“Healthy” and “affordable” might seem like oil and water. But the truth is, there are plenty of foods of that give you tons of bang for very few bucks. One study published in Preventing Chronic Disease found that out of 47 fruits and veggies, 41 qualified as “powerhouse” foods. Another study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition discovered that there were nutritious, affordable options in every food group—and that basics such as eggs and beans were among the highest-ranking. We asked Carly Kellogg Knowles, R.D.N., a registered dietitian-nutritionist[JD1] and culinary instructor in Portland, Oregon, to ID five of the best bargains.
Why they’re healthy: With 6 grams of protein and only 70 calories apiece, eggs shouldn’t be consigned to breakfast. “They contain a variety of micronutrients, including choline, which is essential for DNA building, brain signaling, and liver function, “ says Knowles. “And they’re naturally ‘packaged’ in individual serving sizes.”
How to eat them: Knowles hard-boils a dozen eggs every other week, sprinkling them with salt and pepper for a snack. They also taste great baked with chard, deviled with Greek yogurt, or poached in tomato sauce.
Why it’s healthy: This whole grain has 5 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber per cup. “Fiber has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels, help prevent heart disease, and maintain healthy blood sugar levels,” says Knowles. Buy brown rice from the bulk bins to save the most money.
Why they’re healthy: Beans are loaded with fiber (on average, they provide 7 grams per half cup), and folate, a B vitamin your body needs to produce red blood cells. Dried beans are usually less expensive than canned. Knowles suggests soaking them to decrease cooking time and increase digestibility.
Why they’re healthy: “Carrots are a fantastic source of betacarotene, a carotenoid that’s converted into vitamin A in the body,” says Knowles. Different colored carrots—orange, purple, red, yellow, and white—contain different amounts of antioxidants, but they’re all good for you.
How to eat them: Dipped in hummus, obviously, but Knowles also likes them peeled into ribbons and tossed with Middle Eastern spices, roasted nuts, and vinaigrette. Bake them alongside cod, or serve them with parsnips as a side.
Why they’re healthy: Like eggs, they provide built-in portion control. “And even though they’re sweet, bananas are a low-glycemic food that actually helps regulate blood sugar levels,” says Knowles. A medium bananas delivers about 10 percent of the potassium you need each day.
How to eat them: Knowles freezes bananas dipped in melted dark chocolate. You can also blend bananas (preferably frozen) in smoothies for creaminess, add them to overnight oats, or sprinkle them with cacao nibs as a topping for toast.
This article is not intended to substitute for informed medical advice. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.