A common complaint about eating a healthy diet is that it’s too expensive. If you’re trying to lose weight or improve your health, and you’ve noticed your grocery bill increasing, it may help to know which foods are worth spending a little bit more on. Grass-fed beef? Go for it. Organic gummy bears? Leave them on the shelf. Not only will investing in healthy foods provide immediate benefits such as increased energy and an improved immune system, but by improving your health, you’ll also likely avoid costly medical bills in the future. The following are a few healthy foods worth splurging on.
1. Organic meat and poultry
Grass-fed, organic meat is often noticeably more expensive than conventionally raised beef, but it pays off in several ways. Grass-fed beef is leaner and contains higher concentrations of certain nutrients, including antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids. It also contains a beneficial fat known as conjugated linoleic acid, which may help strengthen the immune system and combat inflammation. Conventionally raised beef, on the other hand, is higher in omega-6 fatty acids and contributes to systemic inflammation.
Grass-fed beef and organic beef are not the same thing, although they often overlap, so read labels carefully. Organic beef comes from cows that are not exposed to antibiotics, hormones, or other synthetic compounds, so look for the organic label if you’d rather not have these substances in your food.
When it comes to poultry, hormones are not allowed, so it isn’t necessary to pay more for hormone-free chicken. Buy organic chicken if you want poultry raised without the use of antibiotics, pesticides, or chemical fertilizers.
2. Wild fish
Similarly, wild fish is higher in omega-3s than farm-raised fish. Wild fish are able to eat a diverse diet of plant life and other organisms, while farm-raised fish are fed a kibble that may contain corn gluten, soybeans, and chicken fat. This diet means that food coloring is often added to farm-raised fish, especially salmon, which gets its distinctive pink color from eating shrimp. Wild fish is also typically leaner than farmed fished and contains fewer pollutants.
3. Some organic produce
When it comes to produce, focus on the foods on the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list, which highlights the produce most likely to be exposed to pesticides and herbicides. When possible, buy organic spinach, strawberries, apples, peaches, pears, tomatoes, and bell peppers. Local produce is also always a good option — since it doesn’t have to travel as far, it’s usually fresher and therefore more nutritious.
4. High-quality olive oil and vinegar
Not only is olive oil a good source of healthy fats, you can use simple olive oil and vinegar as an alternative to sugary and fatty bottled salad dressings. Start using a fresh, organic set of olive oil and vinegar, and you may just find yourself eating more greens.
5. Dark chocolate
A small square of dark chocolate is an excellent way to satisfy your sweet tooth — and actually delivers some health benefits as well. As opposed to milk chocolate, which is typically highly processed and high in sugar, dark chocolate contains flavonoids and antioxidants that may improve cardiovascular health. Studies have also indicated that dark chocolate may help combat stress.
6. Chia seeds
Chia is a type of flowering plant from the mint family. Its edible seeds are often sold as an energy booster and a weight-loss aid. Chia seeds are rich in omega-3s and antioxidants, as well as several minerals such as magnesium and manganese. They can easily be added to smoothies, yogurt, soups, salads, and other foods. Chia seeds expand in liquid, which may account for their reputation as an appetite suppressant, but be careful if eating them before soaking them, as they can cause bloating if allowed to expand in the stomach.
Another seed from a flowering plant, quinoa can be prepared as a grain. Quinoa is high in protein, iron, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, and antioxidants, making it a more nutritious substitute for rice or couscous. Quinoa has a mild flavor and can be served with any meal — even as a breakfast cereal.
Need help improving your diet and meeting your health and wellness goals? Garcia Weight Loss and Wellness Centers offer customized weight-loss plans designed to help you look and feel your best. Contact us today to get started with your no-cost consultation!
Medically reviewed by Jay J. Garcia, MD on March 31, 2017