Dollar store groceries can be healthy on a budget

5:16 PM, Apr 6, 2012   |    comments
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PARMA -- Tortilla chips for a dollar, sure.

But oysters for a buck?

Even if you're on a budget, that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your health or your high-brow tastes.

We put Cleveland Clinic dietician Kristin Kirkpatrick to the test, asking her to prove that you can eat well, eat a lot -- and all on a budget.

So Kirkpatrick took us to the Dollar Tree in Parma where everything is a dollar or less.

First, Kirkpatrick showed us some healthy and cheap pantry items.

The first item? Dry red kidney beans.

"Red beans. Super, super, super cheap and actually has one of the highest levels of antioxidants out of any food that we have," Kirkpatrick explains.

What else? Canned fruits and vegetables.

Canned goods can often be packed in salty water or sugary syrup.

The trick Kirkpatrick suggests to make this all healthy is to drain the can and rinse it in some water.

The darker the fruit or vegetable, the higher the level of antioxidants and the higher level of disease prevention. This applies to items such as beets, carrots, or spinach.

Olives, roasted red peppers, even hot sauce are also healthy ways to add some flavor to a dish or salad without a lot of calories or fat.

Canned fish or even oysters also pack in the nutrients.

For all you coffee lovers out there, coffee is actually good for you. Drinking coffee can help reduce the risk of disease, even stroke, Kirkpatrick says.

Turning to the frozen and refrigerated food section, it;s all about the frozen fish.

Kirkpatrick points to tilapia.

"You get some omega-3s and some omega-6s," she said.

Frozen vegetables are also a good way to go -- especially if you cook just for yourself.

"Frozen vegetables are sometimes more nutritious than fresh vegetables because they're frozen at peak ripeness," Kirkpatrick said.

Another fun and healthy option is frozen fruits. The Dollar Tree has exotic options like frozen peaches and mangos.

Kirkpatrick suggests putting the frozen food in a container and taking it to work. Then when you're ready for lunch, it's already thawed.

Realistically, you can't survive on health food alone. Kirkpatrick says there are plenty of cheap and healthy snack items too.

One you have probably heard of: Nuts!

From peanuts to cashews to pistachios, Kirkpatrick says nuts have been associated with decreased risk of heart disease and of stroke.

Something you may be surprised about? Tortilla chips!

"Corn is 100% whole grain so if you have a portion controlled serving of tortilla chips, it's probably a little better for you than other snack items," Kirkpatrick said.

In all, we bought 14 items at Dollar Tree, including roasted red peppers, canned salmon, tilapia and frozen fruit.

The total price: $13.58

We then went to a typical grocery store in Cleveland to compare.

We bought the same 14 items and saw the price nearly triple to over $37.

Granted, not all brands were the same and for some items we had to find an equivalent, like guava instead of mango, but it does go to show that you can be fit, fancy and financially happy when it comes to food.


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