Most Americans want to eat a healthy diet, but all too often we fall short. We tend to reach for options that are tasty, convenient, and – given the state of our economy – inexpensive. These criteria lead us to consume foods that are loaded with salt, sugar, and fat, and miss out on the vital nutrients that we so desperately need. Next time you are at the grocery store, reach for one (or all) of these ten items. Your wallet and your waistline are sure to thank you.
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Oh, the incredible, edible egg! An egg contains all nine essential amino acids and is full of iron, phosphorous, choline, and selenium, as well as vitamins A, B12, B2, and B5. Eggs are also rich in antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, and very high in protein. Although many people eat only the egg whites in order to minimize calories and cholesterol, most of the nutrients are contained in the yolk – so feel free to enjoy the whole thing without guilt!
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Lentil soup, consisting of lentils, broth, and whatever vegetables we have on hand, is a big favorite around my house. Dry lentils are miraculously inexpensive, and can be made with very little effort in a slow-cooker. This legume is a healthy choice because it is absolutely packed with iron, magnesium, potassium, zinc, folate and manganese. Lentils are also very high in fiber and protein, making them a filling option to replace meat in a vegetarian meal.
Bananas are famous for being an outstanding source of potassium. However, they are also rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, and vitamin E. Because of their sweetness, they are one of the most nutritious ways possible to satisfy a sugar craving. Although bananas have a relatively short shelf life, they can be enjoyed frozen by blending them into a healthier version of ice cream, or baked into banana bread once they’ve turned brown.
Almonds are a good source of fiber, protein, vitamin E, manganese, and magnesium, as well as antioxidants. They help to regulate blood sugar levels, and can also aid in weight loss because of their highly satiating fiber and protein content. I like to keep a small container of these handy for a snack, tossed with cocoa powder, sea salt, or cayenne.
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Cabbage is a tremendous source of vitamin K, vitamin B6, vitamin C, potassium, manganese, and fiber. It is also extremely inexpensive. Cabbage may not be the most popular food in America, but I personally believe that it is highly underrated. We like to eat cabbage as a base for soup, mixed into stir-fries, and cooked with meat to be eaten with crusty bread.
Most people leave their oat intake at the breakfast table, but I prefer to sneak them in throughout the day. I like to mix them with a mashed banana and peanut butter and bake them into cookies for my toddler, and I also use them as a substitute for bread crumbs in recipes such as meat loaf. Oats contain protein, folate, iron, magnesium, potassium, and zinc, as well as an absolutely massive dose of manganese. They are also very high in fiber, which keeps you full, helps to regulate blood sugar, and may even reduce cholesterol.
For one of the cheapest foods available, peanut butter packs quite a nutritional punch. It is absolutely loaded with protein and potassium, and also contains fiber, vitamin B6, vitamin E, zinc, and magnesium. Although its fat content is fairly high, peanut butter contains more unsaturated fat than saturated fat, making it a “healthy fat” source, like olive oil and avocado. It will boost your energy and keep you full for a significant stretch of time.
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Beef is not only a solid source of protein, but also contains iron, zinc, and vitamin B12. The recipe possibilities are virtually endless, and usually approved of by children and adults alike. I like to cook it with marinara sauce to put over spaghetti for a super quick and simple weeknight meal.
Sweet potatoes contain vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, and potassium. They are also a powerful source of antioxidants and, like almonds, can help to regulate our blood sugar. Sweet potatoes can be enjoyed in a wide variety of ways, from savory sweet potato fries to saccharine maple-sweet potato mash.
Canned tuna is very high in protein, and also happens to be a great source of vitamins B6 and B12, magnesium, potassium, selenium, and anti-inflammatory omega 3 fatty acids. Its portability makes it a great option to include in a packed lunch – you can mix it into a salad, put it on a sandwich, or eat it straight from the can! There are a million tuna salad recipes out there, but I’m a simple girl – I like to mix mine with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
A healthy diet doesn’t have to be a luxury. Mix these ten foods with other budget staples, like frozen veggies and whole-grain pasta, and you will feel your body grow stronger and your wallet grow fatter. As Mahatma Gandhi once said, “It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver.”