In tough economic times many families are looking for ways to trim their grocery bill without sacrificing nutrition. The good news: some of the most nutrient dense foods are also inexpensive--shattering the myth that eating healthy has to be expensive.
Thanks to nutrition expert, Adam Drewnowski, PhD who crunched all the numbers, we know which food groups and individual foods deliver the biggest nutritional return for the lowest price. His analysis rated over 300 common foods based on the cost to provide 100% of the recommend amounts of several essential nutrients including: protein, fiber, iron, calcium, potassium, magnesium, vitamin A, vitamin B-12, riboflavin, vitamin C and vitamin E. The ratings also factor in three nutrients that should be limited: saturated fat, added sugars, and sodium.
By the Numbers:
Listed below are the top four food groups that delivered 100% of your daily value of key nutrients at the lowest cost. (The food groups are listed in order of lowest to highest cost.)
- Protein: Eggs; dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds; meat, poultry, fish; milk and milk products; and grains.
- Fiber: Dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds; vegetables; grain products; fruits;
- Vitamin A: Eggs; milk and milk products; fats, oils and salad dressings; vegetables
- Vitamin C: Fruits; vegetables; dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds; sugars, sweets, beverages
- Calcium: Milk and milk products; eggs; grain products; dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds
- Iron: Grain products; eggs; dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, vegetables
- Potassium: Dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds; vegetables; eggs; milk and milk products
- Zinc: Dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds; eggs; meat, poultry fish; milk and milk products
- Vitamin B-12: Eggs; milk and milk products; meat, poultry and fish; grain products
- Riboflavin: Eggs; grain products; milk and milk products; dry beans, legumes, nuts, seeds
Individual foods that offer a big nutritional bang for the buck include:
- Protein: Eggs, black beans, peas, lentils, garbanzo and kidney beans
- Vegetables: Carrots, sweet potatoes and broccoli rank the highest with peas, string beans, squash, and lettuce following close behind.
- Fruits: Oranges and bananas were the top-scoring fruits in the study. Raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, grapes, nectarines, and apples were also highly ranked.
- Grain Products: Oats, whole grain bread, brown rice.
Other ways to cut grocery costs without sacrificing nutrition are:
- Choose whole, bulk foods over packaged foods for most meals. For example, a large container of rolled oats is half the cost of your typical box of cereal. While fortified cereals do provide many essential nutrients, their cost can be prohibitive if eaten on a daily basis.
- Limit red meat to once or twice a week and choose quality over quantity.
- Use meat/poultry as a “flavoring” rather than an entrée by adding them to casseroles and soups.
- Limit processed foods and soft drinks.
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition