Contrary to popular belief, eating healthy doesn’t have to break the bank.
Sure, eating sushi grade tuna or buying organic protein powder will put a dent in your wallet, but there are many lower-cost alternatives to the fancy and expensive stuff. Actually, some of the best fuel for runners is quite affordable. Here are some cheap options that should definitely be on your weekly shopping list.
*All prices pulled from PeaPod
IMHO, oats are one of the best sources of fuel for runners for a multitude of reasons. First, they are cheap, especially if you buy whole oats from the bulk section of your local supermarket. They are also extremely versatile, fitting into everything from your standard oatmeal to overnight oats to homemade granola to smoothies. Oats contain 4 grams of fiber and 5 grams of protein in just a ½ cup, both of which keep you feeling full long after your eat them. And since they are a whole grain, they release glucose slowly into the bloodstream to power you through a long run.
Cost: $2.69 for 18-ounce container
If you’ve had a can of beans in your cupboard for months, go get it and add them to tacos, quesadillas, soups or salads. Not only do canned beans keep for a long time, they are extremely reasonably priced and rich in fiber and protein. A ½ cup of black beans has 7.5 grams of protein and more iron than a 3-ounce flank steak. As an added bonus, certain beans, like red kidney beans, provide as much antioxidants as dark berries and beets.
Price: $0.79 for 15-ounce can
Can a runner live without pasta? That’s like a fish living without water. Everyone’s favorite pre-race fuel is one of the most affordable starches around. It’s also a great source of simple carbs for carb-loading before the big race. If you’re tired of pasta with marinara sauce, try it cold in a pasta salad or add to soup.
Cost: $1.45 for 16-ounce box
I would venture a guess that you can probably get a banana for cheaper than a piece of gum. You may even get them for free after a race, and there’s a reason for that. These tropical fruits are loaded with simple carbs to replenish glycogen stores and potassium that helps with hydration. Add sliced bananas to morning oatmeal or a smoothie, instead of a sweetener.
Cost: $1.99 per bunch
For vegetarians, eggs are one of the few meatless complete proteins—meaning they contain all of the essential amino acids. One large egg has 70 calories, 6 grams of protein, and is chock-full of Vitamin D, B12, selenium, and choline. They also cook up extremely fast, so you can get a hearty meal into my system quickly after a long run. Whisk together your favorite veggies, cheeses and eggs and throw into a saute pan for a post-run omelet.
Cost: $1.69 for a dozen
Milk is like mother nature’s protein drink. With 8 grams of protein in 8-ounces and 9 essential vitamins and minerals, there’s really no reason to opt for any other type of beverage post-run. As a matter of fact, research has shown that a post-workout beverage should have a 4:1 carbs to protein ratio, and a sports drink doesn’t even come close to that ratio. But you know what does? Chocolate milk! Studies have shown that drinking chocolate milk after a tough workout results in less exercise-induced muscle damage than drinking a sports drink or water.
Cost: $2.69 for 64-ounce container
According to data from The Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average cost for a serving of lentils is $0.10. You better start collecting those dimes! In comparison, the average serving of chicken is $0.63. You may be thinking that chicken is a better source of protein, but a cup of cooked lentils has 18 grams of protein, 15 grams of fiber and more than 1/3 of your daily value of iron. And that’s all for about 230 calories.
Price: $1.99 for 16-ounce bag (dried lentils)
A 5-ounce can of tuna has a whopping 26 grams of protein for just 120 calories. This pure source of protein is definitely not the tastiest when eaten straight from the can, but it makes a perfect topper to salads. You can also mix it with some Greek yogurt, chopped veggies and lemon juice for a healthier tuna salad. Or if you went for a long run, feel free to indulge in an affordable tuna melt.
Price: $1.50 for 5-ounce can