Delicious, Healthy, Budget Foods

Have you ever noticed that healthy foods seem to cost much more than their less healthy counterparts? What’s that all about? Of course, it makes no sense to me that highly processed food costs less (don’t more hands touch these items?) but that is a discussion for another day. Today, it’s all about what we can eat that is healthy, budget-friendly, and tastes good too. Here are some of my favorite healthy, inexpensive foods:

Sweet Potatoes – Forget those things that come in a can, I am talking about whole, fresh sweet potatoes you find in the produce section. They can be yellow, orange, or red-orange, but they are all good for you and even this time of the year are only about $1.50 per pound. My favorite way to eat sweet potatoes is baked, but they are also great grilled, cut up and added to stews along with other root vegetables, pureed and made into a dip, used instead of regular potatoes in potato salad, or sliced and oven-fried for “chips”. Sweet potatoes are a great anti-cancer food, help diabetics regulate their sugar level, increase your immunity, and even help with weight loss because they are so filling.

Yogurt – Don’t waste your money on those little packages full of sugar (or even worse, sugar substitute) with a little yogurt on the top. Save dollars and purchase plain yogurt. Add your own fruit and/or nuts, and a little honey if you must, for a healthy, filling snack. Because yogurt is such a good source of protein, yogurt plus fruit makes a great afternoon pick-me-up when you might otherwise be running to the vending machine. I use plain yogurt instead of mayonnaise when making potato salad, instead of sour cream when making cucumber salad, and instead of oil when baking brownies! Yogurt is a great source of calcium, boosts immunity, and helps sooth stomach and digestive upsets.

Eggs – Remember when eggs were bad? Thankfully we know better now. Like anything else, too many eggs are fattening, so we should probably limit them to a few times each week unless you are still out plowing the back 40. Even though egg prices have jumped over the last year they are still a good value for the same reason that sweet potatoes and yogurt are; they fill you up so you eat less, and they are full of healthy vitamins and protein. Eggs are a pretty good source of heart healthy Omega 3 fatty acids (especially if you purchase omega 3 or free range eggs), and are full of lutein which is important for eye health.  Scramble eggs for an energy boosting breakfast or make your own omelet for a Sunday brunch. (One note about omelets; if you make your own I guarantee that they are healthier than anything you can order out. I don’t know why restaurants feel that they have to add tons of grease to omelets, but they usually do).  If like me, you are “omelet-impaired” you can always make a frittata for dinner. Frittatas are also a great way to use up odds and ends of spinach, cheese, and left-over veggies. Another great dinner idea is to scramble eggs, add Pepper jack cheese and chopped red bell pepper, and serve either in a wrap or over toasted English muffins. Add a green or fruit salad and dinner is about $3 per serving.

Lentils – Lentils are kind of ignored in this country. We never seem to know what to do with them. But lentils are a really good source of protein and fiber, are very inexpensive, fill you up quickly and stay by you, and can be cooked much faster than their dried bean cousins. I mostly use plain old green or brown lentils , but there are several kinds available at specialty or health food shops. Cooked lentils and brown rice are a good substitute for ground beef and can be used in tamale pie or other casseroles. Cooked lentils can also be added to red sauce instead of meat – the same texture with zero fat. Because lentils readily take on the flavors they are cooked with, prepare a lentil pilaf with Middle Eastern herbs and spices, raisins, and broth. Serve with cooked chicken or chicken substitute for an easy, exotic, inexpensive meal. Or take that lentil favorite -soup – and richly flavor it with added carrots, celery, bell peppers, onions, and wine (see our version here). Filling, delicious, healthy, and once again – less than $3 per serving.

That’s all for today. Writing this has made me hungry! I think I’ll go snack on some yogurt with thawed raspberries, yumm. What are your favorite healthy, delicious, inexpensive foods?

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About the Author

Renee Pottle, an author and heart-healthy educator, loves to explore and write about the Mediterranean Diet. She blogs at and

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