Healthy Foods Under $3
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You can't beat a healthy snack that costs less than 50 cents! A medium banana has about 100 calories, 3 grams of fiber as well as potassium and vitamin B6. Best of all, bananas are easy to transport (and come in their own sterile package). Add sliced pieces to cereal, oatmeal or a peanut butter sandwich for a more substantial meal. Apples and oranges — our other favorite, classic fruits — carry a similar price tag when they’re in season.
Nonfat, Plain Greek Yogurt
Greek yogurt has a thicker texture and tangier flavor than regular yogurt — and that's a good thing! It’s also high in calcium, probiotics and contains no added sugar. Enjoy it with fresh fruit, added to smoothies or to replace half the mayo in any recipe. Use it instead of sour cream on baked potatoes and tacos. Buy in larger sizes (which will cost more) to get more yogurt for your buck.
Every cook has pasta in the cupboard for quick weeknight meals. Whole-grain versions have the same calories as refined white pasta, but more fiber, protein and vitamins. You can feed four to six people with a pound of pasta (as long as you follow the serving sizes!), so it's an excellent, budget-friendly option. If you're not quite ready for whole-grain pasta, you may like Barilla Plus, a multigrain blend with great texture and a milder flavor than whole wheat.
Like whole-grain pastas, brown rice has the same calories but more nutrients than the white variety, and you can take advantage of that for only a small price difference (about $0.03 more per ounce). Use rice for stir-fries, burritos and cold veggie and rice salads. A little goes a long way — 1/3 cup dry rice cooks up to 1 cup.
Peas are nutrient-rich legumes. One cup has 6 grams of fiber, 7 grams of protein and more than half a day's worth of vitamin A — all for only 100 calories. Frozen peas are a lot more convenient than shelling your own; plus, they keep for months and you can quickly add them to a variety of meals. Toss them into soups, salads, rice and pasta dishes to add some flavor, texture and fresh green color.
Nuts may have a reputation for being pricey, but as you can see, they are actually very budget-friendly, especially when you consider that 1 ounce is a proper portion for a snack (that’s about 22 almonds). Almonds are a great source of heart-healthy unsaturated fat, vitamin E and protein. So enjoy them — just do so in moderation.
Eggs are not only a terrific source of protein they also contain omega-3 fats and vitamin B12 for energy production. And no, they're not just for breakfast: I like to whip up omelets, quiches or frittatas for easy, affordable weeknight dinners. A plain, hard-boiled egg makes a fast and filling snack, too.
Did you know a medium baked sweet potato has almost 40 percent of you daily vitamin C needs and more than 400 percent of your daily vitamin A? Yeah, these babies are superstars. The bright orange color tells you that they are chockfull of beta carotene, the antioxidant that helps protect cells from cancer or aging. Baked, roasted, boiled, mashed or even grilled, these babies are affordable and delicious.
Beans are not only nutritious, they're also affordable and convenient and last in your pantry for up to a year. Just make sure to always rinse and drain them well before adding to soups, stews, salads and rice or pasta dishes to get rid of unnecessary sodium. (P.S.: Buying dried beans in bulk is even cheaper.)
One cup of broccoli has only 30 calories and more vitamin C than an orange (it's true!). Raw, steamed, stir-fried or roasted, broccoli takes on very different flavors, so experiment and see which you like the best. Buy the bunch broccoli instead of the crowns; the stalks have a ton of flavor and you get more for your money. Add chopped stalks to a stir-fry or shred them to make your own broccoli slaw.