With the current pandemic forcing lengthy shutdowns of public gyms, many have been forced to challenge their preconceptions about fitness. Home workouts, although they certainly have potential, are difficult to maintain and innovate over time. Quarantine doesn’t have to take a toll on fitness, as it’s an opportunity to refocus on nutrition and healthy eating. Nutrition forms the foundations of both physical and mental health, and strengthening this basis will improve the way you look, feel, and perform.
Quality nutrition can unfortunately be a major challenge for many people operating on a budget. Whether you’re a college student living in an apartment for the first time or someone who’s simply trying to save money, it’s often difficult to buy the ingredients you want at a price you can easily afford. Here are ten healthy budget foods to keep in mind to help you optimize nutrition while staying under budget.
- Spring Mix: Boxes of fresh, washed spring mix are readily available at most grocery stores. These boxes are a great way to introduce affordable vegetables into your diet without any cooking required. Grabbing a handful of these greens for your lunch and dinner plate is easy, inexpensive, and a great source of fiber, iron, and vitamins.
- Sweet Potato: Sweet potatoes, although slightly more expensive than your typical russet potato, remain an excellent choice at an affordable price from retailers such as Walmart, Costco, and Kroger (around $1 per pound). Sweet potatoes are a delicious and excellent source of carbs and a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. With under 200 calories per cup of sweet potatoes, they’re a smart addition to any meal regardless of nutritional needs. As an added bonus, studies have shown and continue to show the potential benefits of sweet potato in disease prevention.
- Frozen Edamame: Frozen edamame can be found under $2 per bag at most grocery stores and is an excellent source of plant-based protein and all amino acids. Edamame is easily prepared by boiling, steaming, microwaving, or simply thawing and eating as a snack. In addition, studies have suggested edamame may also aid in lowering cholesterol levels.
- Kashi Cereal: Many people love to start their day with a bowl of cereal, but many of the most popular brands are high in sugar and offer very little nutritional value. Kashi provides a much better alternative for a slightly higher price. With over 10 grams of protein per serving, Kashi cereals are a great way to sustain yourself throughout the day. With nutritional values clearly displayed on each box, it’s incredibly easy to choose the best Kashi cereal for your diet.
- Ground Turkey: Ground turkey easily replaces ground beef in most recipes. Turkey is leaner than ground beef, although it does tend to have a higher calorie content. It can also be found at a considerably lower price than ground beef at under $4 per pound (Walmart). With similar levels of protein between the two meats, they are easily interchangeable. However, for those looking for healthy budget foods with lower fat content, ground turkey is the better option.
- Nonfat Greek Yogurt: Health experts continue to recommend yogurt because of its plethora of well-documented health benefits. Greek yogurt provides an added boost by lowering the carb and sugar content and increasing the protein content. This makes it great for workout recovery among other benefits. Greek yogurt can also easily be incorporated into smoothies and even used as a substitute for sour cream. With a 32 oz tin selling for $4 (Kroger), nonfat greek yogurt is a healthy, cheap option for any diet.
- Frozen Fruits and Vegetables: Contrary to popular belief, freezing fresh fruits and vegetables does not cause a dramatic decrease in nutritional value. In fact, studies have shown that frozen fruits and veggies may actually contain higher amounts of essential vitamins. Readily available at a cheaper price than their fresh counterparts, these are a great healthy budget food.
- Oatmeal: Oatmeal is an incredibly cheap and versatile option for most diets. Two servings of oatmeal (1 cup) includes 300 calories, 10 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat. Oatmeal is an excellent source of both carbs and fiber and will keep you full longer than most foods. Oats may even lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels according to studies. Kroger brand one minute oats can be found very cheap and are incredibly easy to cook in a microwave, stove, or even in a fridge overnight.
- Chicken Breast: Chicken breast is one of the cheapest proteins you can find (commonly under $2 a pound) and is packed with lean protein and few calories. Extremely easy to cook, chicken breast is fantastic for muscle growth and recovery. Studies have also shown the importance of pairing protein with your calcium intake to promote bone strength. Eating chicken breast skin-on will add calories and fat, but chicken breast is a great option regardless.
- Wild Caught Salmon: Salmon is packed with protein and omega-3 fatty acids whose health benefits have been researched extensively. With three ounces of salmon loaded with 17 grams of protein for only 121 calories, it’s easy to center a meal around this protein. Among the most impressive of the omega-3 benefits, the fatty acid has been shown to greatly aid cardiovascular health. Similar to fruits and vegetables, frozen fish does not detract from its nutritional value and is often found at a cheaper price comparatively.