Very often people comment that eating healthy takes a bite out of their wallet, and that can be true.  Generally speaking, organic fruits, vegetables, meats, etc. are more expensive than their non-organic counterparts.  We’ve talked before about the “Dirty Dozen,” the top-twelve fruits and vegetables with the most pesticide residue, and lots of people agree that following that helpful list and buying the fruits and veggies cited there is worth the extra cost.  But when you’re trying to eat clean but you’re feeling the pinch, which foods really are worth reaching for a little extra cash?  Recently, U.S. News and World Report published an article with some suggestions, and here’s what they had to say:

Wild-Caught Fish:  We’ve blogged before about the fishing industry and the negatives impacts and effects of fish farming, but let us break this one down for you.  Wild-caught fish aren’t full of the antibiotics and contaminants that plague so  many farmed fish.  They are generally leaner, they won’t be filled with food coloring, and have more omega-3s than farmed fish.

BPA-free Canned Goods:  Most of us have heard about BPA as it relates to water bottles (both reusable and those that are bottled and sold) and other plastic containers, but its uses are not confined to the plastic industry.  BPA is also used to coat metal products like food cans.  So, spending a little extra to get food in BPA-free cans is worth it because BPA can seep into foods and beverages.  Some studies show behavioral effects on fetuses, infants and children from BPA; so, be safe, avoid the extra chemicals and look for BPA-free packaging or opt for glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers.

Stick with the Dirty Dozen:  The Environmental Working Group (EWG)works hard every year to bring us the Dirty Dozen list, and we should all thank them.  They understand that people have budgets and this list helps people prioritize their shopping so they can get the most (and safest) food for their money.  When you’re out shopping for fresh produce for your family, consult the list.  It’s worth spending a little extra to get the safest and healthiest produce.  Americans typically don’t eat enough produce, so do yourself a favor and fill your cart at least 25% full of fresh produce (and consult the list!).

High-quality Olive Oils and Vinegars:  Ever looked at someone’s salad bowl filled with a rainbow-colored plethora of goodness and then watch then pour bleu cheese dressing all over it?  Some people really don’t like to taste their veggies; but the problem is that, when they cover them all up with fat, sugar and sodium, they suck the health right out of the whole meal.  But what if you used a simple oil and vinegar mixture?  You’ll be adding taste and nutrition and making the most of what a salad should be.

Dark Chocolate:  Finally!  A dessert you don’t have to feel bad about!  Studies link dark chocolate to stress relief and a decrease in heart disease.  It’s also full of flavonoids, which have antioxidant qualities along with a host of positive attributes.  Yes, dark chocolate adds a few extra calories to the day’s count, but, in moderation, it kills two birds with one stone: It satisfies your sweet tooth and benefits your body.  So, skip the milk chocolate, pony up and get the dark chocolate for the win!

Whole Grain Bread, Pastas and Rice:  Whole grain breads are more expensive than their white brethren but they’re worth it.  Why, you ask?  Because white breads, rice and pastas are refined and have had most of their nutritional value stripped away in the process.  You’re paying a little extra to skip the processing and keep the good stuff, and the good stuff is what counts.  The good stuff, like fiber, magnesium and vitamin B (just to name a few) help prevent many chronic diseases and keep your digestive system moving in the right direction.

Remember the old phrase, “You get what you pay for”?  It’s so often true when it comes to your food, and really, isn’t good, healthy, fresh food something you should be prioritizing?  It’s fundamental to your life, right?  So, step up, take care of yourself and spend a little more on these foods.  Your body will thank you for it!