3 Ways to Make Healthy Meals Cheaper

July 25, 2017

healthy food

Here are some troubling statistics. In 1960, US citizens spent three times as much on food as they did on healthcare, and in 2014 they spent twice as much on healthcare as they did on food.

These kinds of stats are often called out to highlight that good food is medicine and that much of our current health epidemic can be correlated with the low cost of bad food. Especially if you’re in a big city, it can seem prohibitively expensive to eat both healthily and cheaply.

But of course the solution does not necessarily mean simply paying more for food. Lucky for us, plenty of the world’s most nutrient-dense foods are incredibly cheap (and they taste good too!).

Below are three ways you can make the shift to a healthier, more cost-effective diet.


Going big may not always be the best option. While purchasing a year’s worth of pasta from Costco may seem economical, it may not provide the essential macronutrients and micronutrients your body needs. Instead, you could be overindulging in low-quality, high-glycemic noodles that offer little nutritional value.

Instead of considering an XXL order of fries as a great bargain, attempt to estimate the price per nutrient. Rather than comparing calories, a better approach is to compare nutrient density. Typically, if two foods have the same number of calories, the more nutrient-dense food will keep you satiated for a longer period of time.

Here’s a short list to get you started. If you don’t feel like clicking, think: beans, eggs, whole grains, fibrous vegetables, sweet potatoes, leafy greens, lean meats, and fish.


The convenience of fast food is a major obstacle for those seeking to maintain a healthy diet on a budget. While it may seem that grabbing a cheap meal at McDonald’s is more cost-effective than visiting a salad chain like Sweetgreen, there are several benefits to cooking your own meals. Not only can you save money, but packaged and fast food typically contains excessive amounts of sugar and salt, which are highly addictive.

By taking control of your own cooking, you can learn more about food and proper portioning, while also contributing to environmental sustainability. Moreover, cooking your own meals can reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses, which according to the CDC has affect an estimated 1 in 6 Americans and can lead to serious medical complications and even death.

With these two minor shifts of mindset, you can start getting healthier today.


We know veggies can get expensive, especially when you forget to cook all that kale stuffed in the bottom drawer. But (if you remember to cook and eat them), this study states that out of some of the major food groups evaluated, vegetables were found to have the highest nutrient density, while also not breaking the bank.


There’s probably no greater bang for your buck. Cabbage is high in fiber, vitamin C, and (especially purple cabbage) antioxidants. It’s versatile, filling, and can go a long way. You can even substitute it for pasta with this recipe for Cabbage e Pepe!


Broccoli is underrated by children and grownups alike. Allow us to list the ways: dietary fiber, vitamins B6, B1, E, and A, manganese, phosphorous, choline, zinc, calcium, iron, niacin, protein, and a load of other goodness. Get out the cheese grater for this Broccoli and Parmesan recipe.


Carrots are a healthy snacker’s best friend. They’re packed with vitamin A and potassium, easy on the carbs, and sweet and crispy enough to sub for fries if you try hard enough. Try this Roasted Carrot and Avocado salad to start you on your journey.

Don’t shy away from buying frozen or canned veggies. Just be mindful of the added sodium and preservatives. While fresh veggies are great, other options are also affordable and just as nutritious.


Across the board, poultry offers the best value over most cuts of red meat. Poultry is high in protein, B vitamins, and essential amino acids. At just 70 calories, eggs contain 13 essential nutrients and 6 grams of protein. While it may seem mundane, perfectly done chicken, turkey, or eggs are neither intuitively simple nor are they boring. Check out this step-by-step on the perfect Roasted Chicken.


Dried beans are easily one of the best price-per-nutrient purchases out there. They take little work, freeze well, and work great in salads, soups, dips, or mains. Packed with protein and carbs, legumes easily measure up to anyone’s macronutrient requirements. For the cheapest and easiest way to eat healthfully, try cooking your beans in a slow cooker.


We weren’t going to stop without mentioning something at least a little sweet. Bananas are cheap, potassium-rich, and user friendly. They can go in oatmeal or (whole-grain!) cereal, or smoothies or be eaten as a snack on the go. For dessert, try this dish of whipped heavy cream (yes, you should just buy cream and whip it yourself — it takes 2 seconds), brown sugar, and bananas.


Buy your almonds in bulk to maximize your price per nutrient. They’re great as a snack or added to salads or mains to get some crunch. Plus, they’re incredibly nutritious. According to Medical News Today:

“Almonds are a source of vitamin E, copper, magnesium, and high-quality protein; they also contain high levels of healthy unsaturated fatty acids along with high levels of bioactive molecules (such as fiber, phytosterols, vitamins, other minerals, and antioxidants) which can help prevent cardiovascular heart diseases.”

The impact of having a healthy, consistent diet cannot be overstated. But to sum it up, it gives you more money and energy, and you’ll likely lose weight and feel better overall. So what’s the downside?

But sometimes food just isn’t sufficient medicine, as we all know. That’s why the Alliance is committed to helping you stay healthy. Members have access to Teladoc, a 24/365 national network of U.S. board-certified physicians available to answer any medical questions you might have. Discounts are available on lab tests, MRI, CT, and/or PET imaging, and prescription and emergency assistance. For more information, check out the Alliance Direct Benefits plans today or call us at 1-800-733-2242 (Monday – Friday, 7am-5:30pm Central Time).

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