15 Super-Cheap Foods Nutritionists Want You To Eat

In a world where a single bag of kale chips can run you $17, seeing the words “cheap” and “healthy” in the same sentence can feel a little like spotting a lake in the middle of a desert. But it really is possible to find nutritious foods that happen to be inexpensive. We asked some of our favourite nutritionists which cheap-but-healthy foods they eat on the regular.


“Salmon is one of the very best sources of heart- and brain-healthy omega-3 fats. The beauty of canned salmon is it helps you squeeze in a serving of fish without having to cook, so there’s no smell and no mess. It’s perfect for making baked salmon cakes or tossing into a salad.” –Karen Ansel, MS, RDN, author of Healthy in a Hurry


“For cents a serving, oats deliver soluble fibre, which lowers cholesterol and stabilises blood sugar. Top hot oatmeal with fruit and Greek yoghurt, or let the oats soak overnight in milk and fruit for an energizing breakfast.” –Lauren Harris-Pincus, MS, RDN, owner of Nutrition Starring You

“Tofu usually costs just 10 to 14 cents per ounce, and it’s high in protein and a good source of calcium and potassium. Tofu is a great alternative to meats and can be marinated in the same fashion. Drain it, slice it, and throw it in a bag with seasoning. The more time it spends in the marinade, the more flavourful the end result will be.” –Devon Golem, PhD, RD, director of the Didactic Program in Dietetics at New Mexico State University.


“All mushrooms promote health and pack savory umami flavor—even economical white button mushrooms. They also provide significant antioxidants and vitamin D, and may play a role in prevention of prostate cancer and type 2 diabetes.” –Jackie Newgent, RDN, culinary nutritionist and author of The All-Natural Diabetes Cookbook


“When it comes to fruits and vegetables, it’s easy to assume fresh is best, but canned tomatoes actually have a health advantage. Because they’re already cooked, you absorb more of their lycopene—a plant chemical that can protect your skin from sun damage. For even better lycopene absorption, drizzle your tomatoes with a little olive oil, since fat increases absorption of this nutrient.” –Karen Ansel

“At about 85 cents each, pears are a healthy, on-the-go snack. One medium pear has about 100 calories and 6 grams of fiber, and is a good source of antioxidant vitamin C.”–Toby Amidor, MS, RD, nutrition expert and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen

“Roasted chickpeas are an easy protein- and fibre-filled snack. Simply rinse and drain a can of chickpeas, blot dry, toss in olive oil and your favourite spices, and roast at 180°C for 30 to 40 minutes. Savory or sweet varieties are equally yummy.” –Lauren Harris-Pincus

“A 1kg bag of carrots costs around $2. These high-fiber treats are a great source of vitamin A and beta-carotene—nutrients that are good for your eyes and skin. Whether you eat them alone or with some hummus or nut butters, carrots are a nutritious snack.”–Devon Golem

“In addition to plant-based eating, I encourage eating eggs since they’re an incredible source of high-quality protein and the yolk is a rich source of eye-friendly lutein and zeaxanthin.” –Jackie Newgent


“You can make your own popcorn at home for about 20 calories per cup. Many folks forget that popcorn is a whole grain and a pretty-low-calorie snack as long as you minimize the added butter or oil.” –Toby Amidor

“Peas are a legume just like black beans or chickpeas, so they’re packed with a filling combo of protein and fibre. Frozen peas are ideal to keep in the freezer because they never spoil, and you can use just what you need and save the rest of the bag for another time.” –Karen Ansel

“We all know nuts contain good fats—but the calories can add up quickly. Peanuts in the shell are not only more affordable than other nuts, but the process of taking them out of the shell slows you down. Since they take so much longer to eat than their shelled relatives, it’s easier to control the portion size.” –Lauren Harris-Pincus

“A whole pound of dried lentils costs about $1.50 to $2 (that’s just 12 to 15 cents per ¼ c serving!). Lentils are a good source of protein, potassium, and fibre. They’re convenient, too: Unlike other dried beans, which need to soak overnight, dried lentils cook quickly.” –Devon Golem

“Not only are canned beans inexpensive, they’re already precooked to save you time. One cup of black beans contains 15 grams each of protein and fiber and is an excellent source of thiamin, folate, iron, and magnesium and a good source of potassium, zinc, and copper. Just look for canned black beans that have no salt added, or give them a rinse to remove up to 40% of the added sodium.” –Toby Amidor

“The average bunch of parsley is only 99 cents! I finely chop parsley leaves and eat them just like a green salad, or throw a whole bunch into the food processor with some garlic, a tomato, olive oil, lemon juice, and salt for a non-grain tabbouleh. Parsley is a low-calorie, high-fibre food, and it’s a great source of potassium and vitamin C.” –Devon Golem

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