You can afford to eat healthy!

A Super Food Diet for Less Than $5.25 a Day

by Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

"Super foods" provide numerous nutrients and/or higher concentrations of nutrients. Unfortunately, many guides to frugal eating focus on the least nutrient dense-foods, such as simple carbohydrates.

The following daylong meal plan demonstrates that you can fit more super foods into your week's meals. (Prices are per serving, based upon a national chain store's non-sale prices currently listed online.)

Breakfast - $.76

An egg ($.07) provides six grams of protein and choline, which supports liver function. Increase nutrition by stirring in leftover vegetables or cut-up meat.

Oatmeal's ($.14) whole grain goodness cuts LDL cholesterol and supplies 10% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron. Its two grams of fiber helps you feel satisfied longer.

Plain Greek yogurt ($.95) costs more than standard yogurt ($.55), but Greek yogurt contains 23 grams of protein versus seven grams in standard yogurt. Yogurt offers calcium and, to aid digestion, probiotics. Make plain Greek yogurt by tipping standard plain yogurt on its side. After an hour, peel back the seal and drain the liquid. (I have interviewed representatives of a top Greek yogurt company who said that the only difference between standard and Greek yogurt is draining.) You can also strain it a few hours through cheese cloth.

Lunch - $2.67

Low-sodium tomato soup ($.90) serves up 15 milligrams of both vitamin C and choline. Plus, it contains lycopene, which is an antioxidant.

Romaine lettuce ($.33) costs more than iceberg lettuce ($.28); however, Romaine last longer and contains 174% of the RDA of vitamin A versus 10% in iceberg lettuce. It's also higher in nearly every other nutrient.

Red cabbage ($.10) helps lower your risk of developing cancer and provides vitamins C, K and fiber. Like Romaine, cabbage keeps fresh much longer than pale green leafy vegetables. Add a cup to your Romaine salad for color and flavor.

Carrots ($.23) offer 110% of the RDA of vitamin A, and they add crunch to your salad.

Extra virgin olive oil ($.12) adds flavor to salads, along with the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3 fatty acids that are also good for brain and joint health.

Frozen mixed berries ($.99/serving) provide a wealth of nutrients, including five grams of fiber, 25% RDA of manganese, 50% of vitamin C, and 15% of vitamin K. They're loaded with cancer-fighting antioxidants. Picked and frozen at peak, these berries offer more nutrition than shipped fresh berries. Enjoy them as a side dish. As a quick meal replacement, you can blend on high into a smoothie with Greek yogurt and a peeled carrot.

Snack - $.33

Walnuts ($.33) and many other nuts and seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and protein, along with many minerals. Their healthful fat helps keep you satisfied until dinnertime. Nuts in the baking aisle cost less than in the snack aisle.

Dinner - $1.35

Quinoa ($.45/serving), a seed, supplies eight grams of protein and all nine essential amino acids. Many people love its nutty flavor in rice pilaf, as part of a savory stir-fry, or all by itself.

Use drained canned salmon ($.43/serving) to replace ground beef in any meatloaf recipe. Form small patties (approximately $.61/serving) and fry or broil for a delicious entree. Salmon provides healthful omega-3 fatty acids, along with 12 grams of protein, 50% of the RDA of vitamin D, and 12% of calcium.

Frozen broccoli ($.29/serving) is a vitamin C superstar with 60% of the RDA, but also 12% RDA of fiber and cancer-fighting compounds.


Unsweetened tea ($.03), hot or iced, costs much less than sugary soda and provides immune system-boosting antioxidants at zero calories. White, green and black teas come from the same leaves. White tea offers the highest level of antioxidants and the least caffeine, but it is the most expensive. Green tea is in the middle, and black tea provides the least antioxidants, lowest price, and the most caffeine (cost above represents green tea). Add flavor by dropping in a tablespoon of fruit in a tea ball for a full pitcher of iced tea or a dash for a cup of hot tea. Use the same principle for flavor-infused water (nearly free/serving).

Milk ($.09/serving) goes beyond its calcium (30%) and vitamin D (25%) and serves eight grams of protein. You should drink at least two servings daily.

For $5.23, you have a full day's worth of meals, snacks, and beverages with all of the items being super foods. Of course, a variety of whole produce, whole grains, and lean sources of protein provide a balanced array of nutrients.

Take the Next Step:

Deborah Jeanne Sergeant lives in New York. Connect with her online at

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