The Most Affordable Diet Plans of 2018

Weight loss and wellness programs are very good at marketing their services to people who want to get in shape and live healthier lives. They are — intentionally — not so great at being upfront about their fees. Listing a $9.99/meal price on a website seems appealing until you realize you’re spending almost $50 on just four meals — one four-person dinner — per week.

There’s nothing wrong with diet programs like Weight Watchers — doctors actually support this particular program as an effective weight loss strategy. But the costs of these memberships can really add up over time.

The same goes for meal delivery services — they can sometimes cost more than buying groceries.

You don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on your food to prevent disease and ease your symptoms. Here are four diets proven to benefit your health — and your wallet.

A vegetarian diet

Salad

Salad | Stitchik iStock / Getty Images Plus

Believe it or not, meat is expensive. Even if you don’t do it for ethical or health reasons specifically, going vegetarian could save you a lot of money in the long-term.

While every vegetarian has their own reasons for giving up meat and/or other animal products, sticking to a strictly plant-based diet isn’t as costly or inconvenient as it used to be. To save money, your best bet is to probably prepare most of your meals at home — and even grow some of your own food, if you can (if you can’t, that’s OK).

Not all plant-based foods have to come from a health food store. Cheap foods like rice and beans are available at any supermarket — and if you’re willing to get creative, you can dress them up however you want.

You might want to stock up on plenty of:

  • Beans
  • Leafy greens
  • Rice
  • Herbs and spices

However, if you don’t want to give up meat completely — but you do want to eat it less often — there’s an official “diet” for you, too.

The flexitarian diet

While vegetarians avoid meat and sometimes other animal products completely, flexitarians eat foods sourced from animals — just not as often. They “flex” their deits to focus on plant-based foods without giving up the occasional cheeseburger.

Again, you’ll save on meat on this diet — especially if you avoid expensive substitutes (store-bought hummus, veggie burgers) and stick with more traditional plant foods like grains and vegetables.

You might benefit from cheaper foods that are easier to buy and store in bulk, such as:

  • Eggs
  • Plain Greek yogurt
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Frozen meats for later preparation

But if you want to make meat a regular part of your diet without blowing your budget on expensive cuts, there’s a way to eat healthy and get plenty of plants in your diet while still enjoying your meals.

The Mediterranean diet

Grilled salmon steak

Grilled salmon steak | iStock.com/IgorDutina

People who follow a traditional Mediterranean-style diet tend to be in better health than people who follow a westernized way of eating (a diet high in processed foods).

This diet doesn’t technically restrict anything you’re used to eating, but does recommend foods such as sweets and red meat be saved for “special occasions.”

Buying less meat and junk food might not seem like it would save you a lot of money. But admit it — those bags of chips definitely don’t last more than a week at most. Making use of fresh and frozen foods — and leftovers — can make your groceries last a week or more if you plan accordingly.

Consider purchasing more of the following:

  • Olives and olive oil
  • Lean meats — beef, chicken, turkey (a few servings per week)
  • Fresh and frozen fruits and veggies
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa)

Buying in bulk — when you can — can also help you save money. Frozen vegetables are one example of a healthy food you can store for a bit longer that can last more than a few servings.

The DASH diet

If you want to reduce or prevent high blood pressure¬†on a budget, the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is the No. 1 ranked plan to follow. Whole grains, fresh vegetables, and certain dairy products aren’t as expensive as you might think.

This diet also strongly recommends cutting back or eliminating foods high in sodium, calories, and refined carbohydrates. These foods not only hurt your heart, but also tend to be on the more expensive side. Some cheap low-sodium, low-calorie foods include:

  • Oats/Oatmeal
  • Greek yogurt
  • Skim milk or milk alternatives (unsweetened)
  • Spinach and romaine lettuce.

Don’t drain your bank account to eat healthier. With careful planning and calculated effot, a healthy diet might even be cheaper than the one you’re following now.