Nutritionist gives advice for clean eating on a budget for those fighting autoimmune diseases

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- For six weeks now, FOX4's Shannon O'Brien has been following the Elimination Diet to overcome an autoimmune disease she's been fighting for years. But eating clean has its challenges.

O'Brien has been on the Elimination Diet to reduce inflammation and support her immune system. The diet calls for completely clean eating. That means getting rid of all those processed foods.

Since she's been eating clean, she's been spending a fortune to fill her fridge, so nutritionist Lisa Markley took her to the store for some help.

"The number one thing I recommend everyone incorporate into their diet is some form of dark green leafy vegetable," Markley said.

Markley and O'Brien began their grocery journey in the produce section where Markley said flexibility is key.

"If you have spinach on your list, but it is not on sale or it doesn't look good, maybe try something different," she said. "You know there is baby arugula that you can put in your cart that has a different taste."

And if you're searching the organic section and not finding what you're looking for, it's OK to try another section.

"I think it is OK to eat conventionally raised produce as well," Markley said. "Just, I think if someone is trying to switch to organic, think about what they are consuming most often and also maybe also rely on a list called the Dirty Dozen or Clean 15 to make a good choice."

Each year, the Environmental Working Group publishes a Dirty Dozen list of foods that have the highest level of pesticide residue and the Clean 15, those with the little to no pesticides that are safe to consume if not organic.

"So frozen vegetables are a great option if you are trying to save money and time," Markley said.

Markley said the same applies in other parts of the grocery store.

"So before you think about salmon from the case fresh, you might want to consider frozen because you can save quite a bit of money," she said. "The wild salmon here is $5.99 a pound, which is significantly less than the farm raised that is in the case."

To save money, forget the chicken breasts, thighs and legs.

"If you have the option to buy a whole chicken, you are going to save even more money because you are going to be buying the whole bird and breaking it down yourself," Markley said.

And when it comes to ground beef?

"So I know some people might get sticker shock when I tell them to get greater than 90 percent ground beef, but it truly going to be the healthier choice," she said.

You're going to pay a bit more for the lean ground beef, but Markley said avoiding the saturated fat and other things that cause inflammation is well worth it.

And it might be cheaper in the long run -- to make the healthy choice and pay a farmer versus paying your doctor.

If you or someone you know lives with an autoimmune disease, check out FOX4's Facebook group that O'Brien is leading: Fighting Autoimmune Disease with FOX4.

Every day, FOX4 viewers share meal tips, medicine advice and other information that can make the struggle just a bit easier.

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