8 Ridiculously Cheap (and Healthy!) Foods

Save money without sacrificing health benefits when you add these nutrient-dense edibles to your grocery list

February 11, 2011
person writing grocery list
Shop Smarter

Eating healthy foods doesn't have to break the bank. You just need to enter the grocery store armed with a savvy shopping list. "People don't always seem to get that it's cheaper to splurge on something you think is a luxury at the supermarket than to go out to a restaurant," says Christine Gerbstadt, MD, RD, author of Doctor's Detox Diet: The Ultimate Weight Loss Prescription. We talked with nutritionists to unveil a list of common grocery items that tout big health benefits at a small price. Read on and learn what you should pile into your cart next time you are tempted to bring home the bacon.

Discover the best healthy foods in America.

Note: Prices gathered from online grocers.

black beans
If You Want Fiber, Buy...

Dried black beans ($1.49 for 16-ounce bag)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 15 g fiber for 12 cents (1/4 cup, dry)

Fill up on fiber and fend off hunger for hours with black beans. Pick dried beans instead of canned to save money and avoid excess sodium.

Bonus: Each serving of black beans packs 9 g of protein.

Discover 30 tricks that make fiber taste better.

popcorn kernels in glass bowl
If You Want Fiber, Buy...

Popcorn kernels ($1.99 for 32-ounce bag)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 5 g fiber for 7 cents (1/4 cup, dry)

Toss kernels in an air popper and add a tiny bit of olive oil for the ultimate high-fiber snack. "When you make popcorn yourself, you can keep it healthy," says Jason Machowsky, RD, CSCS, a personal trainer at Equinox in New York City.

Bonus: You'll avoid the preservatives and artificial flavors found in microwave popcorn. 

Eat healthier with these easy kitchen swaps.

carton of brown eggs
If You Want Protein, Buy...

Eggs ($1.99 per dozen)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 6 g protein for 17 cents (one egg)

Strengthen your muscles with America's incredible edible favorite. "Egg white is pure protein," Gerbstadt says. "Nearly 100 percent of the egg's protein is useable by your body."

Bonus: Eggs contain 14% less cholesterol and 64% more vitamin D than they did in 2002, according to new research from the USDA.

Don't let these foods holds you back.

tuna in glass bowl
If You Want Protein, Buy...

Canned tuna packed in water ($1.09 for 5-ounce can)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 36 g protein for $1.09 (one can)

Danish researchers found that high-protein dieters lost more weight--and twice as much tummy fat--compared with low-protein dieters. Enjoy a belly-flattening lunch packed with protein and eat your way to a flatter stomach.  

Bonus: Tuna is chock-full of vitamin B6, which supports your nervous and immune systems, and vitamin B12, which affects your balance and reflexes.

Enjoy a day of flat-belly meals.

milk aisle
If You Want Calcium, Buy...

Nonfat milk ($3.24 per gallon)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 30% of your daily intake of calcium for 20 cents (8 ounces)

Aside from building strong bones and teeth, calcium also promotes weight loss. Stick with nonfat milk because it has the most calcium and fewest calories of the bunch. Gulp down a glass today, or mix milk with oatmeal or cereal if you can't stomach it plain.

Bonus: A serving of milk contains 8 g of protein, and it's also rich in leucine, an important amino acid for repairing muscle.

Let your refrigerator help you lose weight.

bowl of plain yogurt
If You Want Calcium, Buy...

Plain yogurt ($3.59 for 32-ounce container)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 34% of your daily intake of calcium for 66 cents (6 ounces)

Rev your metabolism with yogurt. Research shows that calcium from dairy foods may reduce fat absorption from other foods. 

Bonus: Friendly bacteria in yogurt help your digestive system function properly.

Find the perfect breakfast for any goal.

pumpkin muffin
Mitch Mandel
If You Want Vitamin A, Buy...

Canned pumpkin ($1.99 for 15-ounce can)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 280% of your daily intake of vitamin A for 57 cents (1/4 cup)

This autumn nutritional powerhouse can be enjoyed year-round. A serving of the canned squash boasts nearly three times your intake of vitamin A, which boosts your immune system. Whip pumpkin into muffins, mousse, or casseroles. 

Bonus: One serving of pumpkin touts 4 g of fiber, 10% of your daily iron, and 8% of your daily vitamin C.

Try these 8 healthy foods everyone should eat.

assorted potatoes
If You Want Potassium, Buy...

Potatoes (59 cents each)

Nutritional bang for your buck: 18% of your daily intake of potassium for 59 cents (one potato)

A few coins will buy you more than 600 mg of potassium, an electrolyte that regulates blood pressure. "It's important to get plenty of potassium since it helps balance out our high sodium diets," says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, and author of The Flexitarian Diet.

Bonus: A spud (with skin) contains 2 g of fiber and 45% of your daily vitamin C.

Kick your soda habit and drop a pound a week!