Has the rising cost of food priced you out of a healthy, body-slimming diet? You can trim your figure and your supermarket bill at the same time if you get savvy about which pricey non-essentials to leave on the shelf, and which super foods will jump-start your weight loss regimen.
Eggs: They're cheap, they're a good source of protein, and they're versatile. You can get a large carton of eggs for around $3; if you just use the whites, that equals three 20 gram servings of protein at about one dollar per serving. "We need protein to balance out our blood sugar," says Penny Kendall-Reed, a naturopathic doctor and author of "The No Crave Diet." "Protein makes you not feel hungry so it is easier to lose weight."
To keep eggs from getting boring, make an egg white omelet with piles of vegetables or pour the egg whites and vegetables into a baking pan and bake it so it comes out like a frittata. Top with salsa if you like. "Think of it as a crustless quiche," Kendall-Reed says. "While a regular quiche would cost you ten dollars, this one costs around four dollars."
Apples (and other fruit): "The reality is that fresh produce gives you some of the best bang for your buck," Tallmadge says. A recent USDA survey found that the average person could get the recommended five servings of fruits and vegetables for just $2.50 per day. If an apple costs 75 cents, look at it this way: that's half what you'd pay for a soft drink in the vending machine.
Canned vegetables: They can be as nutritious as fresh, Tallmadge says, and they cost much less. Plus, with canned vegetables, there is no waste at all. No matter how cheap fresh produce is, it's no bargain if it sits in the refrigerator until it turns rotten and you have to throw it out. Rinse them first to get rid of salt, then stir them into broth for a filling soup, use in casseroles and omelets, and add to tacos and burritos.
Beans: Canned or dried, they're a great buy, notes registered dietitian and radio host Samantha Heller. Half a cup of beans has 100 calories and can be pureed with garlic and a little olive oil to make a great dip. They're rich in fiber, a good source of protein and have very little fat. Try them in whole wheat quesadillas with lean turkey and grated lowfat cheese.
Peanut butter: It's cheap, and believe it or not, it can fit into a weight loss diet, notes Heller. A peanut butter sandwich costs about 50 cents to make, and comes in at 340 calories when made with one tablespoon of peanut butter, two teaspoons of jam and two slices of whole wheat bread.
Carrots (and other root vegetables): Low in calories and loaded with nutrients, carrots are a nutritional powerhouse. Try sprinkling with a little salt and roasting them in a 400-degree oven for 20 to 30 minutes. They'll be soft, sweet and caramelized – great as a snack, with or without lowfat dip.
Brown rice: Yes, it's a carb, but a cup offers lots of bulk and nutrients, says Vonda Wright, MD, author of "Fitness After Forty." "Brown rice has a lot of vitamin A and gives you a feeling of fullness," Wright says. Toss with plenty of roasted vegetables for an easy side dish.
Oatmeal: It's one of the cheapest cereals around and filled with fiber and protein, notes Wright. Don't sabotage your weight loss efforts by piling on the brown sugar, though. Instead, top it with half a sliced banana. "It will make it sweet and healthy, too," Wright says.
Ocean perch and other frozen fish fillets: They're about half the cost of fresh fish fillets and can be prepared in the same ways as fresh, Wright says. One of the easiest ways to prep it is just to top with salt and pepper, and bake for five minutes or until done.
Lettuce: You can get a huge head of romaine for about $3, and use it as the base for an infinite number of salads. But don't buy the prewashed,bagged lettuce, which costs much more and is typically not as fresh.