Healthy eating can seem expensive. The cost of organic, free-range, grass-fed and fresh foods can leave a serious hole in your budget, but it doesn't have to be this way. As a strong, lean, sexy woman you need a high intake of protein and carbohydrates. The cheapest way to get them is to base your diet around good value, nutrient-dense foods. As a bonus, you'll have some spare cash left over for life's essentials, like shoes.
Meat and Fish
Meat is nature's number one protein source. Three ounces of ground beef provides 22 grams of protein, while turkey breast gives 17 grams per 2 ounce serving. By adding oily fish such as salmon and mackerel to your diet, you're not only getting protein, but omega-3 fatty acids that help prevent heart disease. Tinned fish are slightly cheaper than fresh, but don't have quite as much healthy fat. Consider beef or turkey jerky too. Look for lower-sodium and -sugar varieties -- a single-serve pack contains about 9 grams of protein.
Forget organic quinoa, bulgur wheat or exotic fruits for carbs when you're looking to keep costs down. Go for basic grain products such as rice, pasta and oats. Opt for whole grains over white carbs. Whole grains are much higher in fiber than their white counterparts which may help keep you feeling fuller for longer, notes Barbara J. Rolls, professor of nutritional sciences at Pennsylvania State University in "Shape" magazine. They also pack more protein than white rice, pasta or bread.
Vegetarian women often struggle to eat enough protein. With meat and fish strictly off the menu, and perhaps even eggs and dairy products in the case of vegan diets, protein is hard to come by. Beans and legumes can be your saviors, though. Lentils, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans and chickpeas all contain about 20 percent protein and the same in carbohydrate. They're also excellent sources of fiber. Women need about 25 grams of fiber every day.
Dairy products are another hidden gem. Milk provides both protein and carbohydrate and is very affordable. Cottage cheese, Greek yogurt and farmer's cheese all have a slightly higher protein-to-carb ratio too. Remember the humble egg too. Although may not contain carbohydrate, eggs are a cheap form of protein and you can get your carbs by serving your eggs with some whole wheat toast or with some fruit on the side.
- USDA: Household Commodity Fact Sheet: Beef, Ground, Frozen
- USDA: Household Commodity Fact Sheet: Turkey, Breast, Cook, Deli-Style, Frozen
- American Heart Association: Fish and Omega-3 Fatty Acids
- Greatist: 31 Healthy and Portable High-Protein Snacks
- Shape Magazine: Healthy Diet Plan: Fiber-Rich Whole Grains
- USDA: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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