Here at Greatist, we joke about how to deal with snack attacks and sudden hankerings for chocolate. But for millions of kids and adults across the U.S., cravings are hardly a laughing matter. Every day, people throughout the country deal with persistent hunger and live without access to nutritious, affordably priced eats. What’s worse, SNAP, our nation’s food stamp program, is potentially facing huge budget cuts that would directly impact the millions of families that rely on food stamps.
This year Greatist is participating in the Food Bloggers Against Hunger campaign, an initiative to help end hunger across the country. The campaign was inspired by the documentary film “A Place at the Table,” which follows three families struggling with food insecurity. We’re asking our readers to take part, too, by signing this petition asking Congress to protect federal nutrition programs for children and checking out the documentary in your city or on iTunes or Amazon.
We also want to help dispel the myth that healthy eating always means emptying our wallets. Below is a list of 44 nutritious (and delicious) foods that cost less than $1 per serving, from edamame to pumpkin to cottage cheese. So get cooking, start talking, and help raise awareness about this important issue that affects everyone living in the U.S. today. Forget that 99 cent bag of Fritos or dirty water dog. Stroll smart down the grocery aisle and choose feel-good foods that are great for the body and even better for our budget. Here's our list of 44 tasty, healthy(!) foods, all for under a buck per serving. *Prices may vary depending on location and store; we averaged price based on multiple sources.
Photo by Caitlin Covington
1. Black beans, $0.30 cents per ½ cup serving, about $1 per can These unassuming beans pack a ton of fiber and have a solid amount of calcium, fiber, potassium, and folic acid. Pro-tip: Buy the dry beans for an even better nutritious and money deal — boiling beans at home may preserve more of their cancer-fighting antioxidants Total phenolic content and antioxidant properties of eclipse black beans (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) as affected by processing methods. Xu, B.J., Chang, S.K. Dept. of Cereal and Food Sciences, North Dakota State Univ., Fargo, ND. Journal of Food Science, 2008 Mar;73(2):H19-27. . Cook up some black bean soup, or make a healthy black-bean dip.
2. Eggs, $0.19 per egg, about $2 per dozen When in need of some protein, eggs are a quick, delicious, fix The changing face of functional foods. Hasler, C.M. Functional Foods for Health Program, University of Illinois, Urbana IL. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, 2000 Oct;19(5 Suppl):499S-506S. . Scramble with veggies for a filling breakfast, add to homemade fried brown rice, or make a frittata!
3. Almonds, $0.60 for a 1oz serving (20-25 nuts), about $5 per 8oz bag Rich in monounsaturated fat and fiber, these super-nuts could reduce the risk of diabetes and decrease body weight Health Benefits of Almonds beyond Cholesterol Reduction. Kamil, A., Chen, C.Y. Antioxidants Research Laboratory, Tufts University, Boston, MA. The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2012 Feb 17. . (Sorry, Almond Joys don’t count.) Munch on 'em during the day, or add to a bowl of cereal or oatmeal for extra healthy fats and protein.
4. Peanuts, $0.50 for a 1oz serving (25-30 nuts), about $4 per 8oz bag Take me out to the ball game on the cheap. Sure, peanut butter might be a dangerfood, but in their natural form, these legumes are a healthy treat. When eating in moderation, peanuts supply a dose of healthy fats and can reduce the risk of heart disease Impact of peanuts and tree nuts on body weight and healthy weight loss in adults. Mattes, R.D., Kris-Etherton, P.M., Foster, G.D. Department of Foods and Nutrition, Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN. Journal of Nutrition, 2008 Sep;138(9):1741S-1745S. . When in any chicken and veggie dish, they add a great Asian-inspired flare!
6. Lentils, $0.12 per ½ cup serving, about $1 per pound (dry, in bulk) With more protein per pound than beef, lentils are a filling food rich with antioxidants (and quite tasty, too) Phenolic substance characterization and chemical and cell-based antioxidant activities of 11 lentils grown in the northern United States. Xu, B., Chang, S.K. Food Science and Technology Program, Beijing Normal University-Hong Kong Baptist University United International College, Zhuhai, Guangdong 519085, China. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2010 Feb 10;58(3):1509-17. . Here are seven ways to make lentil soup, along with a killer recipe for vegetarian lentil tacos!
7. Oats, $0.13 per serving, about $1 per pound (in bulk) Take a tip from Mr. Ed. Oats are high in fiber, low in fat, and may even help lower cholesterol High-fiber oat cereal compared with wheat cereal consumption favorably alters LDL-cholesterol subclass and particle numbers in middle-aged and older men. Davy, B.M., Davy, K.P., Ho, R.C., et al. Department of Food Science and Human Nutrition, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2002 Aug;76(2):351-8. . What’s not to love? Enjoy a bowl of oatmeal, substitute for flour in cookies, or even use as breadcrumbs.
8. Pinto beans, $0.30 cents per ½ cup serving, about $1 per can The health factor of refried beans at a Mexican restaurant may be questionable, so mash them up at home. These beans are full of protein and fiber and are a delicious addition to any homemade burrito — breakfast, lunch, or dinner!
9. Tofu, $0.50 cents per 4oz serving, about $2 per pound High in protein and low in fat, tofu is a delicious source of protein for vegetarians and meat-eaters alike. Plus, soy in moderation may help reduce cholesterol and the risk of breast cancer Soy Protein. Montogomery, K.S. College of Nursing at the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC. The Journal of Perinatal Education, 2003 Summer; 12(3): 42–45. . Pan-fry tofu with veggies in the next stir-fry, or even add the silken variety to a fruit smoothie.
10. Pumpkin seeds, $0.50 per 1oz serving, about $5 per pound Move over birds, these seeds are for us humans (and not just on Halloween)! Filled with essential vitamins and minerals, along with protein and iron, sprinkle these in a salad or roast with spices for a healthy, crunchy treat Amino acid, mineral and fatty acid content of pumpkin seeds (Cucurbita spp) and Cyperus esculentus nuts in the Republic of Niger. Glew, R.H., Glew, R.S., Chuang, L.T., et al. Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, University of New Mexico School of Medicine Albuquerque, NM. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 2006 Jun;61(2):51-6. .
11. Chicken breasts, $0.75 per 4 oz serving, about $2.99 per pound Forgo the McChicken on the dollar menu — a small fresh chicken breast is $0.25 cleaper and filled with healthy, lean protein. Grill 'em, bake 'em, or enjoy sliced in a whole-wheat wrap with veggies.
12. Canned salmon, $0.75 per serving, about $1.50 per can No need to splurge on a salmon filet to enjoy this Omega-3-packed seafood. Grab the canned version for some protein power without dishing out the big bucks. Whip up some homemade salmon burgers or chowder with a twist.
13. Canned tuna, $0.75 cents, about $1.50 per can Not only is tuna fish cheap, but it’s an easy way to get Omega-3’s (which could make us brilliant). Mix with Greek yogurt and chopped veggies for a healthier tuna salad.
15. Yogurt, about $1 per 6 oz cup Skip the bagel and pick up a quick treat that’s filled with protein and calcium! Enjoy for breakfast with some granola, or as a post-workout snack. Just beware of flavors loaded with extra sugar, and remember that low-fat varieties will be lower in calories (if you're counting). Extra points for choosing superfood Greek yogurt — though it can be more expensive, so waiting for it to go on sale is a smart move!
16. Low-Fat Milk, $0.25 cents per cup, about $4 per gallon Got milk? One calcium-filled glass can help keep teeth strong and even help keep off those excess pounds High-calcium milk prevents overweight and obesity among postmenopausal women. Angeles-Agdeppa, I., Capanzana, M.V., Li-Yu, J. Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, Taguig City, Philippines. Food and Nutrition Bulletin, 2010 Sep;31(3):381-90. Milk helps build strong teeth and promotes oral health. Merritt, J., Qi, F., Shi, W. University of California Los Angeles, School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, CA. Journal of the California Dental Association, 2006 May;34(5):361-6. . Add a splash to a fruit smoothie, or enjoy in a bowl of oats or cereal.
17. Cottage cheese, $0.88 per 1/2 cup serving, about $3.50 per 16 oz container It's time to put looks aside. This clumpy, mild cheese is surprisingly high in protein, and tastes great in both sweet and savory dishes. Like yogurt and most other dairy products, cottage cheese typically comes in full-fat, low-fat, and fat-free varieties — choose whichever fits best into your diet. Try it topped with sliced pineapple and berries for a sweet protein-packed treat, or make it savory in a creamy pasta sauce.
Photo by Perry Santanachote
18. Whole-grain pasta, $0.37 cents per ½ cup serving, about $3 per box Move over, white stuff; the whole wheat version of pasta is full of fiber, antioxidants, and protein, and may help lower risk of heart disease Whole grain intake and cardiovascular disease: a meta-analysis. Mellen, P.B., Walsh, T.F., Herrington, D.M. Department of Internal Medicine, Section of General Medicine, Wake Forest University Health Sciences, Winston-Salem, NC. Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases, 2008 May;18(4):283-90. . Enjoy its nutty flavor with stir-fried veggies and hearty marinara sauce.
19. Brown rice, $0.18 per ¼ cup serving, about $2 per pound Listen to our manifesto: Choose brown rice over white (especially at Chipotle). The whole-grain version is full o’ fiber and may cut the risk of diabetes White rice, brown rice, and risk of type 2 diabetes in US men and women. Sun, Q., Spiegelman, D., van Dam, R.M. Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2010 Jun 14;170(11):961-9. .
20. Popcorn, $0.30 per ½ cup serving, about $1 per pound for plain kernels Snack attack? Pick a low-calorie snack that’s also a good source of fiber.Pop kernels in the kitchen and add spices. Movie theater popcorn ain't got nothin’ on this!
21. Quinoa, $0.60 per ¼ cup serving, about $4 per box It may be hard to pronounce (that’s keen-wah), but it’s easy to prepare and packs a nutritious punch. Filled with protein and fiber, this superfood also contains nine essential amino acids our bodies can’t produce on their own Nutritional quality of the protein in quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa, Willd) seeds. Ruales, J., Nair, B.M. Dept. of Applied Nutrition and Food Chemistry, University of Lund, Sweden. Plant Foods for Human Nutrition, 1992 Jan;42(1):1-11. .
22. Grapes, $0.75 per 1 cup serving, about $1.50 per pound These sweet little treats are high in antioxidants, which may help reduce cholesterol. They’re a perfect snack when that sweet tooth rolls in; freeze them for a fresh alternative for popsicles!
23. Apples, about $0.50 to $0.75 per apple (depending on variety) It’ll keep the doctor away, so grab this superfood for a serving of vitamin C and cancer-fighting antioxidants. Snack with almond butter or add to a sandwich.
24. Bananas, $0.20 to $0.50 per banana, about $0.60 per pound or $2 per bunch It’s time to go bananas for… bananas. Filled with fiber and potassium, these 100-calorie “snack-packs” may even help with that hangover. Enjoy sliced with peanut butter, or impress friends with banana ice cream!
26. Cantaloupe, $0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $3 per small melon C is for cantaloupe and vitamin C. Filled with antioxidants, cantaloupe is cheap and makes a perfect spring or summer treat! Feeling creative? Freeze chunks of this sweet fruit for an extra-special warm weather snack.
27. Watermelon, $0.30 per 1 cup serving, $5 per melon This feisty superfood may have Viagra-like effects, but it’s also guaranteed to be filled with vitamin C — a cancer-fighting antioxidant that helps strengthen immunity and promote bone health. Slice 'em up and enjoy (or make a watermelon daquiri).
28. Pears, $0.85 each, about $1.75 per pound (depending on variety) It’s not just an apple a day that may keep the doc away; white fleshy pears may help prevent strokes Colors of fruit and vegetables and 10-year incidence of stroke. Oude Griep, L.M., Verschuren, W.M., Kromhout, D., et al. Wageningen University, Division of Human Nutrition, Wageningen, The Netherlands. Stroke, 11 Nov;42(11):3190-5. . They’re also full o’ fiber. Keep things mixed up and try the Barlett, Bosc, and Anjou varieties.
29. Oranges, $0.50 each, about $1 per pound (in family-sized pack) Oranges aren’t just about their vitamin C. This citrus fruit is also filled with fiber, folate, and potassium. Skip the glass and go with the whole fruit to surpass the excess sugar and get a healthy dose of antioxidants.
Photo by Caitlin Covington
30. Garlic, about $0.30 per bulb It doesn’t only put a stink to our breath. Garlic has some smarty-pants benefits, helping enhance memory Repeated administration of fresh garlic increases memory retention in rats. Haider, S., Naz, N., Khalig, S., et al. Neurochemistry and Biochemical Neuropharmacology Research Unit, Department of Biochemistry, University of Karachi, Karachi, Pakistan. Journal of Medicinal Food, 2008 Dec;11(4):675-9 . It’s also full of antioxidants to promote heart health and reduce the risk of cancer and Alzheimer’s Antioxidant health effects of aged garlic extract. Borek, C. Department of Community Health and Family Medicine, Nutrition and Infectious Diseases Unit, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, MA. Journal of Nutrition, 2001 Mar;131(3s):1010S-5S. . Add to a pan of veggies or tomato sauce to spice up the flavor, or roast it in the oven for a sweeter flavor.
31. Canned pumpkin, $0.75 per ½ cup serving, about $2.50 per 15oz can No need to go pickin’ to reap the benefits of the pumpkin patch. A pumpkin’s orange color is thanks to carotenoids, a plant pigment with powerful antioxidant properties Carotenoid composition and vitamin A value of a squash and a pumpkin from northeastern Brazil. Arima, H.K., Rodriguez-Amaya, D.B. Instituto de Tecnología de Alimentos, Campinas, SP, Brazil. Archivos Latinoamericanos de Nutrición, 1990 Jun;40(2):284-92. . Head to the kitchen and whip up some pumpkin pasta sauce or even pumpkin hummus.
32. Canned tomatoes (Diced), $0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $1.80 per 14.8 oz can To really get a bang for that buck, go the canned route. Canned tomatoes are perfect for homemade sauces and stews. Tomatoes also contain exceptional amounts of the antioxidant lycopene that remains in the flesh even after cooking and canning Lycopene, tomatoes, and the prevention of coronary heart disease. Rao, A.V. Department of Nutritional Sciences, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Experimental Biology and Medicine, 2002 Nov;227(10):908-13. . Just keep on the lookout for cans with no sodium added.
33. Onions, $0.18 each, about $0.59 per pound Quit crying — onions pack a surprising nutritious punch, including a hefty dose of antioxidants Onions--a global benefit to health. Griffiths, G., Trueman, L., Crowther, T., et al Department of Plant Genetics and Biotechnology, Horticulture Research International, Wellesbourne, UK. Phytotherapy Research, 2002 Nov;16(7):603-15. . Sautée and add to an omelet, or stack on a sandwich for extra flavor.
34. Sweet potatoes, $0.50 each, about $1 per pound The white ones may be a dangerfood, but this time around, the sweet stuff is the way to go. It tips the scale with its high levels of vitamin A , contains beta-carotene (which may help prevent cancer and protect us from the sun) and also helps keep that skin silky smooth.
35. Winter squash (acorn, butternut, etc.), $0.50 per ½ cup serving, about $1.50 a pound Squash isn’t only an awesome racquet sport. It’s also a versatile veggie filled with vitamins, fiber, and potassium. Skip the bowl and roast a squash and fill with other hearty goodness!
36. Kale, $0.50 per cup (raw, chopped), about $2 per bunch Popeye was missing out. Kale is the antioxidant king among all fruits and veggies, and contains vitamins A, C, and K, fiber, calcium, iron, and potassium (phew!). Plus... kale chips.
37. Broccoli, $0.50 per ½ cup serving, $2 per bunch Need another reason to go green? Broccoli has remarkably high levels of folate and vitamin C, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers and heart disease Epidemiological studies on brassica vegetables and cancer risk. Verhoeven, D.T., Goldbohm, R.A., van Poppel, G., Verhagen, H., and van den Brandt, P.A. Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research, Nutrition and Food Research Institute, Zeist, The Netherlands. Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention. 1996 Sep;5(9):733-48. Effects of different cooking methods on health-promoting compounds of broccoli. Yuan, G.F., Sun, B., Yuan, J., et al.Department of Horticulture, Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, China. Journal of Zhejiang University Science B. 2009 Aug;10(8):580-8. .
38. Beets, $0.35 each, about $1 per pound These purple gems are filled with betalains, which may help prevent cancer and other degenerative diseases Betalains–a new class of dietary cationized antioxidants. Kanner J, Harel S, Granit R. Department of Food Science, Institute of Technology and Storage of Agricultural Products, Agricultural Research Organization, Bet Dagan, Israel. J Agric Food Chem. 2001 Nov; 49(11):5178-85. Chemoprevention of DMBA-induced UV-B promoted, NOR-1-induced TPA promoted skin carcinogenesis, and DEN-induced phenobarbital promoted liver tumors in mice by extract of beetroot. Department of Pharmaceutical Sciences, School of Pharmacy, Howard University, Washington DC. Pharmacology Research 2003 Feb;47(2):141-8. . They are also packed with folate, fiber, and vitamins galore, making them one of the best health bargains around. Chop 'em, roast 'em, or add to a berry smoothie!
39. Spinach, $0.50 per cup (raw), about $2 per bunch These unassuming greens are unbeleafable. They’re nutrient dense with vitamin A, K, and calcium. Try sautéing them with mushrooms or subbing for iceberg in the next lunchtime salad.
40. Carrots, $0.50 each, about $2 per pound Those rabbits are on to something. Carrots provide a nutritious crunch with their fill of vitamin A Spinach or carrots can supply significant amounts of vitamin A as assessed by feeding with intrinsically deuterated vegetables. Tang, G., Qin, J., Dolnikowski, G.g., Russell, R. M., Grusak, M. A. Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, Boston, Mass., American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2005; 82(4): 821-828. . They’re perfect for dipping into hummus, or taste great roasted with other root veggies and a drizzle of olive oil.
41. Edamame, $0.50 per ½ cup serving, $3 per 10oz package (frozen) This star legume is filled with fiber and protein and makes a great afternoon snack. Skip the chips and enjoy with a touch of salt for a quick, nutritious treat.
42. Coffee, $0.40 per 16 oz cup (brewed), about $10 per pound Not only is it amazing for you, but brewing coffee at home can save some real dolla dolla bills. This morning pick-me-up also contains antioxidants to help protect the heart, and is a great pre-workout fuel to help increase endurance. Not thirsty? This kitchen staple doubles as the key ingredient for variety of other household chores, too!
43. Tea, $0.10 per tea bag, about $5 a box (varies based on type) The varying health benefits of tea are a-plenty, ranging from their antioxidant powers to helping maintain a healthy weight Using Herbal Remedies to Maintain Optimal Weight. Koithan, M., Niemeyer, K. University of Arizona College of Nursing and the College of Medicine's Department of Family and Community Medicine and the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. The Journal for Nurse Practitioners, 2010 Feb;6(2):153-154. . Skip the sugary stuff and try brewing iced tea at home, and opt for green if looking to maximize antioxidant intake.
44. Water, free. (Well, kind of.) Head to the nearest faucet — our bodies depend on it. Water keeps us hydrated (shocking), flushes out toxins in the body, and helps when trying to lose a few pesky pounds Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults. Dennis, E.A., Dengo, A.L., Comber, D.L., et al. Department of Human Nutrition, Foods and Exercise, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, Virginia. Obesity, 2010 Feb;18(2):300-7. Epub 2009 Aug 6. .
Originally posted March 2012. Updated April 2013 by Shana Lebowitz.