Cost Effective Foods With High Nutritional Value: A Healthy Diet On Any Budget

Not enough time to eat well? Healthy food too expensive? The fact is there are plenty of cost effective food options on the supermarket shelves which contribute to a healthy lifestyle, it is just a matter of knowing where to look! All of the foods provide your body with a superb array of nutrients and put you in a great mood because of all the pennies you will be saving! Avoid parting with more money than you think for ‘junk food’. Takeaways and microwave meals are ridiculously overpriced and cause you to overload on calories with limited nutritional value. Next time you hit the supermarket, keep your eyes peeled for these budget friendly healthy foods!


Nutritional value: Oats are comprised of 70% carbohydrate, 15% fat and 15% protein on average. The balance of macronutrients and high carbohydrate content make oats an excellent meal to provide sustainable energy. Oats provide ~150kcal of energy per 40g serving. Depending on whether you choose to mix your oats with water or milk the nutrient value will vary. Oats are also a good source of fibre (helping to aid digestion) and iron (for blood health). Be sure to choose the natural oats and avoid brands which contain added sugar.

Price: ~£1 per kg

Perfect for: Breakfast. Keep hunger at bay and prevent snacking while benefiting from elevated energy levels. A more nutritious (and cheaper) alternative to breakfast cereal or white toast.


Nutritional value: The average macronutrient make up of an egg is 2% carbohydrate, 63% fat and 35% protein. A medium sized egg contains ~71kcal. As well as being an excellent source of protein, eggs are also a good source of selenium, vitamin B12 and phosphorus.

Price: 15p-35p per egg

Perfect for: Eggs are a versatile food which can be used for any meal of the day. Boiled or poached eggs make great additions to a meal or as a snack on their own. You could also opt for having an omelette with salad or vegetables and throwing in some mushrooms or ham to make the meal more exciting.


Nutritional value: There are ~105kcal in a medium banana (7-8”). The macronutrient content is 93% carbohydrate, 3% fat and 4% protein. Bananas are a good source of dietary fibre, vitamin C, potassium, manganese and vitamin B6.

Price: ~80p per kg/ 15-25p for individual bananas

Perfect for: Bananas are a great snack or topping if chopped into slices. Alternatively, you can choose to make a frozen banana lolly by inserting a stick into the skinless banana and placing it in the freezer. It is a delicious low calorie treat which will satiate appetite.


Nutritional value: An apple a day may very well keep the doctor away as apples are a good source of vitamin C which is an excellent immune system booster! An average medium apple provides ~95kcal from a 95% carbohydrate content. Apples are also a good source of fibre which aids digestive transit.

Price: ~28-50p per apple

Perfect for: Apples are a perfect snack/ addition to fruit salad or juice/smoothie. If you choose to eat an apple as a snack, chopping the apples into slices will help to satiate appetite as it will take you longer to consume and you will feel as though you have eaten a larger portion.

Brown Rice

Nutritional value: 195g serving provides 216kcal. The macronutrient make up is 85% carbohydrate, 7% fat and 2% protein. Brown rice is predominantly a slow-release complex carbohydrate food but it is also a good source of selenium and manganese.

Price: ~£1.70 per kg

Perfect for: Brown rice is ideal for lunch or dinner as a side dish for meat/ vegetables or as a main dish with black beans (or alternative) mixed into the rice.

Tinned Tuna

Nutritional value: The average tin (172g) contains no carbohydrate, 21% fat and 79% protein delivering ~220kcal in total. Tuna is a great source of essential fatty acids, protein, vitamin B12, selenium and phosphorus all of which contribute to the development of a lean physique alongside regular exercise.

Price: ~£1.15 per 100g/ £1.50 per tin

Perfect for: Salads, sandwiches, evening meals.

Sweet Potatoes

Nutritional value: A 200g serving of sweet potato contains 180kcal, 93% of which come from carbohydrate (with the majority being complex). Sweet potatoes are a far superior alternative to white potato not only because they avoid the energy peaks and crashes of simple carbohydrates but also because they are a good source of fibre and an array of vitamins and minerals including vitamin B6, vitamin A, vitamin C, potassium and manganese.

Price: ~£1.80-300 per kg

Perfect for: Accompanying lean mince for Shepherd’s Pie or as an alternative to roast potatos/chips. The texture of sweet potato is most suited to mashed potato which means it is not necessary to add butter or milk in order to create mash with an ideal consistency.

Salad: Lettuce, cucumber, spinach

Nutritional value: Salad is a superb choice for anyone closely managing their weight and working toward fat loss. A 72g serving of lettuce provides only 10kcal and is a good source of fibre, vitamin B6, iron, potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A, folate and manganese. That is a lot of nutrients to benefit from for only 10kcal of energy. Similarly, a 52g serving of cucumber provides just 8kcal and is a good source of magnesium, vitamin A, phosphorus, potassium, vitamin K and vitamin C. Since Popeye introduced spinach as a bodybuilding and energy providing food, elite athletes have enjoyed munching away on spinach leaves and reaping the many benefits to be had. Per 30g serving, spinach provides 7kcal and includes so many essential micronutrients that it would be ridiculous to list them all! Fibre, folate, magnesium, calcium and vitamin K are to name but a few.

Price: Large Iceburg Lettuce - £1. Whole cucumber - 50p. Spinach – 40p per 100g.

Perfect for: Salad. Lettuce and cucumber are a great addition to wraps and sandwiches too. Cucumber is a thirst quenching snack on its own and spinach is perfect in evening meals. For example, turkey stir fry with black beans and spinach.


Nutritional value: Famously known as a negative calorie food although there is much speculation in this area. Regardless, a medium celery stalk contains only 6kcal and has a 73% carbohydrate, 10% fat and 17% protein content. Riboflavin, vitamin B6, calcium, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C and folate are all present in a good quantity. Celery is said to burn more calories during digestion as its texture and structure make it more difficult to digest.

Price: ~90p for a bag containing 4 whole sticks of celery.

Perfect for: A snack, as part of a salad or with dips.


Nutritional value: The nutritional value of milk varies depending on the type of milk you buy. One cup (244g) of whole milk contains 146kcal and is 30% carbohydrate, 49% fat and 21% protein. Milk is a good source of vitamin D, riboflavin, vitamin B12, calcium and phosphorus. If it was good enough to promote growth and health as an infant, it is good enough to include in your diet now.

Price: ~40p per Litre

Perfect for: A warm or cold drink, mashed potato, omelette, porridge, milk shakes and as a protein shake mixer.

Popcorn Kernels

Nutritional value: Popcorn (not covered in salt or sugar) is a great ‘indulgent’ snack for those who lead a healthy lifestyle and want to avoid junk food. A 28g serving of popcorn kernels (which is quite a large portion once popped) contains 105kcal and is 78% carbohydrate, 10% fat and 12% protein. Popcorn is a good source of fibre and manganese.

Price: ~£2.50 per kg

Perfect for: A snack alternative to crisps/sweets/biscuits etc.

Tinned tomatoes

Nutritional value: A 255g tin of tomatoes provides 66kcal of energy from 85% carbohydrate, 6% fat and 9% protein. They are a good source of fibre, vitamin A, vitamin E, vitamin K, vitamin C, iron and potassium.

Price: ~£2 per kg/ 0.75-1.20 per tin/puree tube

Perfect for: A low calorie alternative to sauce for meals (in order to avoid plain tastes). They are also perfect with a salad or for use in juices.


Nutritional value: One clove (~3g) of garlic contains just 4kcal. It is a good source of calcium, phosphorus, selenium, vitamin C, vitamin B6 and manganese. Garlic has long been linked with promoting cardiovascular health and preventing the development of cardiovascular disease.

Price: ~30p per clove

Perfect for: Flavouring lunch and dinner meals. For example, pasta sauce.

Whey Protein

Nutritional value: Whey protein powders are a great way to ensure you ingest optimal quantities (and quality) of protein to promote lean muscle growth and repair without the price tag of buying kilos of lean meat to obtain the same amount. A 30g serving of Optimum Health Ultimate Whey Protein contains 121kcal and provides 21.3g of protein, 4.7g of carbohydrate and 1.9g of fat.

Price: From £20 for 2.25kg

Perfect for: On-the-go nutrition, pre and post workout or before bed and can be taken in the form of a shake, juice, smoothie or sprinkled into a nice stew (unflavoured powders).

Minced Beef

Nutritional value: An 85g serving of minced beef contains an average 182kcal and is ~47% fat and 53% protein. Although not the leanest of meat (wait until you see turkey) it is an excellent source of protein, vitamin B12, selenium and zinc and is one of the cheapest meats you can buy.

Price: From £1.20 for 250g

Perfect for: Shepherd’s Pie (with sweet mash), mixed with vegetables, pasta dishes, stir fry.


Nutritional value: A 33g serving of turkey contains only 34kcal from 16% carbohydrate, 14% fat and 70% protein. Turkey is a great source of protein (perfect for lean muscle development) and is a good source of riboflavin, phosphorus and selenium too.

Price: ~£2.50 for 300g

Perfect for: Hot and cold snacks, salad, stir fry, stew or lean homemade kebabs. Turkey may be a good food choice if you fancy a bedtime snack; it contains relatively high levels of tryptophan which is linked with promoting restful sleep. Delicious Turkey Breasts

Whole Wheat Pasta

Nutritional value: 140g serving of cooked whole wheat pasta contains 174kcal from 81% carbohydrate, 4% fat and 15% protein. Whole wheat pasta is a great sustainable energy source and provides the body with a good amount of fibre, manganese and selenium.

Price: ~£1 per kg (dry)

Perfect for: Pasta dishes in place of white pasta. An alternative to white rice/noodles/white potato with evening meals. It is also a good addition to salad and can be enjoyed both hot and cold.

About the Author

Job Role Sports Nutritionist and Social Media Coordinator Qualifications Bsc Sport and Exercise Science Steph has a competitive athletic background which spans 19 years. As a child she performed with the English Youth Ballet and had performed on the West End stage by the age of 10. Her enthusiasm for sport and fitness continued to grow as she did, encouraging her to learn more about nutrition and training. She began using her knowledge and personal experience to help others when she began coaching at the age of 16. From here, she went on to study Sport and Exercise Science at the University of Essex during which time she also received the Most Promising Newcomer Award from her University to mark her outstanding contribution to sport. During her first year of study she was introduced to partner stunt acrobatics and artistic gymnastics. After one year of dedicating herself to a lifestyle revolving around her sport, she was training with the best team in the UK who are currently ranked fifth in the world. Steph has worked in both the private and public sector coaching children and adults from grassroot to elite level as well as providing them with cutting edge advice on how to reach their goals. Steph has received awards for her choreography and has competed nationally and internationally meaning that she can back up her scientific knowledge with a wealth of experience. As our resident Sports Nutritionist, Steph is here to provide the most current and evidence based fitness, health and nutrition information to help you reach your health and fitness goals.
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