Registered Dietitian Nutrition Counseling-J.Nutrition

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Secrets to Cheap Healthy Snacking

“I can’t eat afford to eat healthy.” The idea that all healthy foods correspond with an elevated price tag has plagued many American’s march to better health for decades. This is a popular misconception, and an unfortunate one. While it is true that many calorie dense foods like chips, candy bars, soda, and boxed meals can be low dollar, it is not true that many nutrient rich foods cannot also fall into this category.

So how do you find lower cost nutrient dense food choices? When we begin to compare unit prices, nutrient foods may be even more competitive than their empty calorie competitors. The cheap healthy snacking options below are designed to be ready to go in less than 5 minutes. The price tag also falls right around $1.00 for each. The dietary choices below will help you to build a healthy grocery list to fit your budget and your appetite.

1. peanuts 1oz $0.07 + apple 1 small =0.59

Total snacking cost = $.66

Nutrient density: Protein, fruit, fiber, carbohydrates, vitamin C, Iron

Cheap Protein

Cheap Protein

2. Yogurt Parfait low-fat plain yogurt $0.50 Topped with: mixed fresh or frozen fruit $0.40.

Total snacking cost = $.90

Nutrient density: Protein, fruit, fiber, carbohydrates

3. Healthy Veggie Pizza: Whole wheat English muffin $0.17 Topped with: 2 tbsp low-fat cream cheese $0.25 + diced bell pepper $0.25 + mushroom $0.25. + 1 oz mozzarella cheese $0.20

Total snacking cost = $1.12

Nutrient density: Protein, Grains, Veggies, Fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6, Magnesium

4. Fiesta Tostada 6 inch whole-wheat flour tortilla $0.15 Topped with 1/2 cup black beans $0.25 + 2 tbsp fresh salsa $0.23

Total snacking cost = $.62

Nutrient density: Protein, carbohydrate, fiber, veggies, iron

5. Hummus 2oz $0.60 + baby carrots ½ cup $0.19

Total snacking cost = $0.79

Nutrient density: Protein, veggies, fiber, beta carotene, iron

6. String Cheese $0.15 + Almonds 1oz $0.55

Total snacking Cost = $0.70

Nutrient density: Protein, veggies, fiber, calcium, magnesium

7. Peanut Butter/Fruit Pockets: ½ pita pocket $0.39 Natural Peanut butter mixed with cinnamon 2oz 0.40 1 medium Banana sliced $0.30

Total Snacking Cost $1.09

Nutrient density: Protein, fiber, fruit, potassium, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6

8. Popcorn (air popped) 3 cups $0.20 Grated Parmesan or nutritional yeast $0.15 (can also add garlic)

powder or hot sauce for a more savory flavor).

Total Cost: $0.35

Nutrient density: Protein, fiber, vitamin b12 if nutritional yeast is used,

Popcorn a savory cheap snack

Popcorn a savory cheap snack

9. 2 Hard boiled eggs $0.36 1 cup grapes $0.49

Total Snacking Cost: $0.85

Nutrient density: Protein, fruit, fiber, iron, vitamin C

10. Roasted Chick Peas ¼ cup $0.24 (add cayenne pepper, chili powder, or garlic powder for flavor. Toss in olive oil and bake at 450 degrees for about 30 minutes).

Total Snacking Cost: $0.24

Nutrient density: Protein, fiber, iron and b6, iron

11. Triscuit (6) $0.15 with garlic avocado spread 4oz $0.60 (chopped garlic or garlic powder. Mash with avocado and lime juice)

Total Snacking Cost: $0.75

Nutrient density: Fiber, veggies, protein, carbohydrate, Vitamin C, Vitamin B6

12. Cheese ¼ cup $0.37 with ½ chopped pear $0.50 (or other fruit)

Total Cost: $0.87

Nutrient density: Protein, calcium, fiber, fruit, potassium

13. Caperse Rice Snack Rice cake $0.26 + mozarella 1oz $0.20 + sliced tomato $0.20 basil $0.20 (you can also add sliced pear to this dish) Drizzle with balsamic and olive oil.

Total Cost: $0.86

Nutrient density: Protein, fiber, calcium, veggies, potassium

14. Cucumber $0.89 + 1oz cream cheese $0.18 + 1oz sunflower seeds $0.24

Total Cost: $1.31

Nutrient density: Protein, fiber, veggies, vitamin C, Vitamin K, magnesium, potassium

15. Tuna ½ can $0.50 + triscuits (6) $0.15

Total Cost: $0.65

Nutrient density: Protein, fiber, carbohydrate

There are few additional things to consider when comparing nutrient density of foods like fruits/veggies to the price tag of convenience foods like chips. One is that because foods like potato chips are shelf stable, we often subconsciously perceive them at a higher value. A lot of this has to do with convenience rather than the actual price tag.

Another variable to consider when examining convenience vs. nutrient dense foods is that in the examples above I compared unit prices. Often convenience items are sold in single serving packages, especially in vending machines and convenience stores. When we actually compare unit prices, the healthy choices are often times even cheaper than convenience choices with little nutritious value. You can get even more affordable than the examples listed above if you shop in season or at farmers market. The possibilities for improving your healthy snacking are limitless!

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