- The Mediterranean diet was ranked number one on US News’ 41 best diets overall list.
- Although the eating plan can be costly, keeping a look out for sales and buying in bulk can bring the cost down.
- Opt for frozen vegetables and canned fish to lower costs even more.
Chances are you’ve heard a lot of about the Mediterranean diet this year, as this eating plan recently nabbed the top spot on the US News and World Report’s annual ranking. And although many foods on the Mediterranean diet can be costly, according to registered dietitian Elana Natker, MS, it’s entirely possible to follow the diet while on a budget.
The Mediterranean diet, she explained, is fairly simple, and calls for eating an abundance of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts. In addition, she noted that the diet also emphasises fish as a protein source, which is an excellent way to obtain heart-healthy omega-3s.
INSIDER asked registered dietitians to provide some helpful money-saving tips on how to observe this eating plan on a tight budget.
Buy from the bulk aisle.
“You can shop for your favourite nuts, legumes, and grains in the bulk section of most grocery stores,” said nutritional chef Melissa Eboli, CNC.
Because you are not buying a brand-specific name and you are in control of the amount you are purchasing, she explained that this can be a huge help when trying to cut down costs.
Look for sales, especially on seafood.
“Most grocery stores have certain days of the week when they mark down certain seafood items,” Eboli said.
Start to pay attention to what those days are so you can reap the discounted benefits, she advised.
Consider cooking with beans.
“Beans and legumes such as chickpeas, black beans, and lentils are not only good sources of fibre and plant-based proteins, but they are also really inexpensive,” said registered dietitian Emily Cooper.
Opt for canned fish.
“Canned fish and seafood such as salmon, tuna, and sardines can be budget-friendly ways to add more of them into your diet,” Cooper told INSIDER.
Consider purchasing canned and frozen vegetables.
“Although they may not be as pretty, canned and frozen vegetables [likely] contain the same amount of nutrients as their fresh counterparts,” said registered dietitian Carly Johnston, MS, LDN. To reduce the amount of sodium you’re consuming, she advised looking for a no-salt-added label on the can.
Limit how much red meat you consume.
“One of the biggest differences the Mediterranean diet has over the typical Western diet is that it cuts back on red meat, which can often be costly,” Johnston said.
Limiting your consumption of red meat and switching to chicken or fish can help reduce expenses, according to Johnston.
Plan your meals ahead of time.
“Planning ahead of time is the key for saving money on food regardless of your diet,” Johnston told INSIDER.
Sit down with a notebook and the weekly sale flyers on Sunday to plan your meals for the week, she suggested. And from your plan, she advised creating a shopping list of items needed and stick to it.
Consume fat from healthy sources, like nuts.
“In terms of healthy fats, which are a large part of the Mediterranean diet, I suggest that clients focus on nuts and seeds as they are the most budget-friendly yet concentrate sources of these heart-healthy fatty acids, said registered dietitian Rachel Fine MS, CSSD, CDN.
Get creative with pasta dishes.
“With an average retail price of $US1.45 per pound, pasta is one of the most inexpensive foods you can buy and is an integral part of the Mediterranean diet,” said registered dietitian Diane Welland, MS.
Pasta is easy to buy, easy to prepare, and pairs well with healthy, low-cost Mediterranean diet staples like leafy greens, legumes, and vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, and broccoli.
Don’t forget about eggs.
“Eggs are extremely versatile and found in many Mediterranean dishes,” said Welland.
Pasta and eggs are perfect partners, she told INSIDER, and dishes like pasta carbonara can be inexpensive and easy to make. Eggs also make an ideal meal on their own paired with vegetables – think potatoes, asparagus or peppers – and a good loaf of bread, she added.
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