Sticking to unprocessed, unpackaged whole foods on a daily basis can add up quickly, making healthy living feel like it’s burning a hole through your wallet. However, there are a few inexpensive pantry staples that you can stock up on that will allow you to make healthy eating affordable, easy and delicious.
Make healthy eating affordable with these 15 foods
Think of it as a protein-packed go-to seasoning for sweet and savory dishes. Stir a little into a stew, curry, or soup (pumpkin or butternut squash is a natural), or blend with vinegar, oil, and a little soy sauce to make a quick Asian-inspired salad dressing or dip for vegetables and grilled meats.
Its rich, nutty depth can also perk up a smoothie, pancake batter, and even cake frosting.
What to buy: To avoid added sugars and heart-unhealthy hydrogenated fats, look for a peanut butter with the simplest, shortest ingredients list. Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter, for example, lists only peanuts and salt.
Make it yummy: To make Topol’s dessert quesadilla, spread PB onto a whole-wheat flour tortilla, then top with sliced berries and chocolate chips. Top with another tortilla and heat through in a lightly greased skillet. Cut into wedges and serve.
Plain or spiced up with a little salsa, they make a quick side, a taco filling, or a hearty dip for veggie or tortilla chips. Their neutral flavor means that you can slip a few spoonfuls into soups, stews, and tomato sauce to boost fiber and protein, says Holly Clegg, author of the “Trim & Terrific” cookbook series (hollyclegg.com).
What to buy: Look for fat-free versions. And if you can find them, choose beans in Tetra Pak containers or buy them frozen to minimize your exposure to bisphenol A, a chemical used in can linings that is linked to diabetes and other health problems. Some companies claim that their cans are BPA-free, but the jury is still out on materials used to replace it.
Make it yummy: Serve your eggs with a side of refried beans instead of toast. “The extra protein and fiber has staying power to make you feel full longer,” Topol says.
Think of oats as healthier, fiber-rich bread crumbs. You can scatter them on top of casseroles for a little crunch, or blend them into meatballs and meatloaf.
Oats also make yummy toppings for fruit crumbles and cobblers, and a few spoonfuls stirred into muffin and pancake batters add a hearty texture and a healthy whole-grain boost. Topol likes to grind oats in a food processor and use them to coat fish fillets and chicken before sautéeing. Or whirl some oats into smoothies to thicken them up.
What to buy: Instead of instant, go for old-fashioned oats, which stay with you longer.
Make it yummy: Topol’s “no-bake energy bites” (shown below) are a mix of rolled oats with a little nut butter, dried fruit, chocolate bits, ground flaxseed, and a drizzle of honey or maple syrup. Simply shape the mixture into balls.
Unsweetened almond milk has about half the calories of cow’s milk per serving. Almond milk can be used for cereal, coffee, tea, and smoothies as well as in cooking.
“The almond flavor is subtle, so you can use it for both sweet and savory dishes,” Topol says. Bonus: You’ll run out less often; it comes in shelf-stable packaging that can stay unopened in a pantry for a long time.
What to buy: Be sure to go for unsweetened plain almond milk, and choose brands that are nutrient-fortified to provide health benefits similar to cow’s milk.
Make it yummy: For killer mashed potatoes, mash cooked Yukon gold spuds with almond milk, roast garlic, and chives.
Frozen winter squash
Chunks of the veggie are as versatile as potatoes; you can mash, roast, and toss them into soups and stews. Pieces can also be whirred into smoothies. Plus squash is packed with heart-healthy carotenoids.
What to buy: Look for frozen squash (acorn, butternut) that has already been puréed to use as a substitute in recipes for pumpkin pies, breads, and other foods.
Make it yummy: For a low-cal mac and cheese, swap puréed squash for about half of the cheesy sauce called for in your favorite recipe. It cuts calories and fat without sacrificing kid-friendliness. And it’s still great comfort food, Clegg says.
Full Story: 15 Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget
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