Poll of Foodies Reveals the Top 100 Locations to Eat Healthily On a Budget

Eat Healthily On A Budget

Spending money on food can be a challenge for those with limited financial resources, often leading to a reliance on inexpensive but unhealthy foods. Statistics indicate that health outcomes are generally worse in lower-income areas, partly due to poor eating habits. 

However, eating well on a tight budget is possible. BadCredit.org ran a survey of 3,000 foodies asking them to identify the top culinary hotspots in the country where you can eat healthily on a budget.

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Where to Eat Well Without Breaking the Bank

America is home to numerous culinary hotspots where healthy and affordable meals are within reach. The top 10 were as follows:

1. South End, Hartford, Connecticut

 South End Hartford Connecticut Food Example
Credit: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

In the top spot is Hartford’s South End, a vibrant community spirit that thrives with a focus on healthy eating. The area features a mix of authentic offerings from various cultures, especially around Franklin Avenue. Once known as Little Italy, foodies can now find Puerto Rican, Mexican, and Mediterranean delis and diners here serving nutritious, budget-conscious meals.

2. Carytown, Richmond, Virginia

Richmond Virginia Food Example
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Richmond’s Carytown, in second place, is celebrated for its diverse dining options and lively atmosphere. The neighborhood’s farmers market provides a selection of fresh, locally sourced produce and unique artisanal goods. Numerous cafes and restaurants in Carytown are dedicated to healthy, affordable meals with organic, sustainably sourced ingredients that still meet the needs of budget-conscious food lovers.

3. Athens, Georgia

Athens Georgia Food Example
Credit: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Known for its eclectic culinary offerings, Athens is an energetic college town with affordable dining options. The area’s farmers markets supply fresh, local produce and artisanal products. The area is also very walkable for those wanting to get their step count in while on the hunt for nutritious, budget-friendly meals, with a firm local favorite being the various barbeque offerings.

4. Downtown Lexington, Kentucky

Lexington Kentucky Food Example
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Downtown Lexington is defined by a strong community spirit and a focus on healthy living. The local farmers market is a prime source for fresh, organic produce and local goods. The area boasts a variety of eateries, including various pop-ups focusing on home cooking. The wholesome, affordable meals and classic Southern comfort foods are ideal for conscious diners on a budget. 

5. Downtown Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville South Carolina Food Example
Credit: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Vibrant and community-focused, Downtown Greenville emphasizes healthy living. Its farmers market is renowned for fresh, organic produce and local products. Visitors can enjoy a range of eateries in and around the main street with culinary offerings as varied as the city itself, but with plenty offering wholesome, budget-friendly meals, making it a top choice for health-focused diners.

6. East Austin, Texas

Austin Texas Food Example
Credit: Joseph Gonzalez on Unsplash

Known for its eclectic dining scene and community vibe, East Austin hosts a farmers market with fresh, locally sourced produce and artisanal goods. Mexican food spots are also a favourite here. These spots prioritize healthy, affordable meals, making it a great place for those looking to eat well without overspending.

7. Reading Terminal Market, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Philadelphia Pennsylvania Food Example
Credit: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Philadelphia’s historic Reading Terminal Market is a hub for community and health-conscious living. The market offers fresh, organic produce and local goods. A variety of eateries provide wholesome, affordable meals, making it a prime destination for budget-conscious, health-focused diners.

8. Downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee

Chattanooga Tennessee Food Example
Credit: Kevin McCutcheon on Unsplash

In Downtown Chattanooga, community and healthy living are key focuses. The local farmers market is popular for fresh, organic produce and local products. The area is also home to numerous eateries that serve wholesome, affordable meals, with menus featuring ingredients such as okra, collard greens, black-eyed peas, and smoked meats, catering to those who prioritize health and budget.

9. NuLu, Louisville, Kentucky

Louisville Kentucky Food Example
Credit: Jingxi Lau on Unsplash

Trendy and vibrant, NuLu (New Louisville) is known for its arts scene and diverse dining options. The farmers market offers fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Many cafes and restaurants in NuLu provide nutritious, easy meals, such as the Hot Brown, a delicious open-face sandwich, ensuring that budget-friendly eating is both easy and enjoyable.

10. Midtown, Grand Rapids, Michigan

Grand Rapids Michigan Food Example
Credit: Louis Hansel on Unsplash

Rounding up the top 10, Midtown Grand Rapids is rich in culture and offers affordable dining choices. The neighborhood’s farmers market supplies fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Numerous cafes and restaurants also feature nutritious, budget-friendly meals packed with locally grown produce and served in impressive portions.

Based on the survey, here are the rest of the top 100 locations in America to eat healthily and on a budget:

11Short NorthColumbusOhio
12AstoriaQueensNew York
15Winter ParkOrlandoFlorida
16Lower East SideManhattanNew York
17Morgantown MorgantownWest Virginia
18North CharlestonNorth CharlestonSouth Carolina
20River North Art DistrictDenverColorado
22DowntownIowa CityIowa
24Eastern MarketDetroitMichigan
25Historic Fourth AvenueTucsonArizona
26Sugar HouseSalt Lake CityUtah
27Bay ViewMilwaukeeWisconsin
31Ohio CityClevelandOhio
32DowntownAshevilleNorth Carolina
33DowntownBismarckNorth Dakota
34East NashvilleNashvilleTennessee
35The LoopSt. LouisMissouri
38Federal HillBaltimoreMaryland
39KerrytownAnn ArborMichigan
40North EndBoiseIdaho
41Trolley SquareWilmingtonDelaware
42Downtown Las CrucesDowntown Las CrucesNew Mexico
44Rapid CityRapid CitySouth Dakota
47Carson CityCarson CityNevada
48Church Street MarketplaceBurlingtonVermont
51East Atlanta VillageAtlantaGeorgia
52WestvilleNew HavenConnecticut
54East VillageDes MoinesIowa
55Grand ForksGrand ForksNorth Dakota
56HanoverHanoverNew Hampshire
57IronboundNewarkNew Jersey
59The DistrictDavenportIowa
60MidtownOklahoma CityOklahoma
61Old PortPortlandMaine
62Old TownAlbuquerqueNew Mexico
65Cherry StreetTulsaOklahoma
69LowertownSt. PaulMinnesota
72DowntownSioux FallsSouth Dakota
74Federal HillProvidenceRhode Island
75Five PointsColumbiaSouth Carolina
76NewportNewportRhode Island
77NoDaCharlotteNorth Carolina
78Old MarketOmahaNebraska
79DowntownOverland ParkKansas
82WestportKansas CityMissouri
84Bishop Arts DistrictDallasTexas
88DowntownFargoNorth Dakota
89DowntownSt. GeorgeUtah
91BrookingsBrookingsSouth Dakota
93Fountain SquareIndianapolisIndiana
94ArgentaNorth Little RockArkansas
97DowntownCharlestonWest Virginia

Trending Themes

The data revealed a few common trends among the locations: 

  • Diverse Culinary Options: The top culinary hotspots for budget-friendly, healthy eating feature a variety of cuisines, including Mediterranean, Mexican, and Southern comfort foods, demonstrating the diversity in America’s food culture. 
  • Community and Farmers’ Markets: Many of the highlighted neighborhoods, such as Carytown in Richmond and Downtown Lexington, emphasize the importance of farmers’ markets. These markets provide fresh, locally sourced produce that supports both health and local economies.
  • Walkability and Accessibility: Areas like Athens, Georgia, and East Austin, Texas, are noted for their walkability, allowing residents and visitors to easily explore and access various healthy dining options. 
  • Cultural Hubs: Historic and culturally rich neighborhoods like South End in Hartford and Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia blend tradition with modern healthy eating, offering authentic, budget-conscious meals from different cultures. 
  • Health-Focused Dining: Communities such as Downtown Greenville and Downtown Chattanooga prioritize healthy living. Many eateries focus on organic, wholesome ingredients and offer menus that cater to health-conscious diners on a budget. 
  • Eclectic Dining Scenes: Neighborhoods like NuLu in Louisville and the River North Art District in Denver stand out for their trendy, vibrant dining scenes that include a mix of innovative eateries and traditional markets, making healthy eating both exciting and affordable. 
  • Economic Impact: The study highlights the economic benefits of supporting local markets and eateries, which not only provide affordable, healthy meals but also contribute to the local economy and community well-being. 
  • Regional Specialties: Many of the top locations, such as Downtown Asheville and Bay View in Milwaukee, are known for their regional specialties, which are both nutritious and budget-friendly. These dishes showcase how local flavors and healthy eating can go hand in hand. 
  • Hidden Gems: The survey brings attention to lesser-known neighborhoods such as Ironbound in Newark and Cherry Street in Tulsa, proving that healthy, affordable dining options are available beyond the well-known foodie cities.
  • Educational Component: The findings emphasize the need for educating communities about the availability and benefits of healthy eating on a budget, encouraging a shift toward more nutritious diets without financial strain.

“Dining out is within many people’s budgets, however tight their financial constraints may seem. Get a little adventurous,” said Erica Sandberg, BadCredit.org Finance Expert. “Rather than depend on fast food or other traditional inexpensive fare, explore the unique options that are in your community, and indulge in a money and body smart way. A side benefit is that you’re also supporting small businesses!”


BadCredit.org conducted an online panel survey of 3,000 Americans. Internal data sources were used to obtain population data sets. We used a two-step process to ensure representativeness through stratified sampling and post-stratification weighting.