Eating healthy don’t always have to cost you more money: We combed the aisles and crunched some numbers to find these six simple food swaps that come with cost savings, nutritional benefits, and sometimes way fewer calories. Some even involve switching to organic. Yep, these are total upgrades.
1 / 7 BY ALLISON YOUNG FOR PREVENTIONRead more
2 / 7 SWAP #1: PITA CHIPS FOR BELL PEPPER STRIPSRead more
ure, hummus is healthy, but what you pair it with can make a big difference to your wallet and waistline. Take pita chips: They brag about being baked, but just 10 chips give you 130 calories. Swap the empty calories for bell pepper strips, and you’ve got a healthier cruncher. One cup of pepper strips spares you 100 calories and gains you a hefty dose of vitamin C.
“Crunchy raw veggies give the crisp of a chip, but also provide vitamins and filling fibre to satisfy you more quickly,” says Elana Natker, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian from Washington D.C.
3 / 7 SWAP #2: GRANOLA FOR OATMEALRead more
That granola in the cereal section may look wholesome with the promise of “whole grains” and “fiber” printed right on the box, but check out the small print and you’ll find sugar listed as the second ingredient. No wonder a ½-cup serving can have 240 calories and 14 grams sugar. Compare that to a 1-cup cooked serving of old-fashioned oats (150 calories, 1 gram sugar) and you get double the portion for a fraction of the calories—and 3 teaspoons less sugar.
“Oats are one of the major heart-healthy foods, but you may be diluting their benefits by getting them from granolas instead of a minimally-processed bowl of oatmeal,” warns Tamara Duker Freuman, M.S., R.D., a registered dietitian in New York. Granola should be considered a treat food, not a breakfast staple, she says.
4 / 7 SWAP #3: BABY CARROTS FOR RAINBOW ORGANIC CARROTSRead more
Baby carrots may be convenient, but they’re not “baby” carrots at all (real carrots have a tapered end). Not that we’re knocking baby carrots: They’re an easy way to eat more vegetables and get your beta-carotene.
Going organic means less pesticide residue and more disease-fighting antioxidants—up to 60 percent more, according to one study. Best of all, you get a rainbow of plant pigments from eating not just orange carrots, but also purple, yellow, red, and white.
“Each color provides slightly different phytonutrients, so you get a slight nutrition advantage that way,” says Natker.
5 / 7 SWAP #4: BAGGED POPCORN FOR AIR-POPPED KERNELSRead more
Normally packaged products get a thumbs down for being overly processed and nutritionally void. Not bagged popcorn—as long as you buy plain and not overly buttery, of course. The whole grain, antioxidant-packed snack contains appetite-suppressing fiber and only 65 calories per cup.
Not bad, but air-popped kernels are even better. At only 30 calories per cup, you can eat twice as much for the same amount of calories but a fraction of the cost (about 65 cents less per serving).
“You can also control the amount of added salt when you pop your own, which is a bonus for people watching their blood pressure,” adds Freuman.
6 / 7 SWAP #5: PRE-CUT PRODUCE FOR WHOLE PRODUCERead more
Buying those bright containers of mixed tropical fruit, cubed butternut squash, and bagged lettuce can mean less prep time and less food waste, but the convenience comes at a steep price. Pre-cut chunks of pineapple, for example, can cost as much as eight times more as buying the whole fruit. Whole produce is also fresher and more flavourful, and a study published in the British Food Journal even found that it packs more vitamin C than pre-cut produce.
What’s more, you could be losing some of the most nutritious parts of the plant: “Opt for the whole broccoli instead of pre-cut florets and those stalks can make a quick and nutritious broccoli soup,” says Freuman, “or whole butternut squash instead of the pre-cut chunks and you can roast the seeds with olive oil and salt, and enjoy them as a nutritionally-dense snack.”
7 / 7 SWAP #6: BROWN EGGS FOR WHITE EGGSRead more
Brown eggs can cost more than double that of white eggs, so they must be better for you, right? Wrong. Truth is, the color of the shell doesn’t elevate the flavor or nutritional profile (both are around 70 calories and 6 grams of protein), it just tells you what kind of chicken laid it—and the breed of hen that lays brown eggs requires more feed.
“Nutritionally, they’re equivalent, so it’s ludicrous to pay a premium for one color over another,” says Freuman.
That said, since the quality of a hen’s diet directly affects the nutritional quality of her eggs, free-range or pasture-raised eggs are worth the premium. “They will likely have significantly more vitamin E, vitamin A, and heart-healthy omega-3 fats compared to standard conventionally raised or even organic eggs,” adds Freuman.