Is Eating Healthy Too Expensive?

It’s evident that eating “healthy” is now more expensive than eating a diet ridden with junk and empty calorie foods. It’s unfortunate that foods that are low in micronutrients and loaded with added sugar, like most fast food options, are also the cheapest. This is pretty much the driving force behind the epidemic of obesity in many first-world countries and other health-related maladies, such as type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

But just because traditional “healthy” foods, like vegetables, fruits and fresh, lean protein sources are generally more expensive doesn’t mean you can’t still improve your body composition on a limited budget.

Moreover, losing fat while on a limited food budget is still a very possible goal, you just have to be a bit more selective about your choices when grocery shopping and eating out. This is exactly what we will cover in this article--how to select the foods that are the best bang for your buck when it comes to losing fat.

Something to Consider

Before moving on to the meat and potatoes of this article, there’s something you need to consider: how much is your health worth to you? If eating “healthy” is just a tad more expensive than eating cheap junk food, would you really not be willing to spend the extra money even if it made the difference between you getting lean versus staying overweight? If your answer to that is question is, “No, I wouldn’t spend the extra money,” then you probably need to reconsider how much you really care about your health and physique goals.

Furthermore, eating for fat loss (and better health) doesn’t have to be expensive. Stop making excuses about how you can’t eat healthy on a limited budget, because it is indeed possible if you put some effort into it. With that being said, read on as we dive right into how to get shredded on a tight food budget.

Step 1: Plan Your Fat-loss Macros

First thing to do before you go spending money on any foods is figure out your macronutrient needs. There are a variety of methods/calculators you can find on the Internet that show you how much you should eat to cut fat, though they aren’t always precise/accurate.

Keep in mind a variety of factors go into determining your specific nutrient needs and there is no one-size-fits-all equation that will be exact for everyone. You will inevitably need to make some adjustments and fine tune your diet as you go along.

Step 2: How to Lower Cost

To keep this as easy-to-follow as possible, we will break down food related to each macronutrient.

Note that grocery stores may alter their prices of foods weekly, so you should look for sales and weekly ads.

Moreover, stores will short-sale certain foods that are nearing expiration and this can be a great opportunity to stock up on foods that normally would be a bit out of your budget.

  • Proteins

Meats: Animal meats, like beef, turkey, pork, and chicken are generally the most costly part of a gym-goers food bill, yet you can still save money in this realm with some smart shopping. Poultry and pork tend to be most affordable, whereas beef, particularly lean cuts, are on the higher end.

If you want beef, look for organ meats, such as beef liver, which is high in both fat and protein (thus, you get a bit more nutrient bang for your buck).

Dairy Products: Most low-fat dairy products are great, cheap sources of protein, including things like like cottage cheese, yogurt (regular and Greek versions), and milk. Greek yogurt may be a little pricy at times, but when you consider how much protein it has per gram it really is a pretty efficient buy. If you really want to save, you can buy higher-fat dairy products so that way you get proteins and fats from one source.

Eggs: To include eggs in your diet, and get the most from them, then your best bet is to eat them whole and buy in bulk (since they keep for a long time). Don’t fret about shelling out a bunch of extra money just to buy farm-raised eggs or “organic” eggs; it won’t ruin your fat-loss efforts and it’s not worth the money on a budget.

  • Carbohydrates

Legumes: Legumes (especially beans) are probably the most overlooked fibrous food source, and are exceptionally cheap. Not only that, legumes are packed with essential micronutrients and protein. They also keep you feeling fuller for longer, which is always a good thing when trying to cut fat.

You can buy canned legumes or buy them raw and prepare them in bulk; either way they are a great, inexpensive nutrient-rich food.

Fruits and Vegetabkles: Hands-down the most frugal way to get your vegetables and fruits in is to opt for frozen options. Don’t worry, the frozen versions are still chock full of fiber and vitamins/minerals, and they stay fresh longer as well.

Do peruse the fresh produce section as well though, since lettuce, cabbage, and other greens may be on sale for a good price. Root veggies, like turnips, are also good, cheap carb sources.

Grains: If you want to maximize your spending, buy your grains (e.g. rice, oats, pasta, etc.) in bulk quantities. Most stores have a section/aisle that lets you bag grains separately and charge based on weight. The other good thing is that on a fat-loss diet you probably won’t go through grains nearly as quickly as you would on a muscle-building diet.

Bread products and cold cereals can also be decent, cost-effective options when you’re looking for higher-carb products. Do be aware of the sugar content in some of these foods though as they can get a bit out of control if you’re not selective about which ones you buy.

  • Fats

Nut Butters and Raw Nuts: Nut butters and raw nuts are solid food sources, low-cost options healthy, essential fats. Peanut butter is generally cheapest, whereas cashew and almond butter tends to be much pricier. You can also buy bulk nuts from most grocers for cheap, in case you don’t want to go for nut butters.

Fatty Protein Sources: As mentioned earlier in the protein source section, certain fattier cuts of animal products and things like cheese and whole eggs can be good sources of fat as well. This is actually a great way to go on a budget since you can get a solid source of several macronutrients from a single food item.

Step 3: What NOT to Do on a Limited Food Budget

Arguably the worst mistake you can make when on a small food budget is buying brand-name products and organic/natural foods. Food companies simply use terms like “natural” and “organic” to jack up the price of items; know that there is little difference organic food products and “regular” food products when it comes to losing fat.

A final note is to try and limit dining out at restaurants. This should be a no-brainer, but eating out can add up very quickly if you’re not careful. Moreover, you have to keep in mind that a typical meal when you dine out is going to cost probably what an entire day’s worth of your food would cost if you ate at home. Remember, you’re on a tight budget so you need to be smart about your food choices and eating out is not the most frugal way to go.

If you absolutely have to dine out, go for affordable restaurants as opposed to upscale steakhouses.


Losing fat on a tight budget is undoubtedly possible (and practical). Even when you’re tight on money you can still achieve your health and physique goals as long as you’re smart about your food choices.