Preparing healthy foods can be expensive. According to the June 2011 Consumer Price Index, prices for foods prepared at home have increased almost 5% in the past year. But before you plunk your change into the vending machine for a cost-effective, yet nutritionally void, quick fix, take note: For the price of a candy bar, and in most cases, a bit less, you can have a healthy and filling midday snack. The key to selecting a satisfying treat is to look for nutrient-dense foods and combine food groups, according to Jim White, RD. "A piece of fruit is not enough," he says. To stay full, you need to incorporate a mix of carbohydrates, protein, and even a little bit of fat. Here are five filling combos that pack a nutritional punch, and won't leave your pockets empty.
Nutritional bang for your buck: 100% of your daily intake of vitamin C for $1 (5 oz of cantaloupe), plus 45% of your daily calcium intake for about 64 cents (8 oz of yogurt)
Total per serving: $1.64
Cantaloupe's a fat-free, low-calorie snack, but chock-full of potassium and vitamins A and C. Slice the juicy orb and mix it with low-fat yogurt to add a healthy dose of calcium and an impressive 9 g of protein to your daily diet. Control costs by buying the whole melon, and opting for a 32-ounce tub of yogurt.
*Price calculations are based on listings from regional, national, and online grocers.
Nutritional bang for your buck: 9% of your daily intake of dietary fiber for about 69 cents (1/4 cup of raisins), plus 7 g of protein (1 oz of peanuts) for about 15 cents
Total per serving: 84 cents
Raisins contribute extra fiber and 9% of your daily potassium requirement, which could help control blood pressure. Ruth Frechman, RD, spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association, says the good fat and protein in peanuts make them a heart-healthy snack choice. And the combination of sweet and salty flavors is a satisfying blend.
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Nutritional bang for your buck: 7 g of dietary fiber for 22 cents (1/2 cup of garbanzo beans), plus close to 100% of your daily intake of vitamin C for 50 cents (75 g, or roughly half of a medium-size pepper)
Total per serving: 72 cents
Whip up a quick and nutritious salad by adding half of a chopped red pepper to garbanzo beans. The beans will give you a boost of protein and dietary fiber, while the pepper offers lots of vitamins A and C. The colorful veggie also contains luteolin, a compound shown to improve age-related memory deficits.
Nutritional bang for your buck: 400 mg of potassium for 66 cents (one roma tomato), plus 25% of your daily intake of calcium for 31 cents (1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese)
Total per serving: 97 cents
This snack will satisfy your craving for a caprese salad and also load you up with nutrients. White cheeses, like mozzarella, tend to be lower in calories and are rich in protein and calcium. And you can't go wrong with tomatoes--each low-calorie sphere is packed with potassium, vitamin C, fiber, and antioxidants such as lycopene, which may help ward off cancer.
Nutritional bang for your buck: 8 g of protein (2 tablespoons of peanut butter) for about 11 cents, plus 24% of the intake of your daily dietary fiber intake (two slices of bread) for 26 cents
Total per serving: 37 cents
The combination of protein and carbohydrates helps build muscles and sets you up with long-lasting energy, and whole grains have been linked to body fat reduction. "When picking out bread, make sure you choose one with 100% whole grain," says Jim White, RD "Whole wheat flour should be the first ingredient." Natural peanut butter can be pricey, so choose an in-house brand like 365 Everyday at Whole Foods.