By Angela Dansby
Maintaining a healthy diet is important for our physical and mental well-being. Contrary to popular belief, eating healthfully is affordable. It especially pays off long-term by helping prevent costly health care.
To help people eat healthfully and affordably, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) offers tips and resources as part of its National Nutrition Month® campaign. This March marks the campaign’s 50th anniversary.
Among several tips, the AND advises people to “make tasty foods at home.” Cooking at home is generally healthier than eating out as you can control ingredients and portions. It also saves you money and helps prevent food waste.
The AND recommends eating a variety of foods from all groups and focusing on plant-based meals and snacks. This include produce in various forms: fresh, frozen, canned and dried. You can make most of your food dollars by finding recipes that use frozen or canned vegetables and fruits as well as beans, peas, lentils, sweet or white potatoes, eggs, peanut butter and canned salmon, tuna and crabmeat. The AND advises looking for fruit canned in 100% juice or water and canned vegetables labeled “low in sodium” or “no salt added.” It recommends canola oil among other vegetable oils as a healthy source of dietary fats. Canola oil is also very affordable and versatile. Water from the tap is a low-cost, healthy way to stay hydrated.
Planning meals can also help you save money, prevent food waste and eat healthfully per the AND. At the start of each week, plan your meals and create a shopping list. See what food you have at home before purchasing more. At the store, stick to your list and avoid impulse purchases.
The AND recommends checking stores for sales, especially when it comes to more expensive ingredients, such as meat and seafood. While at the store, compare prices of different brands and sizes to see which has a lower unit price (usually located on the shelf directly below the product). Locally grown produce from farmers’ markets are often less expensive than at the grocery store. In-season fruits and vegetables are usually easier to find and less expensive.
Making large batches of food dishes allow portions to be used for other meals later in the week or frozen as leftovers in individual containers for future use, notes the AND. Plus, it allows for purchasing ingredients in bulk, which is often a good value for money.
Finally, watching portions is a good way to save unnecessary calories and money. Eating too much, even of lower cost foods and beverages, can add up, warns the AND. Use smaller plates, bowls and glasses to control portions. Fill half of your plate with vegetables and fruits and the other half with grains and lean proteins, such as poultry, seafood or beans. Vegetable consumption should be a bit higher than fruits since they contain natural sugars.
All of these tips from the AND will help you eat healthfully without walloping your wallet. For more National Nutrition Month® resources are available online.
Angela Dansby is director of communications for the U.S. Canola Association.