COOKING UP HEALTHY, AFFORDABLE FOOD! #478 09/21/11
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6 Healthy Foods That Are Easy on Your Wallet

By Suzy Buglewicz

These days, it seems like we're all trying to stretch our dollars, either by necessity or because we're becoming savvier about the benefits of saving more and spending less. If you've been looking for ways to stretch your grocery budget without filling up on cheap, empty calories, read on. It's a myth that the healthiest foods are the most expensive. With a list and a plan, it's possible—and surprisingly simple—to eat healthily without blowing your budget or sacrificing those hard-earned P90X® or INSANITY® results. If you want to keep your wallet fat and your waistline trim, try to put more of these food items in your shopping cart the next time you're at the grocery store.

Piggy Bank and Man Measuring Waist

  1. Sweet Potatoes. Also marketed as yams (which are actually a variety of sweet potato), this versatile food is as nutritious as it is economical. Sweet potatoes are used in everything from baby food to main dishes to desserts.

    Why they're good for you: At about 140 calories each, sweet potatoes are filling, easy to cook, and loaded with vitamins A and C, iron, and thiamine. They also contain beta-carotene, which may help reduce the risk of certain cancers. Sweet potatoes are also low in sodium and a good source of fiber.

    Best way to enjoy: Scrub and pierce the sweet potatoes, then bake them, microwave them, or cook them in boiling water. Use them in recipes that call specifically for sweet potatoes, or to make things interesting, try using them in place of white potatoes. For a special treat (and an instant kid-pleaser), add a small amount of butter and brown sugar.
  2. BeansBeans. Long regarded as one of the ultimate frugal foods, beans are as versatile as they are nutritious, with a plethora of flavors, colors, and varieties to choose from. Stock up on the dried (and cheapest!) kind, as well as still-a-bargain canned beans. You'll have tons of cheap, healthy meal possibilities.

    Why they're good for you: Beans are one of the best sources of dietary fiber, which can help lower cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar. Beans are also high in amino acids, and when combined with grains (like the brown rice mentioned below), they make an excellent source of animal-free complete protein.

    Best way to enjoy: Beans can be incorporated into almost any recipe, or just eaten by themselves. Try replacing beef with black beans in chili, soup, or your favorite Mexican recipes. Eat beans hot or cold, alone, in salads, or with rice, for a high-protein, high-fiber meal.
  3. Brown rice. One 2-pound bag of brown rice can provide as many as 20 servings. You can combine brown rice with an assortment of other ingredients, or simply enjoy it with a few simple seasonings. Bonus? Brown rice has more flavor and nutrients than instant white rice.

    Why it's good for you: Brown rice is a great source of fiber, vitamin B, iron, manganese, and selenium, nutrients that are essential for keeping the immune system strong and healthy, lowering cholesterol, and reducing the risk of heart disease and diabetes.

    Best way to enjoy: Cook brown rice with water on the stovetop, in the microwave, or in a rice cooker, then either enjoy it as a side dish or add it to soups, salads, and your favorite main dish recipes.
  4. Brown EggsEggs. At about 75 calories each and often less than $2 per dozen, eggs contain more than a dozen essential nutrients, which make them a healthy bargain. And there's no need to avoid eating eggs for fear of consuming too much cholesterol. Research has shown that egg consumption, when limited to 1 or 2 a day, contributes less than 1 percent to the risk of heart disease when other factors are considered.

    Why it's good for you: Eggs have a high proportion of nutrients to calories, which means that they help you stay feeling full and energized while they help you maintain a healthy weight. Eggs are also an excellent source of folate, protein, lutein (which promotes eye health), and choline (which helps brain function).

    Best way to enjoy: Eat eggs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Try them baked, hard-boiled, scrambled, poached, in frittatas, in omelettes, or in any recipe you choose.
  5. Whole-grain pasta. Tasty, filling, and always an economical way to feed a crowd, what's not to love about pasta?

    Why it's good for you: Whole-grain pasta is low in sodium and fat and high in complex carbohydrates, which helps you maintain a consistent energy level. Unlike its refined white flour–based brethren, whole-grain pasta is also a good source of fiber.

    Best way to enjoy: Whole-grain pasta is easy to combine with other foods, including vegetables, meats, and your favorite sauces. For a healthier dish, toss cooked pasta with olive oil or a marinara sauce instead of a high-calorie Alfredo sauce.
  6. Frozen VegetablesFrozen vegetables. While fresh, raw vegetables (and fruits, for that matter) that are in season should always be a first choice, having a supply of frozen vegetables on hand is an inexpensive, nutritious, and versatile backup plan.

    Why they're good for you: Frozen vegetables retain almost all of their nutritional value, since they're picked and frozen while at their peak flavor. When the perishables in your refrigerator have, well, perished, it's easy to reach for a bag of frozen vegetables and add them to any meal.

    Best way to enjoy: Frozen vegetables have a high nutritional value. Keep them in the freezer and pull them out any time to toss in soups, stews, lasagna, or stir-fries. They also make great side dishes. But always read the ingredients before buying a bag—some food companies add preservatives and sodium to their frozen produce.

BONUS: Try these recipes for healthy, low-cost eating.

Three-Bean Pasta

  • 1 lb. uncooked whole-grain farfalle or other pasta
  • 1 15-oz. can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 cup frozen green beans, thawed
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 3 Tbsp. Dijon mustard
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Prepare pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again. In a large bowl, combine drained pasta, beans, onion, bell pepper, and chickpeas. Mix remaining ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour over pasta, toss, and serve. Serves 6.

Chunky Vegetable Chili

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, cubed
  • 1/2 cup onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 cup yellow bell pepper, seeded, cored, and chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. chile powder
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1 28-oz. can tomatoes (with juice)
  • 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup cubed zucchini, cubed
  • 6 Tbsp. sour cream (optional)

Place first nine ingredients (including juice from tomatoes) in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, breaking up tomatoes with spoon, then stirring frequently until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add zucchini, replace cover, and simmer another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until zucchini and sweet potatoes are tender. Ladle into bowls and top each serving with 1 tablespoon of sour cream (if desired). Serves 6.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Denis Faye, Beachbody Fitness Advisor, in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, September 26th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in The Beachbody Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive The Beachbody Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe.

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve Edwards' views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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A Beachbody® Cookbook Review: Lucid Food

By Denis Faye

Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia. Ten Speed Press, $22.50

Lucid Food: Cooking for an Eco-Conscious Life by Louisa Shafia

When you're trying to eat right, it seems like no matter what positive action you take, there's something you miss. You eat organic, but then you forget to eat local. You load up on fruits and veggies, but you end up with a bunch of wasteful, unrecyclable packaging. You buy cruelty-free foods, only to learn that you're exploiting some poor Guatemalan farm worker.

And to top this all off, when you show the slightest inclination toward socially responsible eating, friends and family can often freak out and assume you're going all hippie on them. They don't seem to understand that just because you don't want to consume pesticides and GMOs, it doesn't mean you've become a recruiting agent for the Communist party.

Lucid FoodHopefully, an afternoon spent perusing Louisa Shafia's Lucid Food should go a long way toward helping you deal with both issues. Although at its core it's a cookbook, it's also filled with lessons on how to eat in a way that will nourish both you and the planet. Furthermore, it should also help you in dealing with your more dietetically uptight acquaintances, with several hosting suggestions that'll have even the most conservative dinner party guests coming back to the buffet for more.

The beginning of the book, "Eco-Kitchen Basics," features a huge list of ways to do the right thing when it comes to food. The nice thing about this list is that it's broken down into simple tips. It may seem overwhelming at first, but no one expects you to transform into an eco-warrior overnight. Just go through and pick a few tips that work for you. For example, "Serve seasonal produce" and "Carry your own silverware." Once you've mastered those two, grab a few more. The end of the section contains a useful glossary, so you can figure out what terms like "carbon footprint" and "locavore" really mean.

November SquashNext come the recipes. They're divided into four sections: fall, winter, spring, and summer. The recipes in each section use foods typically available in that season, such as cherries in the summer and citrus fruits in the winter. Also, the foods are appropriate to the weather outside. Cold December nights call for Creamy Red Kuri Squash Soup and Mediterranean Shepherd's Pie. Pleasant spring afternoons call for Sassafras Tea and Stinging Nettle Pesto with Seared Scallops.

Each chapter is also peppered with thought-provoking essays, like "No-Waste Entertaining" and "Gardening, Anywhere." As you may have figured from the names of recipes mentioned previously, one drawback of this book is some of the more obscure ingredients required, like lemon balm leaves and garlic ramps (which are a kind of wild leek grown from South Carolina to Canada). Fortunately, many of the recipes feature more standard foods, and you can always improvise a little if need be. The Orecchiette with Morel Mushrooms and Garlic Ramps will work fine with regular leeks, thank you very much. (And orecchiette is just a fancy kind of shell pasta.)

Woman with Green Leafy VegetablesLucid Food isn't a centerpiece cookbook, like Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything series, but it's a welcome addition to anyone's collection, provided that person cares about food, where it's grown, and what it does to his or her body.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with Denis Faye, Beachbody Fitness Advisor, in the Beachbody Chat Room on Monday, September 26th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in The Beachbody Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive The Beachbody Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe.

And if you'd like to know more about Beachbody Director of Results Steve Edwards' views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope, recently named one of the Top 50 blogs covering the sports industry by the Masters in Sports Administration.

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Recipe: Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

Spicy Butternut Squash Soup

The farmers' markets are starting to show the first signs of autumn—healthy gourds like pumpkins and squashes are beginning to populate the stands. Here's a quick, easy recipe for a delicious, vitamin-filled fall soup.

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 2-1/2 cups onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5-1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper
  • 3 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)


Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Add onions and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add garlic and sauté, stirring, for about 1 more minute. Add squash, broth, and red pepper and bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and simmer until squash is soft, about 45 minutes. Cool slightly.

Once it's cooled, puree soup in batches in a blender until smooth. Return pureed squash mixture to pot. Add 1 teaspoon of thyme and stir. If desired, thin soup with more broth, then simmer 5 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into 6 bowls, sprinkle with remaining thyme, and enjoy!

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving)
Calories Protein Fiber Carbs Fat Total Saturated Fat
147 5 grams 4 grams 23 grams 5 grams 1 gram

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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