Have you ever wondered where popular thinking originates? There are things in life we just assume to be true, regardless of any evidence to support them. Today, we’re looking at a very common, and very damaging myth that has perpetuated for years. This misconception is impacting your weight, your health, and even denying you the simple pleasure of enjoying tasty, fresh, and delicious food. The idea that healthy and/or organic foods are too expensive is the reason you opt for bland, canned vegetables. This is why your fish comes from bacteria infested factory farm pools. This is why you buy the hamburger meat that’s jammed between a piece of saran wrap and a pink piece of styrofoam. This myth is ensuring you keep up the average American diet, filled with highly processed, sugary, sodium-rich crap.
Well you know what? No more. The game is over. You want to learn how to eat healthier, tastier, and wait for it….LESS expensive foods while maintaining a budget? Sounds too good to be true? It isn’t. Stick with us and we’ll show you how below…
As we’ve discussed on here before, the American diet contains a lot of crap. Sodium, saturated fat, sugars, and chemicals you can’t pronounce make up the diet of millions. I’m no scientist, but the idea that ingesting tons of chemicals, preservatives, and saturated fat may lead to cancer and other life-threatening conditions isn’t exactly shocking. Sadly, millions of Americans are opting for these foods because the idea of eating healthy just seems too expensive. People want to know how to eat healthy, but a quick run to McDonalads, a frozen dinner, or a plate of Rice-a-Roni just seems more natural. As natural as it may be, it’s not hard to break the cycle. Today, we’re going to teach you how to eat healthy by identifying a range of healthy foods you can immediately incorporate into your diet and replace the crap for good.
How to Eat healthy: A Few Things to Remember…
- Nutrient-dense food is your friend – 10 grams of protein plus a handful of anti-oxidants is better than 10 grams of protein plus a handful of saturated fat and sodium, right? Learn which foods deliver a nutrient-packed punch and which are falling short.
- Good Carbs/Bad Carbs – Simply switching from white bread to whole wheat bread or brown rice from white is a cheap and easy way to improve your diet and health instantly.
- More food doesn’t mean a better deal – Just because you’re getting 40% more of food A, if food A is going to leave you still hungry because it’s largely empty calories, you end up eating more of it. Look for foods that fill you up while also providing nutrients instead of empty calories.
Broccoli – Here’s something I bet you didn’t know….ounce for ounce, broccoli contains more protein than beef. Think about that one. We’ve got this wonderful, cheap, and anti-oxidant rich vegetable that’s full of muscle-building protein that’s also incredibly CHEAP. Make this one a staple.
Tomatoes - Full of cancer fighting compounds like lycopene, tomatoes, whether canned or fresh, can be easily cooked up and turned into a tasty marinara sauce. And if you didn’t already know, marinara sauce goes good on almost everything. Cans of tomato are going for as cheap as 99 cents a can.
Kale - This superfood should be a staple of any health-conscious shopper. Full of vitamins, fiber, essential minerals, and more, kale is an often overlooked veggie that is not only cheap, but highly versatile. Make kale chips, kale stir fry, throw it in with whole wheat pasta…the possibilites are endless.
Sweet Potatoes - This is an option to make a switch from bad carbs to good. Forget the white potato and go for sweet potatoes or yams. These bad boys pack tons of vitamins, fiber, and iron, and best of all…they’re super cheap. A bag of sweet potatoes to last several weeks shouldn’t run you more than a few dollars.
Spinach - Sure, spinach can be expensive when you buy it in little pre-bagged portions at a time. Head to Costco and get a pillow case sized bag of spinach for a few dollars. This leafy green is considered one of the healthiest foods of them all and contains healthy compounds that fight everything from colon cancer to heart disease.
A month’s worth supply of the above shouldn’t run more than $20 dollars. But WAIT….what if you want to go completely organic and get all of those health and taste benefits to boot. Well, it’s simple..and cheap. Find a local CSA and get fresh, tasty, and organic produce delivered directly to your doorstep. If you don’t know what a CSA is, check out this article which shows you how eating organic produce is LESS expensive than buying the regular stuff at your grocery store.
Now, on to legumes and grains…
Garbanzo beans – Either canned or dried (less expensive), these are one of the most economical choices you can make. High in fiber and protein, ‘gonzo’s may even help reduce cholesterol levels.
Tofu – Originating from soy beans, tofu is a great substitute for pricier high-protein options such as beef. A serving of tofu can bring is as much as 15 grams of protein with none of the saturated fats or cholesterol of similar options. Priced around 2 bucks a pound, tofu is a great choice for those trying to eat healthy and cheap while also wanting to pack on some lean muscle mass.
Brown Rice – Make the change from white already. Packed with much more nutrients, the price tag is just about the same. Not only that, brown rice will make you feel fuller longer, thereby helping you curb your appetite and get more bang for your buck.
Quinoa – Perhaps even better than brown rice, and only a hair more expensive if you’re buying in bulk, quinoa is high in protein, fiber, and essential minerals. Quinoa can easily be served as a breakfast porridge, salad at lunch, or a side with dinner. This versatile grain is a must for all of you healthy eaters in training.
Oatmeal - Oats are insanely cheap and should make up the bulk of anyone trying to eat a healthier diet. Forget the pre-packaged instant oats and buy whole oats in bulk. Even better (and tastier) are steel-cut oats which provide even more nutrients and keep you fuller longer. What’s more, steel-cut are easily made ahead of time so you could make a week’s worth of breakfast and save time in the mornings.
Enough grains and legumes to last a month (or more) shouldn’t run more than 15 dollars.
Hang with us, we’re tackling meats next…
Grass-fed Beef - There really isn’t any debate here; grass-fed beef is better and wayyyy tastier than the grain-fed factory farmed crap you find at your supermarket. I already know what you’re thinking…grass-fed beef is expensive! Well yes, some grass-fed beef is expensive….but not all of it. If you’ve got room in a freezer for it, consider purchasing a quarter or even half side of a grass-fed cattle. While it’ll cost you a little more upfront, the savings are pretty noticeable in the long run. Not ready for that? Simply join a beef CSA and get a shipment of top-quality beef on a monthly basis for cheaper than you’d find at your local grocery. A great example of a beef CSA would be Green Beef farms.
Chicken - Sure organic is tasty and a bit better for you, but if you’re working on a budget, the regular stuff will do. Make a run to Costco where you’ll find 10 pounds of skinless chicken breasts for $19.99. That’s less than two bucks a pound….now how much are you paying for that ground beef again?
Ground Turkey: Again, consider the nutrient content of your foods here. Ground turkey delivers near identical levels of protein as ground beef, but without all the saturated fat. If you’re able, splurge for the organic stuff, otherwise, simply switching from ground beef to ground turkey will make your heart and waistline happier.
Fish – Several types of fish provide all sorts of healthy fats, protein, and other cancer-fighting nutrients. Simply check out your fish counter and buy what’s on sale. Just make sure you look for “wild-caught” and avoid the farmed junk which is full of antibiotics to fight the cess pools they’re raised in.
Greek Yogurt - Not meat per se, but another high-protein food source you should immediately include in your diet. Fage Greek yogurt (again, found at Costco) comes without all the sugar found in the Dannon, Yoplait, etc. versions. Packing almost 25 grams of protein per serving, a quarter-gallon tub shouldn’t run you more than three or four dollars.
Personally, I’ve made a concerted effort to cut down on my meat consumption. Instead of having meat every single night, I’ll now have it once or twice a week. Not only do I feel better, but I’m saving a ton of money in the process. By eating like this, I spend about $25 per month on meats.
Up next, fruits…
Fruits can be a bit difficult. Often times fruits are exponentially more expensive than veggies or other foods on your shopping list, so you’ll just have to choose a little more carefully.
Apples – Packed full of antioxidants and fiber, apples are a cheap option that should be at the top of your grocery list.
Bananas – Banana’s are dirt cheap; about 20 cents each. Banana’s are also packed full of vital minerals, like potassium, and make a great addition to your oatmeal.
Avocado - A great, very nutrient-dense option that is full of heart-healthy fats. Grab a bag of avocados for less than a dollar per avocado.
Oranges - Again, another dirt cheap fruit that contains good amounts of fiber and other cancer-fighting vitamins. Not only that, oranges contain a phytochemical called hesperidin which has been shown to lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels in your blood.
Bags of frozen fruit – Don’t be afraid to go frozen. Combining a little frozen fruit, greek yogurt, and perhaps some milk and/or protein powder makes a wonderfully healthy, and protein-dense treat or after-workout drink. Costco has a great cherry, blueberry, raspberry, strawberry mix that is insanely cheap for the amount you get. If you crave those expensive fruits, consider going frozen.
Enough fruit to last a month shouldn’t cost more than 20 dollars if you’re picking smartly.
Are you seeing a common theme here? We’re almost completely ignoring the boxed, canned, and over-processed stuff that fills 90% of the shelves in your grocery store. While this stuff may seem like a great value at the time, the return on investment is horrible. Twenty packets of ramen for 2 dollars seems like a great deal, but what are you getting in return? Zilch. Empty calories and enough sodium to put your blood pressure through the roof. Learning how to eat healthy is all about understanding what the food you’re putting in your body is doing for you. That can of chile may seem like a great deal at a buck a pop, but you could easily make your own without all the sodium, saturated fat, and preservatives for LESS than that dollar per can….in many cases, MUCH less.
So let’s do a quick tally…with all of the foods listed above, you should easily be able to supple yourself with enough food to last a month for no more than $80 per month. Add in another $20-40 for incidentals and other items you may enjoy, and you’re looking at a monthly food budget of $100-120. The best part of all of this is, you’re putting fresh, healthy, and nutrient-dense foods into your body which will serve you well for years to come.
How to Eat Healthy: A Few More Things to Remember…
- Buy in bulk when possible. Buying in bulk will allow you to buy pricier items that are normally out of your budget. Items like almonds, chicken breasts, and certain seafood become much more affordable when purchased in bulk.
- Look into a CSA near you. CSA’s are a great way to get organic, fresh, and local fruits and vegetables without the high-cost normally associated with them. The same is true for many types of meat as well. Do whatever you can to get closer to the source. Remember, when you purchase at a grocery store, there are a whole plethora of middle men who need to make their cut. Seek out the source to get the real discounts.
- Cook for yourself. A six-dollar meal at a fast food joint may seem like a great deal, but when you consider you could cook healthier, tastier, and CHEAPER for yourself at home, it seems like less of a bargain. For six dollars a serving, you could easily whip up a meal that would cost five times that in a nice restaurant.
If you guys need any additional ideas and/or help with healthy recipes, food items, or cooking tips, please feel free to comment below and let us know. I’ll be happy to get back to you as soon as possible!