Many of us are ringing in the new year with the two following resolutions: to eat healthier and to cut back on our spending. But too often it seems that these two aspirations just don’t go hand in hand.
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Healthy foods are often more expensive than junk food. Furthermore, nutritious meals tend to take longer — and require more skill — to prepare. And thanks to inflation, the cost of food is only going up. For many Americans, trimming the grocery bill while simultaneously trimming their waistlines (or achieving whatever dietary wellness goal they’re aiming for) may seem close to impossible.
While none of us alone can tackle inflation — or make healthy foods cheaper than the more accessible junk we can get out of a vending machine — we can do our best to shop smart. This means not just getting the most affordable versions of whatever we need from the grocery store (a perfectly suitable plan), but also widening our horizons by discovering new food products that are easy on the wallet, tasty and nutritious.
GOBankingRates spoke with several food and deal experts to learn their favorite healthy yet reasonably priced picks from places we commonly shop, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods and Walmart.
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KIND Bars at Walmart
“I love KIND Bars Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt bars, and they are super wallet-friendly as well as good for your health,” said Lauren Manaker, a registered dietitian nutritionist. “These bars are a good source of fiber, low sodium, and only made with wholesome ingredients. Many good-for-you bars come with a hefty price tag, but these bars are modestly priced, yet still fuel the body with real nuts, seeds and dark chocolate.”
A box of 12 KIND Bars Dark Chocolate Nuts and Sea Salt bars goes for $14.22 at Walmart.
Trader Joe’s Chicken and Vegetable Wonton Soup
“Trader Joe’s Chicken and Vegetable Wonton Soup is packed with nutrient-dense vegetables like carrots, snap peas, cilantro, green onions, leeks — and it is in a vegetable soup base that is mixed with a chicken soup base,” said Jessica Randhawa, owner and head chef at The Forked Spoon. “The chicken wontons and the chicken soup base offer 11 grams of protein per serving at only 220 calories, which is also relatively protein-dense per calorie for a soup. At only $2.79 per bowl, this is a filling, healthy and easy-to-make meal.”
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Almond Butter at Whole Foods
“It’s $7.49 for a 16-ounce container and is super rich in protein,” said Tyler Read, CEO of Personal Trainer Pioneer. “Perfect after-workout snack. Great with fruit. Apples are my favorite.”
Bulk Cashews at Whole Foods
“At Whole Foods, bulk cashews could be a tasty and healthy option,” said Michael Garrico, a nutritionist and personal trainer and the co-founder at TotalShape. “Bulk cashews are rich in magnesium, which aids in the relief of insomnia, headaches and muscle cramps, and they’re also cheaper if purchased from Whole Foods’ bulk food section.”
Trader Joe’s Elote Greek Yogurt
“This dip is much healthier than traditional dips like onion dip or pre-made processed guacamole (and) has significantly fewer calories and fat than other types of dips, plus the healthy cultures found in Greek yogurt,” said Annie Singer, a food entrepreneur and the founder of Reciple. “Trader Joe’s Elote Greek Yogurt dip runs $3.49 for an 8-ounce container. Compare this to dips you’d find at any grocery store like Tostitos salsa con queso ($4.49) or even Trader Joe’s own vegan tzatziki dip ($3.99); it’s a great price for something that is much healthier than most dips.”
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SunButter at Walmart
“SunButter (roasted sunflower seed butter) is a healthier alternative to peanut butter,” said Liana Werner-Gray, a health and nutrition coach and the founder of The Earth Diet. “It’s excellent for people with nut allergies, too, or households with nut allergies (about 3 million Americans). Less saturated fat than almond butter and peanut butter, more iron and magnesium and the same amount of protein.”
A 16-ounce jar of SunButter retails for $6.48 at Walmart.
Explore Cuisine Pad Thai Noodles at Walmart
“Explore Cuisine Pad Thai Noodles are gluten free and the type of noodles we dream about in our Asian cooking at home,” Werner-Gray said. “They are soft and bouncy but firm and delicious — and made with just one ingredient: organic and non-GMO brown rice. When a noodle tastes this good, it is not necessary for it to have gluten, as that commonly creates inflammation and bloating.”
A six-pack of Explore Cuisine Organic Brown Rice Pad Thai Noodles provides 24 servings and retails for $47.07 at Walmart.
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Organic Blueberries at Whole Foods
“While blueberries are high in disease- and fat-fighting nutrients like polyphenols, they are also extremely expensive, which is why many people avoid them,” Garrico said. “Stick to the organic varieties in order to reap the most health benefits and head to the produce section of Whole Foods, where it is available for just $3.49 per pint.”
Trader Joe’s Riced Cauliflower
“At $2.49, the value is hard to beat,” said Natalya Drozhzhin, founder of Momsdish. “I find that frozen riced cauliflower crisps up so much better than raw riced cauliflower, so I always like to have four or five bags hanging out in my freezer for a rainy day. From quick low-carb fried rice to burritos bowls, it’s a healthy eating must-have and so much more affordable than the varieties sold at fancy health food stores.”
Trader Joe’s Kung Pao Chicken
“My all-time favorite wallet-friendly item from Trader Joe’s is the Kung Pao Chicken,” Drozhzhin said. “It comes with two ultra-flavorful sauce packets that really go the mile. To make the dish more healthy and filling, I add in sauteed bell peppers, onions or even broccoli. For my family of four, this makes for a super easy weeknight meal and the perfect topper for a steaming bowl of white rice. Last time I purchased it, the packet was only $4.99 — a killer steal for all the chicken you get!”
Bagged Avocados at Trader Joe’s
“I have found avocados from other stores to vary widely in terms of ripeness and taste, (but) the avocados from Trader Joe’s always seem to be perfect,” said Michelle Gibeault Traub, dietitian and coach. “I let them ripen on the counter and then quickly put them into the fridge, and they will last for over a week.
“Avocados provide healthy fats, which help to keep you full. They also have a rich flavor that enables you to use fewer condiments. (They’re) usually around $3 for a bag of five of the tiny avocados. A little more for the larger ones.”
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