You may hear people say they can't afford to eat healthy, but as it turns out, some of the healthiest foods in grocery stores won't make a dent in your wallet.
"I do think that we can eat healthy for the same price as eating unhealthy foods. Eating at restaurants or buying packaged, processed food can add up quickly," Colleen McGuire, registered dietitian for At the Table Nutrition in Vancouver, tells The Huffington post Canada.
"A person can eat much healthier and for less or the same cost by buying fresh whole foods, buying locally and seasonally, and cooking them at home. A great low-cost way to eat healthy is to grow food yourself."
But we all know buying organic, for example, gets expensive. These foods are usually grown pesticide-free and are produced in fair trade environments, making them pricier for everyday consumers.
"The trick to buying these foods at a lower price is to get them during their growing season and when they’re grown locally," says McGuire.
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So what is considered "cheap" eating? Everyone's financial situations and accessibility methods are different, but McGuire says spending less than $20 a week to eat healthy is impossible. One 2011 British Columbia report found the average cost of feeding a family of four per month was $868, or roughly $200 a week.
Saving just $20 on your weekly grocery bill can add up to more than $1,000 ever year.
Superfoods like quinoa or acai berries can be pricey, like fresh fish or some cheeses, but they can sometimes be bought on sale, McGuire says.
"The key to a good diet is looking at it overall, not looking at one “superfood” to keep you healthy."
"Buying legumes dry and cooking them yourself is economical and very nutritious," McGuire says. Legumes also make a nutritious alternative to meat and are packed with protein, iron and B vitamins. But unlike meats, they're a very high source of fibre and are extremely low in fat.
Sprouted Grain Breads:
"Sprouted grain breads contain no flour, making them higher in fibre and more nutritional than other breads," McGuire says. And because this type of bread is low on the glycemic index, it can help you manage your blood sugar levels and weight. But often, this bread can get pricey, so make sure you check out local markets for a cheaper price.
"Natural peanut butter has a high level of healthy fats (monounsaturated) and provides good quality protein," McGuire says. Peanut butter also has B vitamins, magnesium, folate, and dietary fibre in every scoop. "Have it on sprouted grain toast with a banana for a balanced, economical meal."
Eggs are a good source of high-quality protein and B12, and won't hurt your pockets, McGuire says. The egg yolk itself also contains iron and vitamin E.
"A steaming bowl of fresh cooked oatmeal is the perfect way to start off your day, especially if you are trying to prevent or are currently dealing with heart disease or diabetes," McGuire says. Fibre in oats is known to lower cholesterol and to help to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. To save money, buy your oats in bulk and try to stay away from packages high in sugar.
Plain yogurt is an excellent source of protein, calcium, magnesium and other nutrients — and it's cheap. "It does not contain all the sugar or artificial sweeteners contained in 'no added sugar' fruited yogurts," McGuire says. Greek yogurt, however, has the added benefit of additional protein. If you like sweetened yogurt but not the excessive sugar, try adding a drizzle of honey or maple syrup to your cup.
Feta cheese contains protein and calcium, but it's also high in saturated fats. "The benefit of feta over other cheeses is that it is very flavourful and, therefore, the tendency is to use a small amount to add flavour to salads and pastas," McGuire says.
Kale is one of the healthiest and cheapest vegetables around. "Researchers can now identify over 45 different flavonoids in kale, giving it both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits in a way that gives kale a leading dietary role," McGuire says.
It can get expensive to buy all your vegetables fresh and ripe. "Off-season frozen vegetables will give you a high concentration of nutrients," McGuire says. However, if you are buying frozen veggies, make sure you eat them right away. "Over many months, nutrients in frozen vegetables do inevitably degrade. Steam rather than boil your produce to minimize the loss of water-soluble vitamins. Use the water from your steamed vegetables when making rice to reabsorb the nutrients."
"Because they are one of the best sources of potassium, an essential mineral for maintaining normal blood pressure and heart function, bananas can help to prevent heart disease," McGuire says.