NUTRITION

Five nutritious items dietitians recommend stocking up on when you’re trying to be healthy on a budget

Woman in mask shopping in Woolworths packaged food aisle June 28
Written by ckv6u

With many Australians already under pressure thanks to the rising cost of living, news that food prices are set to rise won’t be welcome.

The National Food Supply Chain Alliance has warned grocery prices could jump 8 per cent by this time next year.

With many people trying to cut back on their costs at the supermarket, the ABC spoke to two accredited practicing dietitians to get their takes.

And they say saving cash doesn’t have to mean cutting back on healthy food.

“It’s such a common thought that eating healthy is going to be expensive — it doesn’t have to be,” says Nutrition Australia’s Leanne Elliston.

“It’s about knowing what to look for.”

Dietitians Australia spokesperson Anika Rouf agrees.

She says the best way to save money at the supermarket is to plan ahead.

Here are five cheap items the experts say are worth adding to your trolley.

canned fish

Canned salmon doesn’t have to be eaten straight out of the tin.(ABC Great Southern: Tom Edwards)

Why?

“When we’re trying to save, we avoid fish because we associate it with being costly, we think of really fancy fish like salmon,” Dr Rouf says.

She says there are a lot of tasty tinned options available these days.

“Something simple like lemon and cracked pepper can be quite flavorsome.”

But keep an eye out for added salt.

Dr Rouf says fish in spring water is the lowest-calorie option.

If there are no spring-water options on the shelf, she ranks fish in oil above fish in sauces, which often contain more salt.

How much?

Tinned tuna: Single-serve 95-gram cans range from about 90 cents to $2.70, depending on the brand

Sardines: Tins ranging from 105 to 120 grams range from 85 cents to $5.25

Tinned salmon: Single-serve 95-gram cans range from $1.20 to $2.90

eggs

Eggs in an egg carton.
Eggs are an easy way to boost your protein intake.(ABC Radio Brisbane: Jessica Hinchliffe)

Why?

Dr Rouf says eggs are a good source of protein and are often much cheaper than meat.

“It’s a great protein to have on the go and very versatile — they can go in things like sandwiches and salads.”

According to Australia’s dietary guidelines, two large eggs make up the equivalent of a standard serving of lean meat.

How much?

Prices for a 12-pack of free-range eggs vary, ranging from $4.50 to $9.80

Tinned tomatoes

A close up for a can of tinned tomatoes on a silky oak wooden table.
Choose the variety of tinned tomatoes with the lowest amount of sodium per 100 grams. (ABC News: Danielle Maguire)

Why?

Dr Rouf says the beauty of tinned tomatoes lies in their versatility.

They can be used in soups, casseroles, and pasta.

If you have a few tins on hand, you’re able to throw a dish together with whatever fresh seasonal produce you bring back from the shops.

Ms Elliston says you need to watch the salt content on tinned tomatoes because it can vary greatly from variety to variety.

Often there will be a few different brands on the supermarket shelf, so it’s best to compare the nutritional information on the back of the cans and pick the type with the lowest levels of sodium per 100 grams.

How much?

Depending on the brand, tinned tomatoes typically cost between 75 cents and $2.40.

Carrots

carrot generic close
Carrots make great additions to a whole bunch of dishes — boosting the veggie content and making the meal stretch further. (ABC Rural: Kallee Buchanan)
Why?

Dr Rouf says these are some of the most-eaten vegetables, and for good reason.

“They’re very versatile, you can have it raw, in stews and stir-fries,” she says.

“They’re one of those vegetables that are very affordable.”

You can rely on there being a steady supply of cheap carrots at your local supermarket all year round.

And they keep a long time in the fridge — making them great to stock up on and treat as a kitchen staple.

“If they start to go a bit soft, use them in the cooked dish — when you’re using them in soups and stew, you can’t really tell that they’ve gone a bit soft.”

How much?

Pre-packed carrots in 1-kilogram bags range between $1.80 and $2.90.

Tinned chickpeas, lentils and beans

A close up of a tin of chickpeas sitting on a silky oak timber surface.
Chickpeas count as both a vegetable and a source of protein. (ABC News: Danielle Maguire)

Why?

Leanne Elliston says lentils are great for making meat-based dishes like casseroles or spaghetti bolognese go further — stretching out leftovers into lunches.

Suddenly a dish that might serve four might serve eight or it lasts for more days.

“You’re also making it more nutritious and you’re putting more fiber in it.”

Dr Rouf explains that vegetables contribute toward both your protein and veggie count for the day.

Half a cup of cooked dried or canned vegetables is considered one serving of vegetables.

You’ll need one cup of cooked vegetables to make up the equivalent of a standard serving of lean meat.

“You’ve got something bringing fiber, protein and healthy carbs too,” Dr Rouf says.

“It’s a really great food that we often don’t gravitate towards.”

Baked beans are also on this list, but Dr Rouf says to opt for a salt-reduced variety.

How much?

Lenses: Between 80 cents and $1.90 for a 420-gram can

Chickpeas: Between 80 cents and $2.20 for a 400-gram can

Baked beans: You could pay between 65 cents for 420-gram tin can and $2.20 for a 425-gram tin

Cost estimates are based on standard prices listed on major supermarket national websites this week. Prices may vary at independent grocers.

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