When it comes to eating healthy food, most of the pros are now advising to eat clean, which, in short, means to bring food back to the basics. By eliminating convenience foods, such as processed or premade food items, the health factor tends to increase and a common perception is the price does too.
Dietitians also recommend eating a variety of foods. A plate containing clean, nutrient-dense foods from various food groups and of multiple colors, is key when it comes to improving health. Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy foods does not require you to spend hundreds of dollars at boutique supermarkets. There are plenty of healthy, budget-friendly foods across each of the major food groups.
Carbohydrates and starches tend to get a bad reputation when it comes to healthy eating and dieting. While certain carbohydrates are better choices than others, some of the best choices are easiest on the wallet. Brown rice is one of the top whole grain choices, costing approximately 18 cents per serving. Its high fiber content has been proven to stabilize blood sugar levels.
Quinoa, which costs about 66 cents per serving, is another budget-friendly and health-conscious choice as far as whole grains go. Like brown rice, it is high in fiber. It is also gluten- and wheat-free, making it easily digestible - a big bonus for those with gastrointestinal illness or sensitivity.
While meat is one of the most widely obtained sources of protein, it is not the sole option. Eggs tend to wind up with a bad reputation because of the fat and cholesterol content in the yolks. However, many nutritionists argue that this fat is a good fat and is necessary for optimal health. Eggs, while dense in nutrients and packed with protein, are also light on the wallet, costing about 22 cents each.
Another budget-friendly protein option is chicken. Boneless, skinless chicken breasts cost approximately 83 cents per serving. While most dietitians recommend purchasing organic chicken to minimize ingestion of antibiotics, it does raise the price to around $1 per serving.
People try different ways to consume the recommended servings of vegetables every day. Spinach contains extensive amounts of vitamins K and A, as well as B vitamins. It increases energy and improves the condition of the blood. All of those benefits come at around only 85 cents per serving.
Vegetables don't always have to be green. Sweet potatoes have been touted as one of the healthiest foods in existence. They are a good source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene, as well as vitamin C, fiber and potassium, and they only cost about 50 cents each.
Fruit tends to be one of the food groups that gets pushed to the side. While it isn't a main source of sustenance of a meal, fruit is easy to incorporate into other foods or have alone as a snack. Bananas, costing approximately 20 cents each, are some of the most versatile fruits. You can eat them on their own, you can freeze them, you can blend them into smoothies or you can mix them into other things, such as yogurt or oatmeal. Bananas are a great source of potassium and can provide some natural energy.
Oranges, costing around 36 cents each, are also a great fruit option. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in oranges help to calm inflammation and strengthen immunity.
Dietitians recommend avoiding sugars, sugar substitutes and syrups that tend to be in flavored yogurt. Plain yogurt, costing around 59 cents per serving, is a better buy. Take it up a notch and choose plain Greek yogurt – it's a bit more expensive, but it packs a ton of protein. The probiotic content in yogurt is high, and it aids in digestion and gastrointestinal health.
Cottage cheese is also a good source of protein, as well as vitamins A and D. It typically costs around 50 cents per serving, and, as with yogurt, it is less expensive when purchased in bulk containers rather than individual portion-sized cups.