Food

5 Easy Ways to Eat Healthy on a Budget, According to a Local Dietitian

Registered dietitian Dalina Soto says you don't need to buy pricey, trendy foods in order to get your nutrients.


eat healthy budget

Buying frozen veggies is one of registered dietitian Dalina Soto’s tips to eat healthy on a budget. / Photograph courtesy of Getty Images

When you think about eating healthy, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? According to many of the influencers and celebrities we see on Instagram, it’s juicing and smoothies, kale and quinoa (or the latest trending so-called superfood). Or you’re told to eliminate dairy, sugar, gluten — the list goes on. Unfortunately, this “healthy” world is often portrayed as one of perfection: You can only be thin (and, the assumption is, happy) if you follow these rigid rules

Besides the fact that a lot of these blanket statements are untrue (juicing your food actually gets rid of much of the healthy fiber in it; take a look at the “Ask the Editor” sidebar on celery juice from Philly mag’s April issue for more), this all-or-nothing mentality makes nutrition seemingly inaccessible for low-income communities. This was illuminated recently on the Food Psych podcast, for which host Christy Harrison spoke to cultural historian Emily Contois. Over the course of 90 minutes, Contois explained the history of diet culture and healthism, talking about how, as a country, we believe that everyone should be eating “healthy” and that the solution is education, but we often miss one key point: access to and knowledge of food.

Everyone needs to be met where they are. If a family lives in a food desert — a community with no or little access to fresh fruits and vegetables due to lack of supermarkets — and their options are limited to corner stores, neighborhood pizza places, and fast food chains, they don’t have to feel ashamed or limited. My job as a registered dietitian is to take the stigma out of food and help you make the best of your circumstances.

And, hey, even if you do have money, organic foods and juices can add up. That’s why I’ve come up with these easy-to-follow tips to help everyone eat healthy on a budget.

Buy frozen

I only buy my veggies frozen. This way, I know if I don’t have time to cook them, they won’t go bad. And frozen veggies often have higher concentrations of nutrients because they’re flash frozen.

Include non-meat proteins

Meat can get expensive, so looking for alternative sources of protein is a wallet-friendly bet. Eggs, canned beans, and lentils are all good options. Feel free to rinse the beans if you’re concerned about sodium, but remember that it’s a natural preservative and helps keep food fresh in cans.

Add color and variety

This is so important, especially when we talk about foods that are important to a specific culture, like white rice or fried chicken. Elevating them with different veggies and fruits can be an easy way to enjoy them while adding nutrients.

Use technology

Using a grocery-delivery app like Instacart (or many of the supermarkets in the area now have their own services) is a wonderful tool to combat food deserts in the Philly area. You can get local grocery stores to deliver anything both fresh and frozen foods within hours to help you eat more home-cooked meals.

Check out a CSA box or subscription

There are fairly inexpensive ones, including Hungry Harvest or Imperfect Produce, which sends misshapen produce. If a whole box contains too much food for you, split it with someone else! Or you can always freeze the produce for later.

Find registered dietitian Dalina Soto at nutritiouslyyoursllc.com