Have you have dedicated yourself to a healthy eating plan but just don’t have a great deal of cash to splash on the latest ‘superfood’ trends? Worries about the affordability of eating healthily is something I hear a lot, and it still surprises me every time, as I myself have never spent a lot of money on eating well. I guess this is because most people are looking in the wrong places, believing they need to splash out on expensive and exotic berries or some other trendy superfood of the moment.
This is simply not the case, and in this post I will share with you my top 10 plant based superfoods on a budget – the very same that I put in my own shopping trolley every week, along with the other nutritious plant based foods on my grocery list that are delicious, versatile, and will keep you bouncing with health and vitality.
No, having loads of spare cash really isn’t what you need to stay healthy; it may help, but it’s certainly not needed. It’s so much more about putting in the time on a bit of research (we nearly all have access to the internet), learning how to live a healthily, and allocating more time for exercise and home cooking (which can be done in big batches, then frozen for those days when you have no time to cook).
This is one of the most helpful things you can do to save time, and my own freezer is always full of leftover portioned out healthy meals ready to take out and leave on the side to defrost while I am at work. All you need to do is put them in the oven and steam a few veggies, boil some pasta, or toss a salad together. The best things to cook and freeze in batches are:-
- Bean chilli’s
- Bolognese sauce
- Shepherd’s pie
- Lentil or pulse soups
- Pureed soups
- Homemade burgers
- Pasta sauces
Healthy Food Swaps
I know what you’re thinking – you can buy a bag of frozen chips for £1 right? Yes, they literally are as cheap as chips, but by the same token you can buy a packet of sweet potatoes for the same price and make your own much healthier and lower fat version, with virtually no more effort, except maybe a bit of chopping.
This is just one example, but I’m sure you can see where I’m going here – there really are healthy substitutes for every version of junk food imaginable, and it’s much easier to make these swaps when you know what you’re looking for.
Swapping your every day foods for the foods on the list below, will not only make you and your family healthier, but will also help you to discover new foods and different and exciting dishes. Tying new things keeps you tastes buds alive and sizzling to the point where you will actually crave health foods like you used to crave junk foods. YES, this really does happen after you have broken your cycle of unhealthy food addiction and naturally start listening to what your body needs.
Unless you’ve been living on another planet, then you will be well aware of the damage that sugar and trans fats wreak on your body if eaten to excess and on a long term basis. We didn’t understand the true extent of this a few years ago, but now we do; yet so many are still over consume foods that can accelerate the aging process of the body on both the inside and out, and put them at much higher risk of disease and a shorter life span.
Why do we do it to ourselves? Well, eating high fat and sugar foods triggers the release of feel good endorphins into the body (in some ways like a drug, though there is no real evidence that sugar is actually addictive in humans). This is the body’s way of making sure it survives, by keeping you interested in sourcing out high calorie foods.
Unfortunately, this instinct can get out of control as you become addicted to the feelings of pleasure rather than the sugar itself. Add to this a whole host of other potential reasons why we may over eat, including emotional eating to push down bad feelings, self-sabotage, and other psychological factors then you can see why there is such an attachment to foods that make us feel better.
Breaking the Cycle of Binge Eating
If I had an easy answer to this I’d be rich! But what I can say from my own experience, is when you feel a craving coming on there are to ways you can go depending on the type of person you are.
- If you’re an all or nothing type who can’t just eat a few squares of chocolate and need to eat the whole bar, then you need to use the distraction technique until the craving passes. Go and read a book, do some exercise, eat a teaspoon of coconut oil (this works), do some housework, or meditate until you feel it’s gone. There will come a time when you will be able to control the amount you eat, but that’s not yet. As you become healthier this will come naturally.
- If you’re at a point where you have more control (this definitely comes naturally as your body gets healthier), then have a little of what you fancy and leave it there, no harm done. Afford yourself a couple of small treats a day, and be sure to ONLY have them if you know you are going to enjoy them and not feel guilty afterwards as this defeats the object of a treat.
Top 10 Best Budget Superfoods
It’s worth noting that ALL of these superfoods have a much higher nutrient absorption rate when eaten alongside a little healthy fat such as nuts, seeds, avocado, olive oil or coconut oil (except the ones that already contain fats of course). And most of these foods (apart from potatoes) are better when either eaten raw, or very lightly cooked to help keep their delicate nutrients intact, thus making them more healthful.
These are the absolute number one superfood, and I would encourage you to try to consume half an avocado a day in some form or another. You can chop them and add to your meals, smash them onto toast with a squeeze of lemon, or simply add them to your smoothies to make them rich and creamy.
Benefits:- Avocado’s are high in heart friendly monounsaturated fats, full of fiber and antioxidants, and contain vitamins K, E, C, B5, B6, potassium and folate. They are also super low GI, making them a fantastic food for type 2 diabetics as they will help to keep blood sugar stable.
On top of this, avocados also help to lower bad cholesterol, offer eye protection due to their high levels of antioxidants, AND help with a weight loss diet due to the fact they are full of fiber and low GI. They will help keep your blood sugar under control, and you feeling fuller and satiated for longer, stopping those diet busting sugar cravings in their tracks.
2. ALL PULSES
Just think of all the different pulses out there, such as lentils of all varieties, kidney beans, chick peas, pinto beans, cannellini, borlotti and black beans. I’m sure you can think of more, but the point I’m going to make is they can ALL be used in place of meat to make many plant based dishes, including bean chilli’s, hummus, bean burgers, falafel, and chickpea curry. Find many more all over the internet under vegan meals.
Benefits:- As well as their impressive fiber and protein profile pulses contain high doses of zinc, iron, folate and magnesium, and their phytonutrients, tanins and saponins have antioxidant effects. They are also another low GI food, so perfect for dieters and diabetics.
3. SWEET POTATOES
Swap your normal frozen chips and white potatoes for sweet potatoes. You can chip them, mash them, roast them, or do pretty much anything you would normally do with your potatoes. And they are just delicious roasted in coconut oil with some paprika, cumin, salt and pepper.
Benefits:- Sweet potatoes are one of nature’s highest forms of beta carotene, which is all down to their bright orange colour pigment. They drastically up your blood levels of vitamin A and antioxidants, and also contain high levels of other nutrients such as vitamin C, manganese, copper, and an array of B vitamins.
They are high in fiber and low GI, so perfect for helping to keep blood sugar stable, especially if you eat them alongside lots of other high antioxidant, low GI foods.
4. PEANUTS AND SUGAR FREE PEANUT BUTTER
Peanuts are a really inexpensive plant based source of protein and are easy to incorporate into any snack. Or, you can spread your peanut butter on a slice of wholegrain toast with a sliced banana for a wholesome, filling and tasty lunch.
Benefits:- High in protein, antioxidants, B-vitamins, copper, potassium, manganese, calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc and selenium, peanuts certainly have a host of health benefits. They also contain resveratrol – an antioxidant well known for its anti aging benefits.
Blueberries offer one of the highest levels of phytonutrients out of ALL the common fruits and vegetables, and can be bought cheaply when in season, or frozen at other times of the year.
Add them to breakfast cereals, homemade quinoa porridge, smoothies; or make ice cream from frozen blueberries by whizzing them up in a blender with chunks of frozen ripe banana and a little coconut milk. If you make it thick enough it makes an absolutely delicious and healthy dessert too!
Benefits:- The health benefits of blueberries are simply astounding, plus their high antioxidant content neutralises free radicals to help offer protection from age related diseases. They are also anti inflammatory and can help with muscle repair, boost memory, lower blood pressure, and like cranberries can also reduce risk of bladder infections.
Broccoli is one of the highest protein vegetables and is something you would do well to eat as much as possible. It’s such a versatile vegetable, and can be sauteed with garlic, lightly steamed, added to stir-fries, or finely chopped and eaten raw in salads.
Benefits:- High in fiber and vitamins B6, B1, A, E, potassium, magnesium, zinc, calcium, niacin, omega 3 fatty acids and iron. But broccoli’s main superstar qualities come in its powerful anti carcinogenic compounds and nutrients.
It is a great detoxifyer with fantastic anti aging properties, and has high levels of iron which is great for anemics. It can also boosts bone health, eye health, and also immunity if eaten often alongside a healthy plant foods diet in general.
7. FROZEN PEAS
Frozen green garden peas are full of protein, AND they are literally one of the cheapest veggies you can buy if you get them pre-frozen. The great thing about frozen produce is it’s usually a lot more cost efficient than fresh, and actually has more nutrients as it is almost always frozen immediately after it is picked, or harvested when it’s at its nutritional peak.
Fruits and vegetables lose their nutrients quickly after picking, so the faster they are picked and eaten – or frozen, the better.
Peas can be boiled and added as a side dish with any meal; or you can jazz them up with a squeeze of lemon juice and some flaked almonds (there’s another 2 more superfoods for you right there).
Benefits:- The humble green pea boasts one of the most nutrient dense profiles so far on this list; in fact it’s simply astonishing the amount of bang you get for your buck with peas nutrition wise, and I can’t believe more people aren’t onto this. For starters, green peas are rich in vitamin K, C, E, B6, B2, beta carotene, copper, phosphorus, manganese, folate, niacin, molybdenum, zinc, magnesium, iron, potassium, choline, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids; plus they also contain antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties. They are also low on the glycemic index scale, so great for weight management.
As well as all these above mentioned wonderful benefits, peas have recently been found to contain unique phytonutrients called saponins, which can pretty much ONLY be found in green peas. And when combined with all their other nutrients, the benefits have been found to be far more outreaching than previously recognised.
Peas are also of great benefit to those with obesity, diabetes, and blood sugar problems as they are yet again another low GI food that will help keep blood sugars stable.
Beetroot is another cheap and versatile super food that is just choc full of nutrients. You can eat it raw, grated into salads, steamed, or roasted in olive oil and balsamic vinegar (totally yum BTW). You can also juice it with carrots and ginger for a fantastic immune and energy boosting veggie juice – beetroot is often used by athletes for its endurance qualities, so we certainly can’t argue with this one!
Benefits:- Beetroot’s bright red colour comes from its antioxidant compound betalain. It may also offer immune support, reduce bad cholesterol, slow down dementia, and supports the liver by helping to prevent fatty deposits forming.
Bananas just had to go on the list as you can usually buy a bunch of them for under a quid, and they’re a filling and easy to eat snack on the go. Great just to have in your bag in case of a snack attack emergency as they will fill a hole and stop you snacking on less desirable junk foods.
Benefits:- High in fiber, so another good food for dieters and weight watchers. Bananas are also helpful for depression and anxiety, due to their high B Vitamin content (which are nutrients great for the central nervous system). Along with all that, they are also a source of potassium, iron, magnesium and manganese.
Bananas are also heart friendly, help lower blood sugar (especially the unripe ones), help with anemia, are anti aging due to their high levels of antioxidants, and are gut friendly as their pectin and resistant starch act as a prebiotic, thus soothing IBS symptoms.
10. BAKED BEANS IN TOMATO SAUCE
Oh yeah, being a Brit I had to go there! Baked beans are a good old British staple that I’m not even sure the rest of the world knows about, but these truly are a thing of greatness aren’t they? We eat these with everything and anything this side of the pond, and if you’re stuck for a cheap, high protein, and easy to prepare meal, then beans on granary or sourdough toast have everything you could possibly wish for. Comfort food at its finest 🙂
If you can, buy the sugar free or lower sugar versions to make sure the benefits aren’t lost in that extra 4 TEASPOONS OF SUGAR that is in just one can of beans.
Benefits:- Not only are baked beans full of iron, magnesium, manganese, potassium, folic acid and B6, but they also contain more vitamins and minerals than red meat, making them a great substitute for vegetarians, vegans, or those just trying to cut their meat intake down.
Baked beans are full of the antioxidants that help to fight free radicals in the body, and when eaten 4 times a week may help to lower cholesterol and risk of heart disease (alongside other dietary changes of course). They are also a fantastic weight loss food as they are low GI, high in protein and fiber, and also low in fat – so basically, all the features of a great fat burning food.
Thank you for stopping by zestforever today. I hope I have left you with more understanding on eating healthily for less, and I hope I have inspired you to add these delicious ingredients to your shopping list. Please feel free to leave any feedback below as I would be more than happy to hear from you.
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Here are some healthy eating meal ideas that you may find helpful too!