Eating healthy doesn’t have to be difficult. But often times those of us on a budget find it difficult to eat healthy. At the surface, healthy food options come off as too difficult or too expensive. But that doesn’t have to be the case. Enter nutrition expert Jessica Fishman Levinson. Certified dietitian nutritionist and founder of Nutritioulicious, we sat down with Jessica to get a better understanding of how anyone can keep healthy on a budget with the proper planning! 

Jessica Levinson Headshot

Jessica provided great advice to anyone looking to eat healthier while on a budget, saying that meal planning is key. How does she manage this? With Meal Prep Monday, of course! “Every week I post what I’m feeding my family, which I hope will inspire others to do the same.” Meal planning is essential because it not only provides a plan when you hit the grocery store, but it helps make sure that you’re not wasting the food you already have at home. Plan around what you have already in your pantry, she suggests – that way, you’re spending less money when you hit the supermarket.

Speaking of your pantry, Jessica shared what she thought should be a staple for your pantry and fridge! “Canned fish, particularly tuna and salmon,” she told me, since they’re shelf stable and contain great protein. Whole grains, like quinoa, farro, barley, can be bought in bulk for much cheaper and last a very long time without expiring. Pulses – lentils, chickpeas – are also a great way of getting the most bang for your buck. The UN even announced that this is the International Year of the Pulse, as they are not only cost effective, and high in protein and fiber, but also environmentally friendly to grow. Those interested can find out more here, or take the Pulse Pledge here to win some awesome health-based prizes!

Once you hit the grocery store, Jessica gave me the lowdown on what the best bang for your buck would be. “Good olive oil can make a difference,” she told me. Also important? Buying in season. Seasonal fruits and vegetables do not require being shipped from warmer, seasonal climates, and therefore cost less. That, and these products are usually fresher, and locally sourced. And don’t be afraid of the grocery store brand! So long as the ingredients to the brand names are the same, and the nutrition value is similar, then it’s just as good!

Jessica also helped dispel rumors about how eating healthy has to be expensive! “When it comes to the fresh meats aisle, look for lean cuts, which are better for our health and waistlines. To get more for your money, stock up when it’s on sale – you can freeze what you’re not using for dinner tonight and have it on hand for a later date. Ground meats are also a good choice since they’re less expensive and are great to use for budget-friendly meals like meatballs, burgers, tacos, and meatloaf. Just make sure to get 90% lean ground beef and ground white meat poultry. Lean stew meat is also relatively inexpensive and is perfect for those stews that can be batch cooked and frozen for future meals. The longer cooking time tenderizes the meat, which may otherwise be tough. There are numerous health benefits of fish and people should be eating more of it. While fish can be expensive, you can often find filets on sale or go for the fresh frozen options at the supermarket.”

She explained further that by planning ahead (Meal Prep Mondays!), you can see what is on sale and be mindful of what you’re eating for the week. Batch cooking can also save a great amount of money. Rather than letting leftovers go to waste, freezing batches of pre-made food to eat when you like is the perfect way of making sure nothing is wasted!

To celebrate the International Year of the Pulse, and all that Jessica taught us, here is one of her stellar nutritious and delicious recipes that the whole family – kids included! – will love. Plus it’s gluten-free, vegetarian, and low-calorie!

Vegetarian Lentil Bolognese over Polenta Cakes


About Jessica Fishman Levinson:

Jessica Fishman Levinson, MS, RDN, CDN is a registered and New York State-certified dietitian nutritionist and the founder of Nutritioulicious, a New York-based nutrition communications and consulting business with a focus on culinary nutrition. Jessica has extensive experience as a recipe developer, writer, editor, and speaker. She is the co-author of We Can Cook: Introduce Your Child to the Joy of Cooking with 75 Simple Recipes and Activities (Barron’s, 2011), the Culinary Corner columnist for Today’s Dietitian Magazine, and maintains the popular Nutritioulicious blog. Jessica has been featured as a nutrition expert on television and radio outlets, including NBC, Fox 5, and NY1, in national magazines like Glamour, Fitness, and Woman’s Day, and on numerous health and lifestyle websites. Jessica has an MS in Nutrition and Dietetics and a BA in Psychology, both from New York University. She is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and various Dietetic Practice Groups of the AND, including Nutrition Entrepreneurs, Dietitians in Business and Communications, and Food and Culinary Professionals. In addition to her professional work, Jessica enjoys all things related to food and wine and spending time with her husband and twin daughters.

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