Health Advice



The 5 cheapest proteins to pick for your summer barbecue

Lauren Wicks, on

Published in Health & Fitness

As inflation continues to rise, it may feel challenging to think about all the summer gatherings and family traditions that could now seem out of reach. We’ve rounded up five delicious, nutritious and satisfying proteins that will be excellent barbecue stand-ins for your usual steak, chicken breast and pork tenderloin.

1. Chicken thighs

Chicken breast has reigned supreme as the cut of choice for too long, and we love that more and more folks are choosing delicious, nutritious chicken thighs as a cost-effective protein of choice. Similar to chicken breast, thighs are full of protein (each thigh boasts around 18 grams!), and if you leave the skin on, you'll also get a collagen boost. Plus, chicken thighs are great sources of zinc and selenium, which can help keep your immune system in tip-top shape, and you'll save a few bucks along the way. Chicken thighs typically cost less than chicken breasts per pound.

2. Tofu

Tofu is cost-effective and a great source of plant protein, iron and calcium, and definitely has a place in a healthy diet.

When it comes to grilling, we like to start with extra-firm tofu and expel as much water as possible with a tofu press (or a makeshift press with cloth towels and a few heavy-duty cookbooks). You can let it press for 30 minutes or up to several hours. Afterward, you can boost the flavor by letting the tofu marinate in your sauce of choice. Let the tofu marinate for at least 30 minutes to properly absorb all the flavors, but you're better off with a few hours if you have the time.

3. Pork

Pork has fallen out of fashion in recent decades, but it's delicious and versatile — and it can still be a budget-friendly choice depending on the cuts you purchase. One of our favorite summer barbecue dishes is a pulled pork sandwich, and pork butts and shoulders are typically even lower in price than chops. However, they do require a bit more time to achieve that perfect juicy texture, so keep that in mind as you plan for your gathering.


4. Ground beef

While beef has been heavily impacted by inflation as a whole, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, ground beef can still be found at a budget-friendly price point in many places for whipping up burgers, kebabs and more. According to North Dakota State University, you'll get the most nutrients by opting for leaner ground beef options, but the cheaper cuts with 70% to 80% fat will still offer plenty of protein, iron and zinc per serving.

5. Beans

While we're not exactly going to throw a can of beans on the grill, stocking up on a variety of legumes, from chickpeas to black beans, will help stretch your dollar and nourish all kinds of eaters at your next barbecue. Beans are one of the cheapest protein sources out there, as you can find cans for less than 75 cents. Beyond offering an impressive 14 grams of protein per cup, you'll also get more than half of your daily fiber needs, plus a host of vitamins and minerals.

When it comes to grilling, you can swap out expensive faux meat burgers for a more nourishing, cost-effective bean burger.

(EatingWell is a magazine and website devoted to healthy eating as a way of life. Online at

©2024 Dotdash Meredith. All rights reserved. Used with permission. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.


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