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My hack for getting a healthy, filling meal from the Whole Foods food court for less than $4

Whole Foods hot bar hack
  • The Whole Foods food court charges $8.99 per pound for a standard container.
  • However, there is a way to get a healthy, filling meal from the store for just $3.99. 
  • The trick requires a steady hand and some meticulous food-placing architecture.

The Whole Foods hot bar and salad bar are full of well-prepared, healthy food options that can make up a solid lunch or dinner. 

The only problem is the store's pricing system. For a standard food court container, Whole Foods charges $8.99 per pound, which can quickly add up if you are looking to build a filling meal. 

However, there is a method to getting a healthy, filling meal with protein, fiber, carbs, vitamins and tastes great for just $3.99.

I discovered this hack in 2017, and over the years I've refined my bowl to make it as healthy and balanced a meal as possible. I don't do it all the time, but it's a nice, cheap option when I don't feel like cooking and still want to eat relatively healthy. 

Grab a small cup from the store's soup stand.
Whole Foods soup cup

Unlike the rest of the food court, Whole Foods charges fixed prices for soup cups. A small eight-ounce cup costs $3.99 no matter how heavy or packed to the brim it is.


Squeeze 3 pieces of sweet potato from the salad bar onto the side of the cup.
Whole Foods sweet potato
Three chunks of sweet potato can fit on one side of the cup's bottom half.

One sweet potato contains 26 grams of carbohydrates, which deliver a boost of energy, and 3.9 grams of fiber, which helps balance energy levels.

Regular potatoes can be a source of carbs and some vitamins as well, but sweet potatoes are much denser in vitamins and potassium for the amount of calories and carbs they offer. 

Lay down a rice base next to the sweet potato.
Whole Foods rice
One scoop of rice from the rice cooker should fill out the rest of the bottom of the cup.

There is a large scooper right next to the rice pot, try to fill three quarters of the scooper with rice to fit it into the bowl — roughly two thirds of a cup

Rice is also a good source of carbs and fiber. 

Most Whole Foods stores also have a pot of brown rice on the other side of the bar, which is denser in fiber and vitamins like magnesium and zinc. 

Choose your protein.
Choose your protein
I chose beef chunks from the beef stew.

The hot bar has several healthy protein options, but chunks of beef from the beef stew make for the best fit considering their shape and soft texture. 

I like to switch up my protein each time as too much red meat can raise the risk of type 2 diabetes, coronary heart disease, and stroke

My other preferred proteins for this method include chickpeas, grilled chicken breast, grilled salmon, or chicken tikka from the hot bar for an added kick of spice. 

Squeeze three pieces of protein on top of the rice, but leave room on the other side of the cup.
Whole Foods Beef stew chunks
Shake any added broth out of the beef to cut out extra sodium and fat.
Fill out the rest of the cup with veggies.
Whole Foods broccoli
Get as many veggies in as possible at the top of the cup.

Putting veggies in last means they get all the remaining space at the top of the cup once everything else is in, which should allow you to fill it out with a generous amount. 

I usually go for broccoli, which is rich in calcium, and will try to get at least five pieces in the top of the cup if not more. There are also green beans and raw spinach and kale at the salad bar. 

Getting this much food in a standard container would have cost upwards of $9, but I spent less than half using the soup cup.
Whole Foods receipt
I was even able to throw in a drink for $0.99.
You can also double your portion sizes for another $2.
Whole Foods soup prices
A 16-ounce cup is only $5.99.

As convenient and affordable as the $3.99 eight-ounce cup is, you might be getting even more bang for your buck by getting the 16-ounce cup for $5.99. 

If you splurge and get the 32-ounce cup for $9.99, you could probably put together a meal for two people. 


The 16-ounce cup had room for two more pieces each of sweet potatoes and beef, a larger scoop of rice, and almost twice the amount of veggies.
Whole Foods 16-ounce cup
You can also use the 16-ounce cup to add different foods.

I would use a portion this size if I just finished a long workout in order to get back some of the calories I burned. 

Four years on, this hack still works for me.
Whole Foods finesse meal

Whole Foods may not have intended for its customers to get around the food court pricing scheme by using soup cups, but you won't find much resistance from the store's employees if you try to use the trick. 

In my experience, cashiers have always just scanned the bar code on the cup and charge me the typical soup price.

Read the original article on Insider

My hack for getting a healthy, filling meal from the Whole Foods food court for less than $4
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