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Healthy Food on a Budget: Protein

As the economy continues to be somewhat unpredictable, you are probably looking for ways to cut back spending in a lot of areas…food being one of them.  If you do your research, it is possible to still eat healthy and not spend a fortune.  It means understanding what things cost per serving, and what nutritional values are provided in each serving.

As a result, we are kicking off a series of articles that takes a look at different foods and compares them serving for serving, as to what provides the best value: quality, healthy food for the best price.  This will help you understand how to potentially maximize your budget around food shopping, while insuring you get the nutrients your body needs and SO deserves.  Our first healthy food on a budget is protein.  We look at the serving size, and the calories, grams of fat, grams of protein and the cost for both a regular and an organic product per serving.

Quick Facts on Protein: First, let’s understand the basics of protein and why you need them in your diet:

  • Protein comes from animals and plants and provides us with everything we need to build and maintain our muscles.
  • Protein is found in fish, meat, poultry, dairy, eggs and tofu, as well as beans, vegetables and fruit.
  • The leaner the protein is, the healthier it is for your diet.
  • Complete proteins provide you with ALL the necessary amino acids your body requires.
  • Incomplete proteins, however, are not sufficient protein sources by themselves.  As a result, you need to eat several incomplete proteins to get all of the amino acids your body needs.

To ensure we are comparing apples to apples, so to speak, we are going to focus on complete proteins. The chart below does not include all foods that contain complete proteins, but it provides a good cross-section of popular foods. (All data is taken from Peapod, an online grocery shopping site.)

proteinTo really understand what is the best option, you need to factor in the quality of the food AND the cost.  If the food is high in fat it isn’t such a bargain.  For instance, chicken drumsticks, eggs, peanut butter and milk look to be the best cost options at $0.50 or less per serving.  However, chicken drumsticks, eggs and peanut butter are high in fat.  Further, if a food is low in protein (peanut butter and Tofu), you might not be getting as much ‘protein bang’ for your buck.

The best on the list for protein quality (low fat, high protein foods) would be canned tuna, skinless chicken breast and whey protein with milk.  The best category in terms of value (lower fat, high protein and lower cost) would be your dairy products, especially egg-whites and low-fat milk.  Within the meat/poultry/fish food category, skinless chicken breast is your best option.  In general, red meats tend to be the worst choice, as they are higher in fat and higher in cost.

Have you found a high quality, low costing protein that you enjoy?


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Posted in Brett's Blog, Nutrition Tagged with: , , , , ,