Some people fear that eating healthy can be an expensive lifestyle, and it is true that convenience foods are often priced so cheaply they are hard to refuse! The truth is, countries around the world rely a lot less on processed foods — and they have health outcomes that prove it might be worth it to make a few small changes.
All of the dishes featured today are $5 or less — some much less! Delicious, nutritious, and exciting to share with the family for a taste test outside of their usual habits! Let’s take a look at some meal ideas that won’t break the bank.
Japan: Miso Soup
Japan has the highest life expectancy in the world, and we are curious about their secret! Maybe it’s miso soup, a staple of their diet in homes on a weekly basis. The Japanese say that this soup helps boost digestion overall, which sounds good to us! Miso paste is a savory base that can be purchased for around $10 for a concentrated package, but per pot is much less. Only a few tablespoons are needed for a powerful punch as the base of this delicious soup.
Additions according to your taste can be added, and many people choose tofu and a variety of fresh greens. Green onions, peas, cabbage, or even seaweed are popular ingredients! Miso is low in fat and above average in terms of protein, so it’s a great choice to replace a pasta meal or two during the week. Miso makes you feel full for a longer period, so unneeded snacks have a serious foe! The Japanese have one more tip for us: Hara Hachi Bu. This phrase means “eat until the point you are 80% full” — it takes time for the brain to realize you are actually satiated, so this one is a great idea.
Some people may have heard the name of this classic French dish from the Disney movie about a friendly rat that wanted to become a chef, but we assure you that this is food fit for people! It is in fact, an easy gourmet dish that utilizes the very scraps you already have in your fridge — perhaps the random vegetables you don’t know what to do with before they go bad!
Ratatouille is a staple of French cuisine, and it is typical of their traditional nightly meal preparation that forgoes tons of processed ingredients. A handful of delicious veggie choices with herbs, olive oil, and sometimes white wine creates a lovely dish with no health downside. French women have been written about as “effortlessly thin” in so many papers at this point that we must ask about their approach! One French tip for a healthy lifestyle includes moderation as a central principle. French women apparently do sample all those amazing cheeses, but they do so in small quantities and maintain balance overall. C’est la vie!
South Korea: Kimchi
Korean cuisine is not as well known as some of the other Asian options, like Japanese sushi or Chinese stir fry. But there are some pretty interesting aspects to their eating style that deserve a little more PR! Korean women apparently eat a lot, but the selection of their foods is the real secret to their healthy weight and long national life expectancy. In fact, it has been reported that many Korean immigrants experience weight gain when they move to America and start eating all those crazy processed foods we love! So what was the usual diet that benefited them so much?
Koreans eat a lot of vegetables, and there is one very special dish that people may have heard of — but what exactly it is remains rather unknown. Kimchi is a traditional dish of fermented cabbage with ginger, veggies, chili powder, radish, and sometimes a bit of seafood in the mix — recipes vary. The key here is the fermentation process, which creates tons of healthy bacteria in each bowl. A lot of research has been done lately on the benefits of balanced gut bacteria on weight, and this may be an underrated area of focus for health. Additionally, some research has linked elements in fermented cabbage to cancer growth prevention! The vegetable itself is actually one of the cheapest on the market per pound, and it’s a great idea to keep this inexpensive superfood in the fridge to supplement meals throughout the week.
Italy: Tuscan Bean Salad
The Mediterranean diet has been proven to have many health benefits, and people from this region live longer than average lives. And their habits are positively delicious! While some people may think of Italian food as cheesy carbohydrates with lots of tomato sauce, there are really a greater range of dishes regularly eaten throughout the country’s different regions.
Tuscan bean salad is a nice lunch that involves basic, fresh ingredients with olive oil, herbs, and of course — beans! Using beans as the base of your meal is certainly not a budget killer, usually priced at $1.50 a pound. Perhaps people think they sound boring, and don’t choose them often enough! We beg to disagree, just looking at this colorful (and healthy!) dish eaten from the Mediterranean. Tip from Italians: Dine with leisure, take time to enjoy your food, and make sure to take a scenic walk after dinner! That doesn’t sound so bad, does it?
What do the Swiss eat, anyway? Why do they have a life expectancy of 84? No one seems to know! Well it turns out you may already be eating a variation of their cuisine, but may not realize it! Oatmeal was invented around a hundred years ago by Dr. Maximilian Bircher-Benner, but the Swiss have their own special method of preparation. At only a few cents a bowl, a handful of healthy additions sprinkled in will still keep this dish under $1 for your guilt-free enjoyment.
The Swiss call this bircher muesli, and it consists of oatmeal with nuts and a little bit of fruit combined with yogurt, milk, and lemon juice. Yum, we’ve never thought to make it that way! But there is a twist — you don’t cook it! The oats and liquids are left in a container in the fridge to soak and plump up the night before, and fruits and nuts are added in the morning as a topping. Very interesting! Oatmeal is recommended as a breakfast item because it really keeps you full all morning, unlike some other common fast convenience carbs that are marketed as “the most important meal of the day”.