It seems like people have a misconception you can’t eat well on the cheap. If not that, then they believe eating well for less means spending hours in the kitchen. Wrong again! Eating nutritiously doesn’t have to break the bank or mean spending all your free time cooking. In its April 2009 issue, SELF magazine published a list of twelve foods for under a buck per serving. I picked the most nutritious of them and I’m here to show you how to easily incorporate them in your daily life. ::
- Brown rice: $0.22 per 1/2 cup
Brown rice is a great whole grain to choose. It’s a good side dish for almost any meal and then you can use it again the next day to make a cold rice salad put it inside a pita with some veggies for a filling lunch. It works as the base for stir-fry or you can season and stuff it into roasted veggies like peppers and tomatoes. You can even turn it into a sweet treat by making rice pudding (try this dairy-free version).
- Green tea: $0.31 per bag
Chock full of antioxidants, green tea drinkers appear to have lower risk for a variety of diseases. I love genmaicha (roasted brown rice tea). The taste of it is so unique that I don’t even want any sweetener or milk with it. Green tea bags can also add an interesting flavor to whole wheat pasta or buckwheat soba noodles (throw a couple bags in the pasta water at the end of cooking process to add subtle flavor).
Broccoli: $0.33 per cup
With 200 percent of your recommended daily value (RDV) of vitamin C and 20 percent RDV of fiber per cup, there’s no denying that broccoli is a power food. It doesn’t really matter how you eat it, as long as you do. I love it roasted with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. It gets a little crispy and is delicious. Of course, it’s perfect for Asian dishes. I also like this recipe for spaghetti (use whole wheat!) with broccoli and lemon. Pureed broccoli makes a great soup, too.
Plain yogurt: $0.37 per 1/2 cup
Buy it in a larger tub rather than individual portions and you’ve got the first third of a power breakfast (add fruit and nuts). You can use plain yogurt as a low-fat option instead of sour cream in recipes that call for it. Yogurt can also easily be turned into dessert. Just add a drizzle of maple syrup, a drop of vanilla extract, walnuts, and cinnamon.
Bananas: $0.39 each
Bananas are nature’s portable snack. They’re full of vitamins B6 and C and are a great source of potassium. For me, it doesn’t get much better than banana and peanut butter. Bananas are also a great addition to cereal or oatmeal, for both taste and texture. They’re a good base for healthy desserts. I discovered a great recipe for Cocoa-Nut Bananas.
Black beans: $0.42 per cup
Beans are great because they provide healthy protein and fiber (almost 60% RDV per cup!) for not much dough. One of my favorite recession-inspired meals is black beans, brown rice, and a little hot salsa. If you want to spend a little more cash, add tofu to the mix. Use them as a topping for potatoes, in burritos, or in chili. You can also make lots of yummy salads with black beans, like this Rice and Black Bean Salad recipe from reader Megan.
Apples: $0.71 each
Apples are a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Eat them with peanut butter, make an apple salad, bake them, or slice them thinly and put them on your sandwich for some crunch. Obviously, apples are a great edition to baked goods. One of my favorite indulgent desserts is apple pie, but slightly healthier apple crisp tastes just as good. Try this healthy recipe that includes rolled oats.
Lentils: $.80 per cup
Lentils are another nutritional powerhouse. I really can’t sing the praises of lentils enough, as dorky as that sounds. They’re full of fiber and one cup contains 35 percent of your iron needs. They also contain vitamin B1, folate, and potassium, among other nutrients. Lentils make a great hearty side dish. To easily season them, try curry powder and cumin. Lentil soup is another one of my favorite winter dishes.
Sweet potatoes: $0.99
This delicious root vegetable is chock full of vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), C, and fiber. Sweet potatoes don’t need to be tampered with too much to be a delicious component of dinner. Once baked, if you need a little more sweetness, try maple syrup instead of sugar. I’ve also roasted them with regular potatoes, olive oil, salt, pepper, cumin seeds, and a bit of goat cheese. Trust me, it’s a delicious combination. Ginger also works really well with sweet potatoes. If you like mashed sweet potatoes, try mashing them with boiled pears or bananas to add sweetness and cut calories.