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August 19, 2011 | 3 minute read

Budget Wise Healthy Eating: The Potassium Challenge

I’ve worked with a lot of clients who monitored their food budget closely – whether students, young families or those on a fixed income. Balancing life’s demands and a desire for healthier eating with limited resources requires some commitment – and creative thinking.

So when a recent study published in the journal Health Affairs about the cost of healthier came out, I sensed a “healthy eating” challenge.

The authors calculated how much more individuals in their study would have to pay for food in order to reach the recommended Daily Value* for four nutrients.  The nutrients were potassium, fiber, vitamin D and calcium. Those are four of the nutrients the 2010 US Dietary Guidelines encourage Americans to increase.

Potassium proved to be the most expensive; the authors said it cost about $380 per year, or $1.04 per day, on average, for the study participants to add enough foods with potassium to achieve the recommendations. The average level of potassium in diets was 2800 milligrams (mg) and the recommendation is 3500 mg.

In my quest to help people achieve a healthier diet with fewer pennies, I’ve come up with a few food combinations to bridge that 700 mg gap. My goal was to do it for about half the price** they calculated in their study.

How about a bowl of chili?: 1/2 cup tomato sauce (358 mg), 1/2 cup kidney beans (405 mg)

763 mg for 60 cents

Cooks in 25 minute: Lentil and sweet potato stew

½ cup lentil (365 mg) cooked with ½ cup sweet potato (300 mg)

665 mg for 44 cents

On the go: 3/4 cup orange juice (355 mg) and 1 medium banana (422 mg)

777 mg for 50 cents

Include at dinner: 1 cup milk (365 mg) and 1/2 cup potato (300 mg)

665 mg for 55 cents

Microwave in less than 5 minutes: 1 sweet potato (610 mg) for 45 cents

Of course a healthy diet is much more than just one nutrient. The foods I suggested above are also rich in fiber and other nutrients, so balancing your plate with plenty of colorful foods can be cost effective. Proportion your plate the New American Plate way with less meat (meat is pricier), and more inexpensive plant foods such as beans, in season or frozen vegetables and less processed grains. Another benefit is that watching your portion (for healthy weight) and proportion are two of the most important things you can do for a healthy, cancer-protective diet.

Here are some delicious and inexpesive AICR recipes that include high potassium and other nutrient rich foods:

White Bean Soup with Spinach and Couscous

Buttternut Squash, Tomato and Watercress Soup

Super Meatballs with Spicy Red Sauce

Go here to find foods you enjoy that are highest in potassium.


*Daily Value is used on the Nutrition Facts Label as a recommendation for key nutrients.

** Prices come from online grocery store flyers

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