Eating healthy shouldn’t be exclusive, and it shouldn’t be reserved for people who can afford to drop $30 on a pound of imported wild salmon. If you know where to look and are game to get creative with your recipes, you can stock up on healthy foods without breaking the bank. Here’s some suggestions.
If you’re a big fan of ordering refried beans at restaurants, you’ll be glad to hear that they’re a snap to make at home: Just mash up pinto beans with garlic and spices on the stove. Packed with protein and fiber, pinto beans are a delicious and health-minded addition to any homemade burrito, soup, or salad. These unassuming beans pack a ton of fiber, as well as calcium, potassium, and folic acid. Pro tip: Buy dry beans for an even better health deal. Boiling them at home may preserve more of their cancer-fighting antioxidants. All beans are economical, kidney, black beans etc…Cook up some black bean soup or make a healthy black-bean taco. Roast chick peas (garbanzo beans) with olive oil and your favorite spices (think: cumin, paprika, or curry powder) to use as a crouton replacement or blend into DIY hummus. The key to getting them really crispy is 3 things: 1. dry them really, really well on a tea towel after rinsing, spread them out on the baking sheet (single layer, 1 tin at a time), 3. roast them long enough ie. 45-50 min at 375 degrees, turning them halfway.
Eggs – When in need of some protein, eggs are a quick fix. Scramble with veggies, add to a crepe, or make a frittata.
Nuts – People think that nuts are expensive. They’re not, if you eat a serving size (not a pound) at a time! As they are very calorie dense and higher in fat (good fat), a serving size is ¼ cup. Grab a small handful of almonds during the day as a healthy snack or add to a bowl of cereal or oatmeal for an extra-filling kick of protein. My favorite is to top a salad with 1 or 2 tbsp of walnuts. Nuts are rich in monounsaturated fat and fiber too, these super nuts could reduce the risk of diabetes and aid in weight loss.
Lentils – These mild legumes add richness to curries and soups, plus act as a great meat replacement for Bolognese sauce or burgers. Bonus points: Lentils have more protein per pound than beef and are rich with antioxidants, so it might be worth it to trade in that cheeseburger once in a while.
Tofu – High in protein and low in fat, tofu is a delicious staple for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Plus soy in moderation may help reduce cholesterol and the risk of breast cancer. Pan-fry tofu with veggies in your next stir-fry, scramble extra-firm tofu like eggs, and try the silken variety in a fruit smoothie.
Pumpkin Seeds – Pumpkin seeds (also known as pepitas) go well in a salad or can be roasted with spices for a crunchy snack. Like nuts, they’re calorie dense, so follow the same ¼ cup serving. Seeing as they’re filled with essential vitamins and minerals, along with protein and iron, you really can’t go wrong.
Oats – Oats are high in fiber, low in fat, and may even help lower cholesterol. You probably already know about oatmeal, but don’t be afraid to mix things up with an overnight oats recipes instead.
Canned Salmon – a salmon fillet is a splurge, however, grab the canned version for some protein power—without having to dish out big bucks. To enjoy this omega-3-packed (which play a crucial role in brain health) seafood, try whipping up an easy batch of homemade salmon burgers.
Canned Tuna – Not only is tuna cheap, but it’s an other easy way to get omega-3’s. Try mixing with hummus or Greek yogurt for a healthier tuna salad.
Whey Protein – Need an extra dose of protein? Add whey protein to a smoothie or bowl of oatmeal, or sneak it into your next batch of brownies.
Yogurt – Pick up a breakfast treat that’s filled with protein and calcium. Just beware of flavors loaded with extra sugar. Greek yogurt is also awesome—and full of protein and probiotics—but it can be more expensive, not if you get plain and the private label brand though. Skip the parfait kinds.
Cottage Cheese – This soft, curd-style mild cheese is surprisingly high in protein (higher in sodium though so read your labels and follow portion sizes ie. ½ cup), and tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes. It’s now also available in smooth variety (Gaylea Nordica). Like yogurt, cottage cheese typically comes in full-fat, low-fat, and fat-free varieties, and don’t be afraid to choose a 1% or 2% kind – fat is not the enemy (sugar is). Try it topped with sliced pineapple and berries or make it savory in a creamy pasta sauce.
Milk – Add a splash of milk or milk alternative (almond is my fave) to a fruit smoothie or enjoy it as a classic: over a bowl of cereal.
Brown Rice – Use instead of white rice in any recipe (just note that cooking times differ) for a more exciting flavor and texture. Plus this whole-grain version of rice is full of fiber and may cut the risk of diabetes.
Whole-Wheat Pasta – Enjoy whole-wheat pasta’s nutty flavor paired with sautéed veggies and a fresh tomato sauce. Not only is the whole-wheat version of pasta more complex in taste, it’s packed with fiber, antioxidants, and protein, and it may even help lower the risk of heart disease.
Popcorn – Popcorn is a low-calorie snack that’s also a good source of fiber. Pop kernels on the stove or in a paper bag in the microwave, and then top with your fave spices, like taco seasoning or cinnamon and coconut sugar.
Quinoa – Add cooked quinoa to sweet granola bowls and veg-filled salads or serve as a side instead of pasta. Bursting with protein and fiber, quinoa also contains all nine essential amino acids (that the body can’t produce on its own).
Grapes – Add sliced grapes to salads instead of sugar-filled dried fruit or freeze them for a refreshing summer snack. It’ll be well worth it: These tiny fruits are high in antioxidants that may help reduce cholesterol.
Watermelon–This superfood is guaranteed to be packed with vitamin C, a cancer-fighting antioxidant that helps strengthen immunity and promote bone health. Slice and enjoy, mix with lime juice, lots of mint, a dash of cayenne and a ½ cup feta as a refreshing spin on salad or whip up a batch of simple watermelon popsicles.
Bananas – Filled with fiber and potassium, these 100-calorie snacks may even help with a hangover. Enjoy sliced with your favorite nut butter or blend frozen bananas into creamy single-ingredient ice cream. As they are very high in sugar, ½ banana is a serving size.
Kiwi –Did you know kiwis are actually berries? Start snacking, because they’re packed with vitamin C and fiber. Add a kiwi to your next fruit salad or granola bowl, or enjoy straight up with a spoon. You can even eat the skin (which is full of fiber), just be sure to wash it well. What do I use to wash all my fruits and veggies, a spray made of nothing better than good ‘ol vinegar and water! Again, economical, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal!
Cantaloupe –Cantaloupe makes a perfect spring or summer treat. The antioxidant-packed fruit pairs well with yogurt or can be frozen as a DIY popsicle.
Apples –An apple a day, right? Studies have shown that eating apples may be linked to a decreased risk of cancer, diabetes, and even asthma. Eat them plain, smear with a nut butter, or pair with a few cubes of cheese for a protein-and-carb rich snack—perfect post workout.
Pears – White fruits, like white pears, may help prevent strokes. But that doesn’t mean you should only stick to one type. Keep your diet diverse and try the Bartlett, Bosc, and Anjou varieties.
Oranges –Oranges might get talked about for their vitamin C content, but they’re also strong in fiber, folate, and potassium. If you’d rather go with the juice, skip the carton and squeeze your own to make sure you’re not downing any unnecessary sugar.
Garlic – Add minced garlic to any pan of sautéed vegetables or roast whole in the oven for a sweeter flavor, and then blend into salad dressings and dips. In addition to its vitamins and minerals, garlic may help enhance memory (at least in rats) and reduce the chance of heart attack.
Canned Pumpkin –Pumpkin’s orange color comes from carotenoids, a plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties. Add canned pumpkin (not the canned pumpkin pie filling) to sweet or savory recipes—smoothies, muffins, chillis, veggie burgers, curries, and more!
Canned Tomatoes – Tomatoes retain exceptional amounts of the antioxidant lycopene even after cooking and canning. Canned tomatoes are perfect for homemade sauces and stews, but be on the lookout for cans with no added sodium or sugar (and that are preferably BPA-free).
Onions – Use along with garlic as an aromatic base for stir-fries, stews, and sauces; or sauté until golden and sweet, then add to salads, pastas, or sandwiches. Not only will your food be more flavorful, but you’ll also be doing your body a favor—onions pack a surprisingly nutritious punch, including a hefty dose of antioxidants.
Carrots –Raw carrot sticks are perfect for dipping into hummus or nut butters (don’t knock it ’til you try it!) and taste great roasted with other root veggies and a drizzle of olive oil. That nutritious crunch comes with tons of vitamin A.
Winter Squash – Squash is a versatile veggie filled with vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Roast a squash and fill with whole grains, like brown rice or quinoa and veggies. Top with Greek yogurt or part-skim ricotta for a hearty vegetarian dinner—no bowls needed.
Kale – Kale is the antioxidant king among fruits and veggies and contains vitamins A, C, and K; fiber; calcium; iron; and potassium. Bonus: kale chips. Need I say more?
Beets – These magenta gems are filled with betalains, an antioxidant that may help prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases. They are also packed with folate, fiber, and vitamins galore—making them one of the best health bargains around. Roast with olive oil for salads or as a side dish, or add to a smoothie.
Broccoli – Broccoli has remarkably high levels of folate and vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease. This veggie tastes amazing blended in soup, stuffed in potatoes, tossed in frittatas, or simply cooked with a bit of garlic and olive oil.
Spinach – Replace lettuce with spinach in salads for added benefits or add a few handfuls into your morning smoothie. These unassuming greens are nutrient-dense with vitamins A, K, and calcium.
Sweet Potatoes – Try this healthy alternative in place of a bread slice the next time you’re whipping up an avocado-on-toast recipe. Sweet potatoes have high levels of vitamin A and calcium, plus they’re lower in carbohydrates than their white counterparts (just in case you’re counting). Studies also show the root veggie has anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, and anti-diabetic activities.
Edamame – Skip the chips and enjoy edamame steamed with a touch of sea salt or Himalayan (unprocessed, therefore full of minerals). These bite-size legumes are filled with fiber and protein, which make for a great afternoon snack.
Coffee – Not only is it good for you (1 – 2 cups a day), but brewing coffee at home can save some serious cash. This morning pick-me-up also contains antioxidants that help protect your heart.
Tea – There are plenty of health benefits linked to tea, ranging from lowering risks of depression and strokes to reducing chances of getting certain liver diseases. It may even help you maintain a healthy weight. Skip the sugary stuff and brew iced tea at home, and opt for the green variety if looking to maximize antioxidant intake.
Water – Our bodies depend on it! Water keeps us hydrated, flushes out toxins, and helps keep you full between meals. Add chlorophyll (try mint flavor!) for a health-boost. It’s considered a super-food because of its strong antioxidant properties. It’s also a mild liver detoxifier and can help improve digestion, fight belly fat and fight cancer, speed up wound healing. Add your favourite fruit slices or cucumber to your water for extra flavor too!