Healthy meals on a budget

Herb grilled salmon is a great dinner option that's inexpensive and packed with protein.

Finding it difficult to choose a nutritious meal that is light on calories and even lighter on your wallet? It can be challenging to cook a nourishing dinner and not have to pay too much for healthy ingredients. But before you head out to the grocery store or pick up the phone to order a 15-dollar salad for delivery, check out this list of ideas for some well-balanced meals that won’t break the bank:

Breakfast
Spice up that plain bowl of granola cereal with some blueberries or sliced bananas, and switch out cow’s milk with nutritious almond milk that’s packed with Vitamin E, magnesium and riboflavin, while low on calories. Or, invest in the status quo of cheap and healthy breakfasts with a value-sized container of oatmeal that you can cook to a warm, gooey consistency. Since it can be a bit bland, think outside the oatmeal box and whip up something creative, like pumpkin pie oatmeal. Just add a little pumpkin puree, a dash of vanilla extract and some crumbled graham crackers to your hot morning cereal and you have a scrumptious, cheap and healthy concoction. For a heartier breakfast, bust out the skillet and cook up some sweet potato hash – a dish that’s full of antioxidants to enhance your metabolism. Plus, sweet potatoes are often on sale for less than a dollar a pound!

Lunch
Brown-bagging it to work may not be the most glamorous lunch option, but no one can argue its economical impact. Rather than a turkey sandwich and chicken noodle soup, which may have graced your fifth-grade lunchbox, date it with a salmon salad sandwich on savory pumpernickel bread that’s chock full of lignans to help lower cholesterol. Pair it with a bowl of chickpea chili, which is a great source of fiber and economical, as chickpeas generally cost around four dollars per pound. Or, try an almond chicken salad, which is easy to make and essentially has all the basic food groups necessary for a well-balanced meal. You can also kick things up a notch with a zesty Mediterranean curry chicken wrap; though it sounds exotic, it only takes a few minutes to prepare.

Dinner
There’s nothing more therapeutic than enjoying a delicious and easy dish you just created after coming home from a long day of work. The kitchen is your canvas, and you don’t need too much cash to construct a masterpiece. Make your dinner a fiesta with fajita-style quesadillas, using some household vegetables like tomatoes and peppers, folding them over in a flour tortilla and sprinkling some cheese over, melting the ingredients together for a supper with a kick. Whether you prefer penne, spaghetti or ziti, the pasta possibilities are infinite and inexpensive. Grill some chicken, boil some noodles and throw in some veggies and alfredo for a proper Italian dinner with plenty of leftovers. Linguini and shrimp can serve as an affordable entree that has all the features of pricey restaurant cuisine, minus the actual spending. You also can’t go wrong with some herb-grilled salmon and rice, an inexpensive combination that provides all the protein and amino acids you need.

Dessert
Who said a little dessert ever hurt anyone? There are a number of tasty treats that won’t loosen your belt or your billfold. Try nonfat Greek yogurt – an excellent source of calcium, potassium and zinc – as a splendid topping on a muffin or cupcake. Drizzle some vanilla frosting and pistachios over a grilled pineapple for a taste of sweet perfection. Of course, there’s always a bowl of frozen yogurt, which tastes perfect when topped with strawberries and bananas.

You don’t have to whip out the credit card to have a taste of the healthy good life. These meals represent some of the many ways you can make something healthy and tasty without leaving the confines of your kitchen.

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