Runner's World Mag offers some great advise in their February Issue. "On the Money" suggests when to spend the big bucks at the grocery store and when to save a few extra dollars so you can splurge on the Miami Half Marathon getaway.
Splurge - Grass Fed Beef
Grass-fed beef is lower in saturated fat and higher in omega-3 fatty acids than its grain fed counterpart. Keep in mind what overeating carbs instead of veggies does to humans bodies...the same is true for cows.
Save - Dark Chicken Meat
Still low in fat and calories as far as meat goes, dark meat is usually less expensive and adds more iron and zinc, important nutrients for run down runners (or any runner for that matter). Plus, there are some delicious Indian recipes for chicken legs; try coating them in curry, Greek yogurt, cumin, onions, and garlic. Let the chicken marinate for 20-30 minutes in the fridge and bake with the skin on. Save on fat and calories by eating the meat and discarding the skin. Serve with ginger dal and brown basmati rice for an Indian delight!
Splurge - Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Olive oil, and sometimes canola oil, are the best oils to use while cooking. Keep in mind you still do not want the oil to smoke, but adding a splash of EVOO, as Rachael Ray would call it, will provide you with some anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. Research also suggests that extra virgin varieties are better than nonvirgin or light olive oil. Bake your fish (also high in omega-3s) or chicken brushed with this oil or add a splash to your leafy greens or steamed veggies. You can also try coconut oil, which adds a nice flavor to seafood.
Save - Chunk Light Tuna
Tuna is one of those great sources of omega-3 fatty acids, and it is convenient and cheap. My favorite way to make tuna includes 1-1 1/2 Tbsp light or olive oil based mayo, celery, pickle relish, Cholula hot sauce, and Dijon mustard. Chunk light has lower mercury than chunk white because of the size of the fish the tuna is from. Larger fish or predatory fish accumulate more mercury because they eat other fish that contain mercury in their bodies as well.
Splurge - Organic Peaches, Apples, Peppers, Celery, and Nectarines
These fruits and vegetables have been tagged by the Environmental Working Group for having the highest pesticide residues. Also enjoy organic grapes, potatoes, and tomatoes as well as leafy greens such as spinach and kale. These are known as the Dirty Dozen. Organic dairy and meat is also worth the extra money. The way an animal is raised greatly determines its nutritional quality as well as how it affects your body. To be named organic, the animal and its feed must be free of hormones and pesticides as well as have grazing access. If the animal has been given antibiotics or hormones, we will consume these chemicals as well, placing us at a health risk. Don't bother buying organic onion, avocado, mango, asparagus, and pineapple. They are generally recognized as safe.
Save - Frozen Produce
Frozen fruits and veggies may actually be healthier than their fresh counterparts. They are picked at their peak of ripeness and flash frozen, thus helping maintain their nutritional quality. Fresh fruits and vegetables lose nutrients as they sit in piles on the farm, travel on the truck to the store, wait to be stocked at the grocery store, and sit in your refrigerator. Add frozen peas to salads, pair frozen green beans with turkey meatloaf, or add frozen fruit to smoothies. I microwave frozen berries (packed with antioxidants to repair cell damage after a hard workout) for 30 seconds and add them to my cereal. Another quick tip - freeze over ripe bananas and add to your oatmeal or recovery shake.
Splurge - Greek Yogurt
Choiban, Oikos, or Trader Joe's brand are great picks for this thick, creamy, protein-packed treat. But the winner in taste tests (national and my own) is Fage. Pronounced Fai-yay(!), this yogurt contains double protein and double probiotics since the extra liquid is strained, leaving a more concentrated dairy product. Pick lower sugar options still. Fage offers a peach, cherry, strawberry, honey, and plain in 0, 2, or 4% (whole) varieties. Honey has the most sugar and plain wins in my boat. It is sweet enough after adding some of the frozen fruit you saved on. Sprinkle some Stevia and flax seed and you have a healthy bedtime snack or mid-morning pick up. Also, stick with the 0 or 2% to avoid a lot of saturated fats. If you have a hard time with the bigger price tag, think about this - instead of paying for high fructose corn syrup, you are spending your money on good quality protein!
Save - Regular Eggs
I actually disagree with RW on this one. They suggest sticking with regular eggs instead of free-range eggs. Free-range eggs can pack more beta-carotene, omega-3s, and vitamin D than thier caged counterparts. RW argues that the USDA does not specify access and time the chickens have. This is actually true of other animals, such as cows. You do need to be aware of the manufacturers practices, but getting omega-3s from your eggs is a great idea. Also, why not support more humane treatment of the chickens as well?