Eating healthy has never been more important, but eating a variety of fruits, vegetables and other nutritious foods may be more difficult for individuals and families lately with food prices on the rise.
Experts define food insecurity as the inability to obtain sufficient, affordable, nutritious food to enable normal growth and development. So Live Science asked dietitian Kimberly Snodgrass for advice on healthy foods you can afford.
1. Meal planning and shopping list
A 2015 study of shoppers found that simply making a shopping list before visiting the grocery store increases the likelihood of a healthy diet and a lower body mass index (BMI). The researchers suggested that creating a specific shopping list is a kind of protection from unhealthy food choices, taking the following tips into account:
• Prepare a schedule of meals expected to be cooked throughout the week or month.
• Repeating family favorites throughout the month helps to use up any remaining ingredients.
• Inspect and review the contents of food storage and refrigerator areas in the home in advance before preparing the shopping list so as not to purchase products of which sufficient quantities are already available at home.
• Do not miss out on special offers and discounts for any products outside the required shopping list.
2. Canned and frozen products
The sayings that fresh fruits and vegetables are better than frozen or canned are just myths. Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are picked when they are at their most ripe and thus nutritious and beneficial. Canning or freezing helps preserve the nutritional value of products. A 2015 study of eight fruits and vegetables revealed that the vitamin content of the frozen varieties was the same, and sometimes better, than the fresh versions.
Frozen and canned fruits and vegetables are usually cheaper than the fresh ones. It can also be kept in the freezer until needed, which reduces unnecessary food waste. Snodgrass advises choosing preserved juices labeled ‘no added sugar’ or canned in ‘natural juice’ and ‘if you buy canned vegetables, choose labels that say ‘no added salt’ or ‘low sodium’.
3. Whole grains
There are affordable whole-grain ingredient packages, and Snodgrass recommends that they be chosen because they’re rich in extra vitamins and minerals, noting that whole-grain rice, pasta and couscous are well-priced products and provide the needed nutritional value.
4. Large amounts of meat
Snodgrass recommends buying family-sized or wholesale packages of meat for larger quantities and refrigerating immediately upon return home. She explains that lean meat is the healthiest, so it’s best to choose chicken, turkey or lean ground meat.
5. Other sources of protein
Protein is an important building block for bones, muscles and skin, and is especially important for children. Cheap and delicious sources of protein include eggs and canned seafood, such as tuna, sardines and salmon. Chickpeas, beans, and lentils are also great sources of protein.
6. Buy in season
If a person wants to buy fresh fruits and vegetables, it is best to buy them when they are in season, as they are usually cheaper and taste better.
7. Grow your own food
One does not need a large backyard or garden around their home to start growing the fruits and vegetables they need. Strawberries can be grown in a hanging basket on the balcony, a growing bag can make it possible to grow potatoes, and zucchini can even be grown in a box hung on the window.
And if there is little or no space available, potting fresh herbs on a window sill is much cheaper than buying dried or shredded varieties. Snodgrass suggests adding herbs to meals instead of salt to reduce sodium intake.
8. Big Brand Names
Big name brand offerings, which are often placed on prominent grocery shelves, can be ignored. Instead, look for the no-frills versions that the grocery store might offer under their own brand. Although they are essentially the same product, these versions are cheaper.
9. Strategic reserve
When cooking a main meal, consider doubling the ingredients so that servings can be frozen. Snodgrass says this trick can help have meals readily available in the house at any time or when kids are hungry, and parents are too busy or tired to cook a full meal. Soups, stews, casseroles and pasta can be divided and frozen, making sure they are clearly labeled and the date they were frozen is included.