With countless health-focused trends from juicing to organic to paleo, there's no shortage of expensive alternatives to everyday food. Still, it's possible to eat healthy and save money by stocking up on basic and flavorful recipes that leverage low-cost ingredients such as vegetables and legumes. Here are 10 dishes to add to your repertoire.
10 Recipes for a Healthy Budget and a Healthy You in the New Year
Several nutritious rice substitutes, such as quinoa and millet, are considerably more expensive than the common grain, but cauliflower is similarly budget-wise. Grating and sautéing half a head of cauliflower yields several portions of grain-free goodness to accompany a meal. A basic recipe from Primal Palate leaves room for improvisation with favorite ingredients and seasonings.
Crunchy and satisfying, cucumber salad delivers tons of flavor in just a few calories. Start with 2 cups sliced cucumbers and add one-half teaspoon sesame oil (hot or regular), one-quarter cup rice vinegar, one-half cup sliced cherry tomatoes, and one clove grated garlic. Marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours and enjoy as a side dish, sandwich filling, or rice topper.
Even consumers who are not sensitive to gluten admit that pasta is a major source of empty calories. Cut the carbs with a spiralizer (starting at $11 on Amazon) to make noodles out of zucchini. Uncooked "zoodles" absorb sauce nicely and retain a perfect al dente texture. One large zucchini easily makes two to three servings of "pasta."
Beans offer protein plus iron, potassium, and magnesium, all of which are essential to keeping energy flowing. Dried beans are cheapest by far, but even canned beans offer everyday value. Starting with 16 ounces of cooked beans, use a hand blender to combine with the juice and zest of one lemon, 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper to taste, and dried or fresh herbs of your choosing. Mix until smooth and creamy. Use as a sandwich spread, on crackers, or with crudité for a tasty and healthy meal or snack.
Depriving yourself of dessert can lead to bigger cravings and overindulgence in unhealthy treats. Stick to a healthy eating routine by working in nutritious dessert options such as apple crisp, which uses fresh apples, cinnamon, lemon, oats, and a touch of sugar and butter. Start with a basic version from Allrecipes and cut the sugar in half and the butter by one-third. The flavors will still pop and so will the nutritional value.
Lentils are a quick-cooking source of healthy vegetarian protein. They cost little and keep for long periods in dry storage. Basic lentil soup is simple, filling, and can be modified to use whatever vegetables and spices you have on hand. As an alternative to broth, which can be pricey if not homemade, water seasoned with garlic salt and dried herbs turns out a soup that's just as good.
Considered one of the noble food sources of ancient Mesoamerica for its life-sustaining properties, squash is full of essential vitamins (A, B, C, and K) and fiber. It's also very inexpensive and filling. Make squash the centerpiece of a meal by roasting it with smoked paprika and a splash of orange juice and wine vinegar for a tangy and smoky flavor. Alongside garlicky sautéed greens and potatoes or rice, the sweet and umami flavors shine.
Vegetarian meals are healthy for everyone, even hardcore carnivores on the occasional Meatless Monday. A simple and tasty recipe for barbecue tofu from the food education site Wake Up and Eat ensures a satisfying meat replacement. Enjoy alongside a baked potato and steamed corn, or as an alternative for a burger patty. At just a few dollars per pack, this is a good way to hold the lid on food costs without compromising flavor or meal diversity.
One of the cheapest, most filling, and most nutritious vegetables available, cabbage has been praised since Roman times for its ability to keep the human digestive system clean and performing optimally. Slaws are essentially cabbage salads that often rely on heavy mayonnaise dressings. Carolina-style slaws are healthier and cheaper thanks to their vinegar-based sauces. A basic rendition at MyRecipes yields roughly six portions and costs just a few dollars to make.
Who says dessert can't be healthy? The recipe for the vegan pie posted on Wake Up and Eat is packed with nutrition and contains such a tiny amount of natural fat and sugar that it makes for a wholesome breakfast treat. Canned sweet potatoes will do in a pinch, but roasting this fresh root vegetable cuts the cost and enhances the flavor.
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