Eating Healthy on the Cheap

By David Blyweiss, M.D., Advanced Natural Wellness

August 2, 2013

  • Are you investing in your health?
  • The most nutritious foods for your buck
  • Healthy meals that won’t damage your wallet

Last week I was talking with a young college intern. And she made a confession of sorts.

She told me she really wanted to eat the types of healthy foods I recommend, but didn’t think she could afford them.

I hear this kind of thing all of the time. And there’s a real truth here.

While it seems it should be our “given right” to eat the most healthful foods available to us, there is a price tag that comes with purchasing fresh, unadulterated fruits, veggies and meats.

It’s not fair. I know that.

But I’m going to tell you the same thing I told her…

Choosing the right foods is an investment in your long-term health.

Eating cheap foods during your earning years can strike you hard when you’re older. And once you start racking up medical bills associated with poor food choices the health costs will strip your bank account.

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So make the investment while you can, and it will definitely pay off down the road.

But my conversation with this young lady really kicked my thoughts into overdrive. After all, isn’t our food supply and the cost of eating healthy a big concern for everyone?

Sure it is!

I have patients living on social security. Some lost high-paying jobs during the recession. And everyone is looking to shave a buck off their expenses wherever they can.

So I did a little digging and discovered ways you can eat healthy food choices without damaging your wallet.

Just take a look at this…

Not long ago I was impressed with a new study. Researchers took a look at 98 different vegetables and assigned them two values.

The first value was the nutrient content. The second was the nutrient value when compared with the cost of these foods. When combined, the study authors called this the “affordability index.”

Dark green vegetables came out on top. They had the highest nutrient density out of all the veggies analyzed. And they weren’t very costly. When it came to value, they offered the most health benefit for your buck.

Starchy vegetables were a close second and beans like lentils, red kidney beans, black beans and pintos also made the grade.

Here’s the breakdown…

  • Legumes (beans) were great sources of fiber at a very low cost.
  • Both legumes and potatoes were inexpensive sources of potassium and magnesium.
  • Sweet potatoes, carrots and collards packed more vitamin A per dollar spent.
  • Broccoli, bell peppers and cabbage were all loaded with inexpensive sources of vitamin C.
  • Green veggies like collards, Brussels sprouts, spinach and romaine lettuce provided the most vitamin K without breaking the bank.

There are a lot of meals you can add these delicious foods to for only pennies a day.

Take a look at what you can do with a few of these veggies, a dozen eggs and a freshly roasted chicken…

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I’m all for eating on the “cheap” as long is it doesn’t interfere with your health. And there are plenty of ways to do it.

One of the tips any top chef will give you is to never let anything go to waste. Some folks might call it “penny-pinching.” But I tend to side with top restaurant owners who really know their food.

Here’s an example of what you can you can do with just a few healthy food items.

Shopping list:

1 four lb. chicken 1 lemon 2 heads of garlic
3 large onions 2 lbs of carrots 1 green pepper
1 red or orange pepper 1 bottle of olive oil 2 lbs of spinach
1 head of romaine lettuce 1 16 oz bag of dried beans 1 dozen eggs
Sea salt

If you buy non-organic foods, this will cost you about $35. And if you choose free range chicken, organic veggies and cage-free eggs, which I recommend, it won’t add too much to the bill. It will total up to right around $45 – just an extra ten bucks invested in your health.

Now here’s what to do.

When you come home from the store, make a nice roasted chicken dinner.

Chop about 6 carrots into 2-3 inch chunks. Thickly slice one whole onion. Then slice ½ of the orange pepper and ½ of the green pepper into rings (after removing the seeds, of course!) Arrange all these veggies carefully in the bottom of a baking pan.

Remove the giblets and rinse the chicken inside and out. Then stuff the cavity with 2 lemon halves and a head of garlic. Brush the outside with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Pop in the thermometer and place it on top of the veggies.

Preheat the oven to 375 and bake the chicken until it reaches 165 degrees. Allow it to rest for about 15 minutes after removing it from the oven. Then slice the chicken breast and serve with the veggies on the side.

The next day, start your morning with a high protein breakfast. An egg scramble with onions, mixed peppers and spinach will keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the morning hours.

For lunch combine some of your spinach with romaine lettuce for a nice mixed-green salad. Top it off with left-over chicken, boiled eggs, 1 slice each from the red and green bell peppers, a little onion and a drizzle of olive oil and garlic.

Or how about a delicious chicken salad wrapped in the big, outer leaves of the romaine lettuce?

When dinner time rolls around, use the rest of the chicken meat for a stir-fry.

Coat your skillet with a little olive oil. Toss in some chopped onion, peppers and carrots. When they are almost done, add a few cloves of garlic, a hand full of spinach and the left-over chicken, chopped into 1 inch squares.

And if any of this is making your mouth water, I’ve got more money-saving bonuses that most people wouldn’t think of…

Once you’ve stripped the chicken of its meat, don’t toss it. It still has one more use.

Boil down the carcass and remaining meat in a few cups of water to create a thick chicken stock. Chop up 1/2 onion, a bulb of garlic and some salt and pepper for seasoning. Simmer for about 2 hours to get all of the marrow out of the chicken bones.

While you’re doing that, soak your favorite dried beans.

When the stock is ready, use a strainer to remove the bones, but save as much of the meat as you can and set it aside.

Toss the beans into the stock and cook them until they are almost tender. Then add a little more chopped onion and three or four chopped carrots. Just before serving, toss in a few hands full of spinach along with the remaining chicken meat.

This gives you an absolute minimum of five meals. Plus, you have enough soup, salad and eggs for several more. So to be conservative, let’s say it’s a total of 8 meals.

Even if you choose organic, that’s only $5.60 per meal – just a few pennies more than you would spend for a double whopper and large fry!

With these tips in mind, you can eat “on the cheap” while supporting your health at the same time. Get creative and have some fun with it!

Epstein LH, Jankowiak, N., Nederkoorn, C., Raynor, H.A., French, S.A., Finkelstein, E.. Experimental research on the relation between food price changes and food-purchasing patterns: a targeted review. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012; 95.

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