dish for a healthy lunch or as a topping for a healthy, low-calorie rye flatbread with a dash of paprika, it’s a winner.
Packed with healthy fiber and important nutrients like B vitamins, oats are affordable and healthy. Buy old-fashioned rolled oats in bulk to get the best bang for your buck. Add a spoonful of chia or hemp seeds for an extra protein boost to your morning oatmeal or whip up healthy oven-baked granola at home.
Hulled, whole-grain barley has the highest fiber content of all grains plus a low glycemic index and also costs less than most other whole grains. With its rich, earthy flavor, what’s not to like? For those eating gluten-free, brown rice is the best alternative.
Source: My Fitness Pal