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Foods With the Most Nutrition For the Price Per Portion

The majority of you haven't felt the recession in terms of gaining weight — you've figured out that just because you might be feeling a financial pinch, you don't have to resort to junk food that adds inches to your waistline. Because we're all concerned about balancing our diet while keeping balanced checkbooks, Dr. Adam Drewnowski, who directs the University of Washington Center For Public Health Nutrition, took it upon himself to research
which foods provide the best nutrition for the buck.

Dr. Drewnowski used federal statistics to compare average national prices per portion with the nutritional value of different foods, per 100 calories. He compared the two rankings to find the best buys, which he defined as the "middle ground between most nutritious yet expensive and the not-so-healthy in each food group." His list favors carrots over peppers and apples over strawberries for their longer-lasting qualities, and lean hamburger over pricier salmon and cheap bacon. For other foods singled out,


  • Low-fat dairy (milk, yogurt, cheddar, American, or mozzarella cheese)
  • Lean ground beef, chicken, canned fish
  • Whole eggs
  • Beans
  • Peanut butter, sunflower seeds, almonds
  • Bread (enriched or made with whole wheat), tortillas, rice
  • Bananas, apples, frozen orange juice concentrate, 100 percent fruit juice or fruit-vegetable blends
  • Potatoes, iceberg lettuce, canned corn, canned tomatoes

I'm surprised that iceberg lettuce passed the nutrition component of Dr. Drewnowski's research. Do any of the foods stand out as surprising to you?

Image Source: Getty
Join The Conversation
Zulkey Zulkey 8 years
believe me, Adam Drewnowski knows what he is talking about. I work for a nutrition journal and work with him from time to time.
Francoisehardly Francoisehardly 8 years
Iceberg lettuce doesn't really have much nutrition in it. Why not spinach and/or kale?
telane telane 8 years
Hmmm, I don't know. Some of these sound spot-on, but others are a little out there.... Just my opinion. I totally agree about the spinach and corn, though. I sort of think that maybe this is a list for people that have absolutely no idea what has nutritional value - you know, the same people that flock to the Banquet Pot Pies and Hungry Jack frozen meals to save money..... It sounds like that to me anyway.
darc5204 darc5204 8 years
I think this list could be better. Iceberg lettuce isn't all that nutritious, nor are white grains, regardless of enrichment.
cherryblossom cherryblossom 8 years
Not to be lude or anything... but corn is a very complex carbohydrate that our bodies dont break down, and as we know comes out the other end when you eat it. So how the frig does corn manage to be super healthy for you when you dont even digest it to break down its nutrients?
syako syako 8 years
My newest cheap item: ground turkey. I can buy a pound for under $2. I've been using it in a few recipes and my husband thought it was ground beef for months until last night when he helped me cook and said, "this is turkey!?" :)
bluepuppybites bluepuppybites 8 years
Yeah I think this list is a little screwy if you ask me. But everything on there is still better than the crap you get in the frozen dinner section. So maybe I can see the light. It also reminds me of alot of the stuff that you can get from our WIC program here in Nebraska, I wonder if there's a connection.
cg130 cg130 8 years
Fruit juice? Isn't it just sort of empty calories, and better to eat fruit than drink it (because your body has a harder time registering liquid calories in helping it feel full)?
lollofit lollofit 8 years
The canned corn is what gets me (other than the lettuce too)- I eat it sometimes.. but wasn't aware of it being super nutritious. Maybe its only on here for being somewhat nutritious and super cheap?
Wild-Magelet Wild-Magelet 8 years
Bit surprised by the iceberg lettuce as well! As far as rice goes, though, I'd fully agree with that one. Brown rice is very cheap to buy in bulk here and it's a great source of B vitamins and fibre.
2muchtv 2muchtv 8 years
I was surprised by lettuce also. I usually avoid that in a salad (I see it as filler, opting for the more colorful veggies instead). I should probably do the research to see how it made it into the list. Not surprised by bananas, it's my mom's don't-wanna-cook meal (bananas + milk = dinner)
Phil Phil 8 years
I'm also surprised spinach isn't on his list, as well as kale and broccoli. No real surprises there. Now, take away the ass-backwards farming subsidies and let's see the real cost-benefit ratio of the meats included in that list. I guarantee beef and poultry wouldn't be included on the list.
Spectra Spectra 8 years
I agree with a lot of those, but why is rice/tortillas/bread on there? I don't think of most bread products as being anything more than empty calories. Whole grain rice and whole grain bread/tortillas are usually better, but a lot of them are more expensive as well. I'm surprised spinach didn't make the list. I usually pick up a big bag of fresh spinach for $1.79 and I know that frozen and canned spinach is even cheaper than that.
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