Top Ten Healthy Foods For Under a Dollar

Top Ten Healthy Foods For Under a Dollar

Easy on the Dollar Menu! Here are 10 healthy foods that any healthy diet can afford.

The first step to a healthy, fit bod: Removing processed foods from your fridge and future shopping excursions! For those of you who missed my last article, here’s a quick recap: Trans Fat (aka partially hydrogenated oils) are in foods you’d never expect like Jif peanut butter, Saltines, Cocoa Pebbles, Ritz and Ramen noodles (I could kick myself for the number of those I consumed in college) – and they’ll increase your risk of getting heart disease and cancer.

Chances are if you’re a teenager or 20 something, those diseases are so not on your radar – so instead, know that sugar-packed processed foods will do NADA for your energy levels, concentration, speed, strength, or six-pack (yeah… that last one hit home, huh!). Instead they’ll cause your blood sugar to spike…and eventually cause a crash that no energy drink can save you from.

So now we’re on the same page and can agree that crappy foods like chips and Froot Loops need to make moves out of your diet. Right? Right. But you totally wanna tell me to shut it, cause it’s impossible to eat well being a student on a budget, especially when you’re limited to the campus mini-mart or local Piggly Wiggly. Well not anymore suckaas! Now you have this spectacular Top 10 List of inexpensive, super healthy foods that are available pretty much anywhere you might shop!

1. Oatmeal (Refresh on the differences between steel cut, old-fashioned and quick oats)
Try it: For breakfast- made with milk, cinnamon and fresh fruit.
Nutrition per serving: 1/2c uncooked (1 cup cooked) provides 150 calories, 6g protein and 4g fiber.
Cost per serving: ~17 cents per serving. A 42oz can of quick or old fashioned oats costs around $5 and has about 30 servings.
Why it’s good for you: Oatmeal is a great source of fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, has cancer-fighting properties and will keep you full until your next meal. Want another fun fact? It helps to stabilize your blood sugar.

2. Brown Rice
Try it: As a side dish for lunch or dinner to chicken/beans, stir fry, salads…
Nutrition per serving size: 1 cup cooked has 215 calories, 5g protein and 4g fiber.
Cost per serving: ~15 cent. A 2lb bag costs around $3.00, and has 20 servings.
Why it’s good for you: Brown rice is a good source of fiber, which prevents disease and helps lower cholesterol just like in oatmeal. It also provides way more nutrients - including cancer preventative antioxidants - then after it gets processed into white rice.

3. Apples
Try it: As a quick snack, in a salad, with peanut butter or cottage cheese.
Nutrition per serving: 1 large apple has 117 calories and 5 grams fiber.
Cost per serving: ~75 cents. Depending on the type, apples sell for around $2.25 per pound (about 3 pretty decent sized apples).
Why it’s good for you: You know the old saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away! Apples are high in antioxidants that prevent inflammation and heart disease. Plus the skin is a great source of fiber, which slows your digestion and helps to keep you full for longer.

4. Carrots
Try it: For snacks, dipping in hummus or lowfat veggie dip, steaming for a side dish, in soups and salads.
Nutrition per serving: 1/2 cup (2 oz) provides 27 calories, 2 grams of fiber
Cost per serving: 19 cents. A 1lb bag costs about $1 and has 8 servings
Why it’s good for you: Um, because it was Bugs Bunny’s favorite food? But really, carrots provide a great amount of vitamin A – which is great for your vision!

5. Frozen Broccoli (The freezer aisle is great for fruits and veggies you don’t eat very often, but avoid ones with added sauces, condiments, sugar or salt)
Try it: As an addition to any main course, steamed as a side dish, tossed in a stir fry or salad.
Nutrition per serving: 1 cup cooked provides 44 calories and 5g fiber
Cost per serving: ~50 cents. A 1lb bag generally costs around $2.00 and has 5 servings.
Why it’s good for you: Broccoli is full of phytonutrients that protect your body from cancer and heart disease. It also contains calcium which is essential for your bones.

6. Beans (Think kidney beans, black beans, white beans, chickpeas… Possibilities are endless!)
Try it: In salads, side dishes, soups, chili, hummus
Nutrition per serving: ½ cup provides 120 calories, 7 grams protein and 6 grams fiber (for kidney beans)
Cost per serving: ~28 cents. You can buy a 15-ounce can of most beans for about $1.00, and they usually have 3.5 servings.
Why it’s good for you: Beans are a great source of fiber – which by now you know is great for you! Beans are also a good vegetarian source of iron – which brings oxygen to your cells for energy – and is necessary for blood cell production.

7. Skim Milk
Try it: In smoothies, protein shakes, in cereal/oatmeal, or on it’s own as a snack
Nutrition per serving: 1 cup (8 oz) provides 90 calories and 8 grams protein.
Cost per serving: ~40 cents a cup. ½ gallon is usually around $3.20, and has 8 servings.
Why it’s good for you: You know you’ve made it moment? Getting a milk mustache ad. In addition to providing protein, skim milk provides calcium and is usually fortified with vitamin D -- both are essential for keeping your bones healthy.

8. Natural Peanut Butter (Tip: remember to check the ingredients for partially-hydrogenated oils… if your peanut butter says it, put it back!)
Try it: As a snack with an apple/banana/celery, a quick sandwich, or just a spoonful to satisfy that sweet tooth.
Nutrition per serving: 2 tbsp provides 190 calories and 8g protein.
Cost per serving: About 20 cents. A 16oz jar of Natural Peanut butter costs about $3.00, and has 14-15 servings.
Why it’s good for you: While peanut butter is high in fat, it’s mostly the good, heart healthy kind- monounsaturated- which helps decrease cholesterol. It’s also packed with vitamins and minerals – and is a 3 in 1 source of carbohydrates, protein and fat. A little bit goes a long way, and will provide energy and keep you full til your next meal.

9. Eggs (Tip: whenever possible, go for cage free!! They’re barely more expensive and are healthier. Always remember, you are whatever you eat ate!)
Try it: Breakfast, lunch or dinner. Scrambled, over easy, in an omelet with lots of veggies, on sandwiches or salads.
Nutrition per serving: 1 large egg provides 70 calories and 6 grams protein,
Cost per serving: ~ 30 cents each. A dozen cage-free eggs run for about $3.30.
Why it’s good for you: Eggs – both yolks and their whites -- are a great source of protein, and the yolks are a good source of vitamin A which is important for vision.

10. Canned Tuna (canned in water, not oil!)
Try it in: Sandwiches, snacking, salads.
Nutrition per Serving: 2 oz (~1/2 regular sized can) provides 50 calories and 13g protein.
Cost per serving: ~45 cents. A 5oz can of tuna is usually around $1.00 and has 2 servings.
Why it’s good for you: Tuna is straight up protein – plus it’s full of omega 3’s – great for heart health, lowering triglycerides and cholesterol, and for brain function. It’s also a great source of Vitamin B12, which is necessary for brain and cell functioning.

See babes, you don’t need to buy exotic foods OR spend a lot of money to eat well! Everything on that healthy foods list is far less than a dollar a serving- we’re talking cents here. Even the Mickey D’s dollar menu is more expensive…. And we both know that Ronald McDonald’s got nothin’ on any of those foods when it comes to your health, diet, and energy levels!

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About the Author

Carolyn is a Nutritionist/Registered Dietitian and has her masters in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. She went to Tulane in New Orleans for undergrad, spent 3 months traveling around the world on Semester at Sea and then swung through Boulder, CO before landing in her current home of NYC. Carolyn has a blog called One Smart Brownie (www.onesmartbrownie.com) to simplify healthy eating for those who don’t spend their lives studying nutrition. Her favorite hobbies include getting new stamps on her passport and telling yo mama jokes, and she says that if she were to have a crush on a food it would be chocolate biscotti, no questions asked.