You might know the basics of eating on a budget: Cook at home as much as possible, buy foods when they’re in season and buy certain items in bulk. But there seems to be this underlying assumption that in order to eat healthy, you have to buy expensive food or that eating cheap involves eating Ramen noodles.
Well, it isn’t true! You just have to know what to buy in order to save and shed some pounds at the same time.
A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2011 discovered the foods linked with weight loss included fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains and yogurt, while weight gain was related to consuming potato chips, potatoes, sugar-sweetened beverages, unprocessed red meats and processed meats.
While it is true that certain healthy items are more expensive, some unhealthy items can be just as expensive, if not more so. But for the most part, you can eat a healthy diet and stick to your budget at the same time.
Here are eight cheap foods, all under $1 per serving, that are healthy for you and can help you lose weight, too. (Note: 7 of these 8 foods are also gluten-free!)
Read more: 19 ‘healthy foods’ you should reconsider
8 cheap and healthy foods
1. Brown rice
Rice is a staple in many countries because it is so cheap. Brown rice, even though it’s a carb, is healthy for you and can actually help you lose weight! A serving of brown rice contains 21% of the daily recommended amount of magnesium, 15% of vitamin B6, 4% of the daily recommended amount of iron and 3.5 grams of fiber. Brown rice is higher in nutrition and absorbed more slowly by the bloodstream than white rice. It is a great food to eat for those wanting to reduce inflammation too.
One study from researchers at Harvard found that Americans who eat two or more servings of brown rice per week can cut their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by about 10%, while a Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital study found that women who consumed more whole grains consistently weighed less than those who didn’t. The study also found that those who consumed the most fiber from whole grains were 49% less likely to gain weight.
According to Health Magazine, a half-cup serving of rice contains 1.7 grams of Resistant Starch, which is a healthy carb that increases metabolism and helps to burn fat. But, a note of caution: Since brown rice isn’t necessarily low in calories, it’s best to only consume the recommended serving size and eat an overall low-calorie diet for weight loss. You can find brown rice at Walmart for about $.07 per serving!
2. Non-fat Greek yogurt
Greek yogurt has been called a ‘superfood,’ or a food packed with nutritional value, and it does have many health benefits that shouldn’t be overlooked!
A study on the healthiest foods found that each extra daily serving of yogurt prevented .82 pounds of weight gain. At 23 grams of protein per serving, it rivals meat-based sources of protein to help you feel fuller longer. As long as you choose the low-fat, low sugar versions, you’ll definitely be on the side of healthy.
You can find Greek yogurt at Aldi for about $.87 per serving!
3. Old fashioned oatmeal
Oatmeal is one of those foods you either love or hate, but it has many benefits if you want to eat healthy on the cheap. It’s rich in fiber, filling, and also heart healthy. But, a caution here: you’ll want to avoid instant oatmeal or oatmeal with added sugar. Instead of adding sugar to your oatmeal, consider adding stevia, honey, or spices such as cinnamon or nutmeg to give it flavor. Oatmeal also has s 4.6 grams of Resistant Starch according to Health Magazine.
Plus, oatmeal only costs about $.08 – $.16 per serving!
Garbanzo beans, kidney beans, black beans: Beans not only have protein but they have fiber too! Beans are cheap, low in calories, and you can add almost any kind of herb or spice to create different flavor combinations.
Research from the Journal of the American College of Nutrition found that bean eaters have a 23% lower risk of an expanded waistline and a 22% reduced risk of being obese. Also, according to the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, bean consumption is associated with greater nutrient intake, reduced systolic blood pressure, lower body weight and a smaller waistline.
Beans are also good sources of iron. You might want to rinse any canned beans you buy though to reduce your sodium intake. Canned beans start at $.59 at Aldi, which is about $.17 per serving.
Read more: 5 ways to save on the cost of eating healthy
5. Canned tuna
At about $.41 per serving, chunk light canned tuna is a cheap food that is high in protein and a great way to get Omega-3’s — the healthy fats that can help brain function and help repair our cells. But, pregnant women and kids are advised to beware — the mercury levels in canned tuna can make this food potentially unsafe. Your best bet? Eat in moderation. You can find 4-packs of canned tuna at Walmart for around $3.28.
6. Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes have many great health benefits. They contain about 377% of our daily recommended intake of vitamin A, 15% of vitamin B6 and are high in potassium and fiber. Sweet potatoes also contain vitamin C, manganese, copper, pantothenic acid, niacin, vitamin B1, vitamin B2, and phosphorus.
How can sweet potatoes help you loose weight? Because sweet potatoes are nutrient-dense, they can help you feel fuller longer. As long as you don’t load them down with butter and sugar and instead opt for some coconut oil and/or cinnamon, sweet potatoes are a great part of a trim diet. Plus, the price of a small sweet potato is only about $.50!
7. Apples and other low-cost fruits
It’s a good idea to eat fruit for health, but it’s also important for weight loss too. Fruit is full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and can help aid in weight loss by helping you feel fuller with less calories and increase your water intake. Though some fruits are more expensive than others, apples are a budget-friendly option at about $.50 per apple, when purchased in a three pound bag.
If you want to save even more on fruit, choose the canned option, which can save you money and will last much longer than the fresh varieties. Just be sure to choose the kind packed in fruit juice — not heavy syrup. Canned mixed fruit packed in 100% juice at Aldi will run you about $.89, which is about $.25 per serving.
Read more: 13 secrets you didn’t know about Aldi
8. Broccoli, cauliflower and other low-cost veggies
Broccoli, carrots and cauliflower all cost under $.50 per serving — and they aid in weight loss too! Filling up on veggies, which are low in calories, help you feel full and are packed with vitamins and minerals.
According to Health Magazine, cooked or raw, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli are known for their cancer-preventing powers, fiber and ability to prevent weight gain. They also have tons of vitamin C, vitamin A, folate, calcium, iron and potassium.
Bonus: Green tea
Though green tea isn’t a food, it’s a great low-cost beverage to consume loaded with nutritional benefits, according to researchers. ‘It’s the healthiest thing I can think of to drink,’ Christopher Ochner, PhD. said to Web MD.
Green tea has polyphenols like flavonoids and catechins, which function as powerful antioxidants. Not only that, it contains the amino acid L-theanine, which can reduce anxiety and improve brain function. But besides all its health benefits, in some studies, green tea has been shown to boost metabolism and help people burn fat. You can find green tea at Walmart for about $.06 per serving!
Eating cheaply might take some planning, but it can be done! Check out this listener’s $25 a week grocery budget on our forums, and if you eat cheap, feel free to add your tips as well!
Read more: This couple eats for less than $60 a month