Healthy Eating Doesn’t Have to be Costly

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A recent update of the USDA dietary guidelines showed that healthy eating costs $380 more a year per person–or $7.28 more per week. According to the new nutritional guidelines, aptly named My Plate,  Americans are being asked to consume more potassium, fiber, vitamin D and calcium. Last week I wrote about five easy and frugal ways to increase your dietary fiber intake–and really, it’s not that hard. Eating healthy does not have to be expensive. If you think about, you can cut out junk food and replace it with healthier fresh foods and you really wouldn’t be upping your grocery bill by that much.

  1. Potassium: USDA recommends 3,500 milligrams per day. Like bananas? You’re set. Trader Joe’s sells them for 19 cents each and each one contains 594 milligrams. You could eat 5 bananas a day to reach that quota, or you can eat three baked potatoes. Another cheap alternative is raisins. One cup of raisins has 1,089 milligrams of potassium! Last time I checked, potatoes and raisins were pretty cheap items at the grocery store. And they seem to be quite prevalent in many people’s diets already.
  2. Fiber: Last week’s post listed five easy foods to incorporate into your diet without breaking the bank.
  3. Vitamin D: This nutrient is essential for bone and muscle health in adults and children. Deficiencies in Vitamin D can lead to weak bones, increased risk of cancer and high blood pressure. This nutrient is found in fish, milk, eggs and cod liver oil. The recommended amount of Vitamin D per day is 15 micrograms. Since 15 mcg isn’t that much, it’s pretty easy to hit that quota. One serving of milk contains 25% of daily needs and milk is relatively cheap at grocery stores. A gallon costs around $1.50 to $2.00 depending on where you shop. You can also eat fish which is very high in Vitamin D and other nutrients. If you are concerned about the high prices of fresh fish, a can of tuna has 238 IU of Vitamin D which is 60% of your daily needs. I’ve found cans of tuna on sale for less than 50 cents.
  4. Calcium: Another essential nutrient, calcium helps to keep your bones and teeth healthy. USDA recommends 1,000 mg per day. The first thing that comes to mind is cheese. Parmesan tops the list at 1,376 mg per 100 gram serving. That right there exceeds your daily needs. Cheese can be expensive, but you just have to comparison shop. Another calcium rich food is tofu and a tub of tofu runs about $1.00. One half cup contains 22% of the RDA. Another option is almonds which are also relatively cheap. One cup contains 367 mg of calcium or 37% of the RDA. Almonds cost around $1-$2 per bag.

If you think about it, the estimated $380 increase is worth it. With the options I listed above, you probably won’t even spend that much. Imagine the doctors fees you would incur if you were unhealthy due to bad eating habits. I’m sure those would add up to way more than $380. Tests, co-pays (if you’re lucky enough to have health insurance), prescription meds and other fees associated with the results of a poor diet easily add up to thousands per year.

What are some easy and budget-friendly ways you incorporate nutritious foods into your diet?

Comments (8)

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  1. starlit

    3 years ago

    i’ve found that veggies, which are packed with nutrition, are usually really inexpensive, especially when you buy them in season.

    btw you can get vit D through sun exposure… FREE!

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  2. McPants

    3 years ago

    Wow, I knew potatoes, raisins, and bananas were good for you, but I didn’t know they were THAT good for you! Good advice. I echo starlit’s comment above – vegetables can be very inexpensive provided you know what’s in season. Farmer’s markets are also a good option (if you can get there in time).

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  3. Susan.Yoo-Lee

    3 years ago

    I always have canned beans and frozen veggies on hand. Just in case, my fresh veggies are gone, I use this as a substitution. I make sure I always buy things that say Product of USA or try to find where they come from, so I could stay as local as possible, to reduce my carbon footprint.

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  4. SavingsIQ

    3 years ago

    yes! the sun is free! good point.

    @ savingsmommie- good tip about buying products made in the USA.

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  5. Kenny01

    3 years ago

    How I ate healthy for cheap back in college:

    Potassium – bean and cheese burritos – $0.50 cents each.
    Fiber – sunflower seeds – $0.75 cents a bag at the campus market
    Vitamin D & Calcium – ice cream – $1 for a sundae at McDonald’s. Two for one, so really, it comes out to $0.50 each.

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  6. SavingsIQ

    3 years ago

    ice cream sundae? hahaa.. good one.

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  7. ChuckG

    3 years ago

    I agree with Vitamin D in sun but you need to make sure your hands and face are exposed to sun to get benefit. When I moved to California I could not believe how expensive the bananas were per pound. Yikes! I still eat them, but not as much as before.

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