In the past, I’ve made many suggestions on how to eat healthy:
Cut sugar and sweeteners
Eat the right fats
Avoid the wrong fats
Go organic on your fruits and vegetables
Get pasture-raised, grass-fed meats and eggs
But there’s one thing that might be holding you back from eating like this:
Let’s face it — the food industry has made healthy eating expensive.
And as a result, you keep having to fall back on cheap, addictive foods that destroy your digestion and energy and put you right in the path of chronic disease.
But I’m NOT about to let your budget stand between you and the healthy life and body you deserve!
So, right now, I’m going to help you make the healthiest choices possible within your budget. My approach to accomplishing this is simple:
- I give you the main health advantage of each expensive food choice.
- I show you how to achieve that health advantage with less expensive options.
Let this article be your budget shopping guide. Refer back to it any time you need. Print it out and take it store with you if you need to!
Let’s start the guide off with how to pick your produce.
Fruits and vegetables: Organic breaks my bank!
There’s no doubt about it: You need your fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re loaded with fiber, vitamins, and minerals that help maintain healthy digestion, blood sugar, and metabolism.
And every health guru out there says to go organic with your fruits and veggies. Grocery stores have followed accordingly with organic sections in virtually every major supermarket.
But the prices for these organic items are often much higher. For example, Consumer Reports found that organic products at Walmart costed 51% more on average than the non-organic versions of the same products!
So, why should you eat organic? What’s the reason for shelling out all that extra dough?
The main advantage of buying organic is avoiding massive amounts of pesticides in your food.
Make no mistake: Pesticides are designed to kill things. They’re loaded with anti-nutrients and neurotoxins that can give you serious digestive trouble over time and make your body age faster.
That being said, the dose makes the poison — meaning it matters how much pesticide was used. You see, while some non-organic fruits and vegetables are very heavily sprayed with pesticides…
There are other non-organic options with virtually NO pesticides in them. And this is where we’re going to save some money…
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) publishes lists of the LEAST pesticide-ridden fruits and vegetables (The Clean Fifteen)… and the MOST pesticide-ridden (The Dirty Dozen). And we’re going to use this information to our advantage.
Here are EWG’s 2016 lists:
THE CLEAN FIFTEEN
Go NON-organic and save money!
- Sweet Peas
THE DIRTY DOZEN
Go organic on these whenever possible
- Bell Peppers
- Cherry Tomatoes
Bonus item: Hot Peppers
Bonus item: Kale/Collard Greens
In the resources section at the bottom of this article, I’ve included a link to EWG’s entire list of the 50 most common fruits and vegetables. They’re listed from “dirtiest” (most pesticides) to “cleanest” (least pesticides).
Use this longer list to negotiate your organic choices for for produce items that aren’t listed above. (I recommend considering organic for anything in the top 25 slots on the list.)
Alright, now you have a shopping guide to produce. Let’s move on to proteins!
Meat, eggs, dairy, fish… can I go cheap?
Grass-fed meat, pasture-raised eggs, grass-fed organic dairy, wild-caught fresh fish…
This stuff gets EXPENSIVE! What gives? Why should you spring for the pricey option?
Well, the main advantage of pretty much any expensive animal product is the balance of Omega 3 fatty acids to Omega 6. (This also goes for fat and oil options, which I’ll get to in a minute.)
Long story short, pro-inflammatory Omega 6 wears your body down and causes all sorts of health problems — that is, if you don’t consume enough anti-inflammatory Omega 3 to balance it out. And unfortunately, most people these days get way too much Omega-6 and not enough Omega-3.
That’s because the cheaper, factory-farmed animal products and farm-raised fish most people eat tend to be much higher in Omega-6 and much lower in Omega-3. So the question is, how to we make sure to get enough Omega-3 without breaking our banks?
Let’s start with EGGS.
The best option for eggs by far is pasture-raised eggs. They’re loaded with Omega-3, vitamins, minerals, and all sorts of other good stuff that comes from the hens grazing outside all day long.
However, due to both high price and limited availability, pasture-raised eggs might not be an option.
In this case, Omega-3 eggs are available in most major supermarkets, and they’re considerably cheaper than pasture-raised.
These eggs still have a good Omega-3 profile because the farmers feed the hens flax and other omega-3-rich feed to enhance the eggs the lay.
So, if you can’t do pasture-raised eggs, do Omega-3 eggs!
What about FISH? Aren’t they high in Omega-3?
Cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, and small halibut are some of the best sources of Omega-3 on Earth… if they’re caught in the WILD.
The farm-raised versions, on the other hand, are poor in Omega-3 and dangerously high in Omega-6. And not only that… they’re also more likely to contain parasites and various water pollutants. NOT something you want in your body!
So, if farm-raised fish are bad, then which wild fish are cheap?
Well, herring and sardines are as cheap as they come, and both are excellent sources of Omega-3. You can also often get good prices on frozen wild-caught fish, especially at stores like Trader Joe’s.
And livestock, beef, pork? Are there any good meat options?
Pasture-raised chicken, grass-fed beef and bison, and pastured pork are some of the healthiest, most delicious meats you can get… and their price tags reflect that fact.
Unfortunately, pretty much any meat you can get cheaply is going to be high-Omega-6 factory-farmed meat.
So, if you want to have your meat but you can’t afford the good stuff… you’re going to want to tip the Omega-3 scales in your favor in other ways.
Flax, fish oil, and krill oil are all effective ways to add Omega-3 to your diet. Krill oil, in my opinion, is the best because it contains phospholipids — which make it easier for your body to absorb the Omega-3.
And dairy? Does milk really do your body good?
Now, dairy products are where we run into some serious problems. You see, non-organic dairy cows live in some pretty nasty conditions. As a result, they wind up with nearly constant infections.
The dairy farmers remedy this by pumping the cows full of broad-spectrum antibiotics. These antibiotics unfortunately make it into the milk in significant amounts.
And drinking these antibiotics on a regular basis is very bad for your digestion, immune system, ability to burn fat, and a number of other things.
Not to mention, this use of antibiotics in livestock is also leading to the rise of “superbugs” — dangerous bacteria that we can no longer kill with antibiotics. Imagine going to the hospital with a bacterial infection, and finding out nothing can be done to stop it.
This is a huge problem that’s been reported in the New York Times, CNN, Time Magazine, and pretty much every other major news outlet you can think of.
And it’s for this reason that I can’t, with a clear conscience, recommend non-organic dairy under any circumstances.
If you’re going to consume dairy, go organic. Otherwise, you want to skip it, I’m telling you!
Now let’s move on to the last thing I’m going to cover: fats.
Oils, butter, nuts… what should I get?
Just like the meats above, our main concern with fatty products and shortenings is the Omega-3 level. On that note, let me quickly point out two unhealthy oils you’ve been falsely led to believe are healthy: canola oil and vegetable oil.
Both of these oils are high in Omega-6 and low in Omega-3. Canola oil, in particular, is also chemically altered with bleaching agents and de-gummers that were never meant to be ingested. In any case, both of these unhealthy oils are bad options. Skip ‘em.
So what oils and fats should you consume? The answer is that it often depends on where you get them.
For instance, BUTTER can be very healthy and high in Omega-3… if it comes from grass-fed cows. A decently-priced grass-fed option available in many supermarkets is KerryGold Irish grass-fed butter. In fact, that’s the one I use!
Another example is OLIVE OIL. Extra-virgin cold-pressed olive oil has an excellent Omega-3 profile and is just great for your health overall…
Unfortunately, many olive oils on the market are not actually pure olive oil, but low-quality blends. Consumer Reports did a big story on this a few years back. A shocking number of popular brands failed the purity test.
So, to make things easy for you, here’s a list of good brands of olive oil that are actually PURE:
California Olive Ranch
Olea Estates 100% extra virgin
McEvoy Ranch Organic
Several of these brands are available cheaply on Amazon.
Another oil that’s excellent for your health is extra-virgin cold-pressed COCONUT OIL. Trouble is, the good stuff is often quite expensive at the store.
However, Dr. Bronner’s is a great, relatively inexpensive brand. And you can also get some good deals on cold-pressed coconut oil on Amazon.
Now, if you do high-temperature cooking, one last oil I should mention is AVOCADO OIL. If you can find it at your local market, this oil is usually not expensive for a specialty oil and has a high smoke point, fantastic flavor, and of course… great Omega-3 profile.
And on a final note, I recommend incorporating walnuts, almonds, pecans and macadamias into your diet as a healthy snack. These nuts are inexpensive, filling, delicious, and have an excellent balance of fats.
Alright, now that I’ve given you my shopping tricks…
Do YOU have any tricks to eating healthy on the cheap?
If you have any inexpensive healthy eating “hacks” up your sleeve… be sure to leave them in the comments section below.
I want to get a dialogue going on this page so we can all help each other live the healthiest lives possible… in the most affordable way possible!
And if you know people who could benefit from this article (and discussion) about eating healthy on a budget, be sure to share it with them! I’ve installed social media buttons at the top and bottom of this page.
I’d love to get as many people in on this discussion as possible!
I’ll be chiming in on the comments as they roll in.
In the meantime, I hope this article helps YOU attain the healthy, happy life and strong, vibrant body you deserve!
Dr. Amy Lee, MD
Nucific Board of Directors
EWG’s full list of produce items, in order of pesticide content (most pesticides to least): https://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php