When the prices of your favourite fruit and veg is skyrocketing, it can be challenging to make affordable, healthy meals that the whole family will love.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of pantry and shopping trolley staples that are not just healthy, but affordable too. And they can really help to bulk out meals. The best part is, all of these foods are good quality low GI carbs, essential for your health, and friendly on your hip pocket too.
Low GI carbs are digested and absorbed more slowly, meaning blood sugar is released more slowly into your bloodstream, providing you with steady and longer-lasting energy. And, they’ll help keep you feeling fuller for longer. Win, win.
These are our top 10 affordable, healthy low GI foods:
Rice is one of those main meal carbs that are a staple in most households (in fact, it’s the most widely eaten staple worldwide), and with good reason. It’s a versatile grain that is naturally gluten free. But not all rice is created equal. You want to look for a low GI certified rice, like SunRice Low GI White or Brown Rice, as it’s made from a unique grain with a complex starch structure – this means it takes your body longer to digest, metabolise and absorb energy which helps to provide a more sustained energy release and can assist in helping you feeling fuller for longer. Try it in satisfying salad.
Whether boiled, mashed, or enjoyed cold in a salad, potatoes are a favourite at the dinner table. They’re healthy, affordable and long-lasting, making them the perfect pantry staple. Containing vitamin C, B group vitamins, fibre and magnesium, potatoes are also best enjoyed skin on to maximise your fibre and antioxidant intake. Plus, cooked and cooled potatoes are a good source of resistant starch – great for gut health. Look for lower GI potatoes, like Carisma™ or Mitolo Family Farms Low Carb potatoes, as they have 25% less carbohydrates than regular white potatoes. Try them in this stunning Mediterranean potato salad, perfect for picnics.
When you’re watching your weight, bread can sometimes be a staple that’s unnecessarily scrapped. There’s plenty of breads on the market that are packed with goodness– making for an easy breakfast, or a filling lunch. When choosing a low GI bread, look for dense high fibre wholegrain bread, authentic sourdough bread, grain and seed bread, pumpernickel bread, fruit bread, raisin bread, wholegrain high fibre wraps or white corn tortilla wraps. If you’ve found a pack with the GI Symbol on the front, you’re on the right track.
Oats are another long-lasting, affordable staple. You can find them for as little as $0.19c per 100g, and they’re incredibly versatile, whether you’re making overnight oats for a quick brekkie on the go, or adding them to your smoothie for extra nutrients and to keep you going until lunchtime. When choosing a low GI option, go for traditional rolled oats or steel cut oats instead of quick or instant.
There’s nothing better than a crispy fresh apple to snack on, and the good news is apples are low GI, affordable and available all year round. In addition to having the highest antioxidant capacity of Australia’s most popular fruits, they are rich in nutrients that are vital for good health and disease prevention making them a top choice each day. Try them in this apple bircher muesli to start the day right.
Like apples, pears are another great low GI fruit choice that are available all year round. Having regular seasonal availability means you can always find a variety with an affordable cost per kg. As well as being delicious and versatile, pears are also high in fibre which can help lower cholesterol, and being low GI, they’re an ideal nutritious snack to keep you going. Try them in a dessert for a decadent yet healthy treat, like these roasted pears with chocolate fudge sauce.
Rounding out the trio of core fruits, bananas are another cheap grocery must-have. Bananas are a natural energy booster for the body, and a mood booster for the mind thanks to their carbohydrate, vitamin and mineral content, particularly from vitamin B6 and potassium. Their fibre supports a healthy gut too. Bananas have a low GI (47-53), unless they are overripe and then their GI is medium (57). This is because some starch converts to sugars as they ripen. If you can, choose a slightly underripe banana as it’ll lower the GI even further and is a good source of resistant starch.
Chickpeas should be a staple in every household – they’re cheap, versatile, and when you choose canned, you benefit from a long shelf-life too. They’re a powerhouse of nutrition, packed with hunger-busting protein (with over 11.8g of protein per cup of cooked chickpeas) and soluble fibre, and they’re also low GI, making them perfect for snacking. Try sneaking them into your breakfast, like this baked egg and spinach dish, to keep you going until lunchtime.
Another legume, lentils are also packed with nutrition and incredibly affordable, whether you’re enjoying them on their own, or using them to bulk out mince recipes. Despite being smaller than chickpeas, lentils have slightly more protein and fibre so they’re an excellent addition to your weekly shop. You can add them to soups, curries and stews, or make a vegetarian bolognese-style sauce.
10. Red kidney beans
Continuing down the canned food aisle and rounding out our list is red kidney beans. A staple in a variety of dishes, their low price means you can always have them ready in the pantry to bulk out your favourite meals, particularly when making Mexican cuisine. They’re another low GI food and similarly to chickpeas and lentils, have strong credentials for both protein and fibre (13g and 11g per cup, respectively). Add them into your next Mexican night, like this beef mince and rice bowl.