When you’re on a budget, it’s easy to let health fall to the wayside in favor of eating cheap, high-calorie foods which pack on the pounds. However, having a limited food pocketbook doesn’t need to mean hitting the dollar menu on the way home from work or living on ramen like a college freshmen. With a little creativity, you can eat well while spending little money.
The key to keep in mind is both calories and nutrition count in weight loss. If you’re malnourished, your body will continue craving more even though you’ve consumed adequate calories. And if you fail to eat enough, your metabolism slows down, making weight loss more difficult. Here are 10 meal ideas for keeping you full and nourished while accelerating your weight loss efforts.
If you want to lose weight, getting adequate protein matters. Protein takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, keeping you feeling full longer. Chowing down on this colorful dish for dinner will prevent you from waking up at midnight craving a pizza.
Eggs, beans and kale are all vegetarian protein staples, and when combined, you enjoy a complete set of amino acids. Plus, beans and kale provide lean protein, and the fat the eggs contain is the heart-healthy omega-3 variety important for your neurological system.
Fettuccini contains a lot of calories, but if you substitute zoodles, or zucchini noodles, you’ll slash the calorie count of this dish significantly. The vegan cheese keeps the creamy goodness from sticking to your waistline too much. Peas are high in protein and fiber, keeping you full, and both they and the tomatoes contain high levels of antioxidants as well.
Enchiladas fill you up, and this meat-free version keeps the calorie count low, especially when you use reduced-fat cheeses. Consider substituting whole grain tortillas for added nutrition over the flour version. Each enchilada weighs in at less than 250 calories a pop, making it possible to enjoy a hearty meal without wanting to break your scale the next day.
Neither mushrooms nor cabbage contain many calories at all, but both are rich in vital phytonutrients. Phytonutrients give plants their vivid colors and contribute to human health in ways scientists understand more all the time. The olive oil in this recipe provides healthy fat, and the remaining plant-based ingredients keep the calorie count low.
Regular fried rice is notoriously high in calories, but this version uses cauliflower rice — meaning you’re basically consuming a giant bowl of veggies! Feel free to dig in and eat as much as you like of this dish, and add as many other colorful veggies as you like. You can substitute soy sauce for the Coconut Aminos to keep the cost of this dish low, and to mix it up faster, you can use store-bought cauliflower rice versus making your own.
While this recipe calls for brown rice, if you’re following a low-carb diet plan, you can substitute cauliflower rice. This crunchy, colorful recipe ensures you consume all the phytonutrients you need daily in one delish dish. The oven does much of the prep work for you other than cutting the peppers and blending the veggies, rice and cheese, making this a perfect dinner at the end of a busy day.
Ground beef can prove fattening and expensive, but ground turkey costs less on average. This recipe’s healthy lean protein will keep you full all afternoon, so whip up a batch the night before and take some along for a workday lunch. If you want to keep the calorie count low, skip the toppings like sour cream and cheese, although the avocado offers heart-healthy omega-3’s.
Think Mexican food means fattening? Think again! These easy chicken fajitas are high in protein and colorful, nutrient-rich veggies and weigh in at less than 350 calories per serving. Chicken costs far less than red meat or pork, and you can use up that last remaining dollop of salsa to add a bit more spice if you like.
Feeling like an Asian-inspired meal but not wanting to pay the price or consume the calories associated with takeout? This version uses little oil and weighs in at less than 200 calories per serving. The recipe calls for serving over brown rice, but you can substitute cauliflower rice.
Finally, when you need a quick, healthy meal, but your wallet reveals only enough cash for a pack of frozen veggies, don’t despair. This super easy and light recipe calls for nothing but olive oil, one shallot and your favorite vegetable blend. If you’ve eaten lightly all day and need a bit more bulk, serve over rice or as a side with a small boneless, skinless chicken breast.
Losing Weight and Eating Great on the Cheap
Many inexpensive foods like microwave meals are laden with calories and fat. However, you can eat healthfully on any budget. By keeping your fridge stocked with staple veggies, olive oil and lean protein, you can create healthful meals for few dollars.