Eating healthy doesn’t have to mean stocking your pantry with hoards of pricey goods. Spirulina and hemp seeds are great, but you don’t really need them to create healthy meals. In reality, grocery shopping shouldn’t break the bank at all because nutritious options that do your body good can simply mean taking advantage of all the cheap produce finds that are $1 or less.
According to Brittany Modell, RD, founder of Brittany Modell Nutrition and Wellness, one of the biggest misconceptions about healthy eating is that it’s expensive. In reality, all you need to do is shop smart and build your meals around the affordable produce that’s available at almost every grocery store. Most of what you’ll find costs cents, not dollars, whether you’re getting a sweet potato for dinner or a banana for an afternoon snack.
“When shopping for fresh produce on a budget, look for sales that are going on in the store, don’t buy the convenient pre-cut veggies (the whole vegetables and fruits are always less expensive!), buy produce that’s in season, and check out your local farmers’ market,” she says. “There are also several different companies that sell ‘imperfect’ fruits and vegetables at a discounted price. For example, Misfits Markets sells fruits and vegetables up to 40 percent less than normal grocery stores.”
There’s a reason why celery is so popular. Not only is it inexpensive with a bunch right around $1, depending on where you buy it, but it’s also really good for you. “It contains vitamin K, vitamin A, potassium, and folate, and it’s very hydrating due to its high water content,” says Monica Auslander Moreno, RD, nutrition consultant for RSP Nutrition. “It’s also easy to chop up and eat with olive oil as a salad, is great eaten raw with nutrient-dense dips, and can be boiled into a soup.”
You can’t beat a fruit that’s affordable and comes in its own packaging. “This inexpensive fruit is incredibly tasty, versatile and packed with a ton of nutrition. Bananas are a great source of potassium and complex carbohydrate. They’re also the perfect pre-workout snack, as they digest rather quickly,” says Modell. “Consider slicing a banana and topping a whole grain waffle with peanut butter. I also love adding bananas to smoothies, or slicing them up to put into oatmeal or whole grain cereal. You can also add some peanut butter for a pre- or post-workout snack.”
Like bananas, oranges are also a great snack to bring on the road. “They have a long shelf life, are heat-resistant, and are easy to grab, making them great for travel,” Moreno says. “They’re also loaded with potassium, vitamin C, and nobiletin—a compound that’s been associated with reduced obesity.”
Whenever Modell is in the kitchen, you better believe she’s reaching for an onion. “They make their way into almost every dish I cook. They’re chock-full of flavor as well as nutrition,” she says. “Onions are good sources of vitamin B6, potassium, and folate. They’re part of the allium family and are considered ‘medicinal foods,’ as allium vegetables contain phytochemicals that may improve immune health and reduce inflammation. Incorporating them into your everyday cooking routine provides flavor as well as health properties.”
You can never go wrong with buying some carrots. Moreno says aside from containing vitamin A, fiber, and vision-supporting lutein, they can be used in so many different ways. “They’re easy to eat raw and pair with nutrient-dense dips like hummus and guacamole, and you can blend them and make them into soups.” You can even microwave them for a simple steamed side.
Like onions, garlic is also a $1 winner that always belongs in your kitchen. “Similar to onions, garlic is really nutrient-dense. It’s rich in vitamin C, vitamin B6, thiamin, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, and magnesium. They’re also part of the allium family and may improve immune health and reduce inflammation,” says Modell. “They add a lot of flavor to dishes. You can crush garlic and add it into all types of dishes, from pastas to fish.”
Sweet potatoes are also super versatile. “They can be prepared in several different ways, such as boiled, baked, roasted, or steamed, and they’re just as delicious as they are nutritious,” says Modell. “They’re rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, fiber, and vitamin A. Moreno loves stuffing them with proteins and veggies for a healthy and filling main course.
The best thing about apples is that there are so many different types to choose from. And that all of them offer great nutritional benefits. “They’re high in fiber and nutrients, such as vitamin C and potassium. Apples also make for the perfect add-on for meals or snacks,” say Modell. “Whether baked, sautéed, or eaten raw, apples are the perfect sweet treat. You can slice them up to add to oatmeal, or pair them with a nut butter for a filling and nourishing afternoon snack.”
Use your celery to make this crunchy anti-inflammatory salad recipe:
Here’s your guide to perfectly-roasted vegetables, straight from a top chef. Then find out which veggies to buy canned instead of fresh for easy weeknight cooking.
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