9 Foods To Help You Eat Healthy On A Budget
“Why does a salad cost $7 when the bargain burger costs $1.25? Is it any wonder I can’t afford to eat right?” It’s true — many overly-processed yet not-so-good-for-you foods ring in low at the register. However, eating healthfully shouldn’t be the sole province of the 1%.
Consider it part of your radical act of self-care rebellion to give your body the nutrients you need to thrive despite your wallet. Here are nine foods for eating healthy on a budget.
Vegans love beans as a cruelty-free protein source, but that macronutrient isn’t the only benefit these foods convey. For those of us whose food budget runs into the negative numbers after paying for other necessities like rent and insurance, they offer a shelf staple that will last in your pantry nearly indefinitely. Dry versions have a shelf-life of more than a year and the canned ones still provide some value, if not as much nutrition.
Beans are also remarkably versatile — don’t worry if you don’t like the texture of the lima or navy types. Black beans make a divine alternative for hamburger meat in recipes or on a roll. The right seasonings and tomato sauce transform the paste into a hearty and cruelty-free filling for lasagna. Add spicy peppers and a few whole kidney versions to make chili.
According to the World Health Organization, approximately 280 million people worldwide have depression. The WHO doesn’t specify how many of these individuals might recover with the right nutrition. The foods you eat affect your chemistry, including your neurotransmitter production. In one study, people with a deficiency did better with supplemental magnesium than with a tricyclic antidepressant.
Nuts are one of the richest sources of this vital nutrient and they last on your pantry shelf without going bad just about forever. For example, shelled pecans retain their freshness for six months, while unshelled ones last a year. And if you find a stale can of peanuts in the back of your pantry, you won’t get sick from eating the contents — although they might not taste as fresh or offer as much nutrition if they’ve sat a while.
Seeds are another boon for magnesium and zinc, two crucial minerals for your nervous system. Additionally, they’re rich in lignans. According to Ayurvedic medicine, cycling with certain seeds can balance the female hormonal system, thanks to these potent little phytochemicals.
Seeds last forever like beans and nuts. They’re also remarkably versatile, adding a salty-flavored protein punch to many foods without excess sodium. Sprinkle them on a salad or add a few as a garnish to multiple dishes for crunch. You can also snack on them right out of the bag.
4. Alternative Flours
Do you know why many convenience foods come coated in white flour? It’s tasty and filling. It’s also a nutritional nightmare that may lurk behind the soaring rates of Type 2 diabetes.
The problem is alloxan, a chemical byproduct created during the manufacturing process. Scientists also use this substance to destroy the insulin-producing pancreas cells of laboratory animals, inducing diabetes. It produces double the trouble when combined with the quick-absorbing glucose in the flour.
The answer? Look for alternatives and make your favorite recipes at home. Does it take longer? Yes. Will it save you money, help you control your weight and health and provide better nutrition? Also, yes.
You can make anything from “fried” chicken to muffins and cupcakes with almond, quinoa and even cricket flour. You might pay a few cents more for a bag of garbanzo bean flour than all-purpose, but your pancreas and waistline will thank you — and home-cooked freezer meals last considerably longer and fill you up more than the bargain TV convenience packs.
If you eat meat, tuna is a bonanza. You can pick up a can for less than $2. Better yet, the cheaper stuff is usually best if you avoid mercury. Plain light tuna in water comes from slapjack, a smaller fish, whereas albacore comes from bigger beasts with higher concentrations of this toxic mineral.
A container of tuna salad lasts for approximately four days. All you need for the mix is a bit of celery, relish, salt, and pepper.
5. Plant-Based Milk
If you investigate the cost of plant-based milk versus dairy, you’re in for a pleasant surprise. Many varieties of almond and coconut milk cost about the same.
What’s the difference for the nothing but moths-in-the-money-clip crowd? These products don’t need refrigeration, at least before you open them. You’ll find them on your store shelves, often conveniently located right above the cereal.
Vinegar packs a ton of health benefits and never goes bad. Indeed, you can use it to preserve many foods by pickling them. The only other ingredients you need are water and salt, and you can use other veggies besides cucumber — keep this staple on hand for saving those tomatoes getting ready to go mushy.
7. Dried Fruits
Few things depress a broke person more than buying a bunch of blueberries only to have them rot before they can fill pancakes. Spare yourself the heartache by buying dried. You can sprinkle them in salads or even bake them in muffins, and they’ll last for months on top of your fridge or in your pantry.
8. Dried Herbs and Spices
Fresh herbs wilt quickly — unless you put them in water. Then, they’ll sprout if you’re lucky. Hello, windowsill garden.
However, the dried variety lasts even longer if you don’t have patience for pruning. Your best bet? The ethnic food aisle, where you can find quality versions at a fraction of the price.
Honey is rich in antioxidants and antimicrobials. You can use this stuff to help heal wounds or sweeten your tea — it does double-duty. Keep it in your pantry as an all-purpose, healthier alternative to sugar.
Foods for Eating Healthy on a Budget
Many people mistakenly believe it’s impossible to eat healthy on a budget. Please, buck the trend and make doing so part of your self-care.
The foods above can help you get the nutrition you need despite your financial situation. Heed these tips for eating healthy on a budget!
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