Q: I’ve just spent the last eight years in post-secondary education and have a whopping student debt. I am on a fixed budget for food right now, so I find myself buying whatever is cheapest in the grocery store. I don’t want it to harm my health in the long-term, but can’t really afford to eat healthy right now. Any recommendations?
A: It’s a major misconception that eating healthy is expensive. Healthy eating does not require consuming the newest fad berry or infused health concoction at an organic juice bar. Although these choices are great if you can afford it, young professionals can absolutely eat healthy while on a budget. I’m going to give you my Top 10 Superfoods under $3 that give you the most nutrition bang for your buck:
1. Garlic ($0.50 per bulb) is nature’s anti-biotic. It’s an anti-fungal, anti-parasitic, anti-inflammatory. A few cloves in any dish will help to keep your immune system strong.
Mince garlic and leave it out for 10 minutes to release all of its health promoting properties.
2. Ginger root ($0.75 per root) is a powerful anti-inflammatory, which helps to protect from cancer cells and arthritis. It can relieve intestinal gas, prevent motion sickness, morning sickness and can even help relieve menstrual cramps.
Use a thin slice in hot water as tea or add it to dips, sauces, soups and stir-fries. Freeze ginger and shred for easy preparation.
3. Avocado ($1.75 each) has nearly 20 essential nutrients, including fiber, potassium, B-vitamins and folic acid. This superfood is a heart-helper as it’s unsaturated fat helps to lower cholesterol levels. It’s rich source of vitamin E helps to keep skin healthy and glowing. It also has three times more potassium than a banana.
Use 1/4 avocado instead of mayo in a tuna or salmon salad. Spread it on toast, add it to a smoothie or throw it on a quick salad.
4. Sweet Potatoes ($2.75/2 Large) have 24% of the daily value of B6, which aids in PMS symptoms. The high content of carotenes helps stabilize blood sugar and to prevent free radical damage. This sweet root has a great amount of dietary fibre.
Use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes for a healthy and tasty mash or slice them up with some dried basil, oregano, grapeseed oil and sea salt and bake some healthy fries at 425F for 30 mins.
5. Quinoa ($2.99/box) is a complete protein and a gluten-free grain. It’s rich in vitamins E, B2 and B6, folic acid, biotin, calcium, potassium, iron, copper, magnesium, and manganese. This easy-to-digest grain is fast to prepare and won't disappoint your tastebuds.
Use quinoa as a couscous substitute in your favorite cold salad recipes. It can also be served as a hot dish with an assortment of vegetables, beans and lentils.
6. Lentils ($1.79/bag) are power-packed with B vitamins, fiber, iron and protein. They are low in calories and high in nutrients, making this a great food for stabilizing blood sugar and protecting the heart.
Make a fast lentil soup by boiling the lentils in low-sodium vegetable stock and adding your favorite root vegetables and fresh herbs. A big pot of soup will last for days and costs under $10 to make.
7. Flax ($2.89/bag) has a very high source of omega 3s, which are essential for our body. Just one tablespoon per day can help to reduce bad cholesterol. Its properties can also help to heal digestive distress by reducing inflammation.
Grind flax seeds and add to cereal, yogurt, smoothies and salad for a nutrition boost!
8. Kale ($2.50/bunch) is one of the most nutrient-rich leafy greens. One cup of kale provides 70 per cent of the RDI of vitamin C and it’s a great source of vitamin K, A, B6, calcium, fiber and tryptophan. It provides cancer protection and has anti-inflammatory effects.
Use it in soups, salads, steam with garlic and ginger or try out some yummy kale chips.
Kale chips recipe: Wash kale, slice in strips or pieces, add fresh lemon, olive oil and unrefined sea salt, throw on a baking sheet and bake at 200F for 2 hours or until crisp.
9. Lemon ($0.75/each) has the phytochemical limonene, which helps to detoxify the liver. It’s being used in clinical trials to dissolve gallstones and shows anti-cancer activities. This alkaline rich fruit is helpful to combat acidity during times of stress.
Start your day with a glass of room temperature water with a big squeeze of fresh lemon.
10. Raw Almonds ($2.99 per bag) are rich in anti-oxidants and health promoting essential fats. Almonds are nutrient-dense, so one handful per day can provide you with excellent amounts of vitamins, minerals, protein, and other nutrients. Throw almonds on salads, cereal, yogurt, smoothies, and stir-fries. Keep a small bag in your bag for a quick and healthy snack.
Pay special attention to weekly deals at your local grocery stores. I always see promotions on nuts, seeds, grains, lentils and beans at bulk stores. Many markets have weekly deals on fresh and wild fish. I’ve even seen some organics cheaper than conventional produce depending on the store. Take advantage of the weekly or daily deals offered by companies like Groupon or Deal Find. I just purchased a large basket of fresh, organic vegetables and fruits that was dropped off to my house for $18. In the warmer months, stop off at a local farmers market or pick your own produce. Often the end of day brings with it a discounted price tag.