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Eating Healthy Doesn't Have to be Expensive

Here are some tips you can use to eat healthy on a budget

Family in the supermarket

According to the Department of Agriculture, between 30-40 percent of the food supply is wasted each year. Much of the waste happens at the consumer or retail level - after the food leaves the grower. Food that could help feed families in need is being tossed into waste baskets and landfills. By reducing waste, we can improve our own health, as well as the health of our community.

Thrifty choices not only reduces food waste, but also challenges the age-old misconception that eating healthy is expensive. Many fresh fruits and vegetables have a quick expiration date, but with the right plan, we can nourish our bodies, save money and reduce waste.

First, consider foods you have on hand before purchasing them at the store. Notice a broccoli in the crisper that will go bad soon? Make a stir-fry for dinner. Have leftover fish? Give it new life with tacos for lunch. Practice food safety by being mindful of what hides within the plastic containers that are on your shelves and then plan accordingly to use those foods. Next, consider each food's ripening speed. For example, when purchasing bananas or avocados, look for different stages of ripeness. That way, by day three, you'll still have fruit that is ready to eat.

Another way to think of the theme 'Go Further with Food,' is to choose meals and snacks packed with good nutrition. 'Empty calories' is a popular term for a snack that provides calories but little else - essentially, stopping short of our necessary nutrients. These tend to be processed foods, like baked goods or sugary drinks. Though they have a place in a balanced diet, it's important they are not your typical 'go-to' food choices. When we look beyond the calories and consider the whole nutrient profile, we are then eating for good health, not just for looks.

Sometimes all it takes is a food swap - replacing the sugar in our morning coffee with cinnamon, or adding smashed avocado to our toast in place of jelly. An athlete preparing for a jog can opt for a small banana instead of a slice of white toast. Although both have roughly 80 to 90 calories, the banana also has electrolytes and B-vitamins that replenish what is lost during exercise.

As registered dietitian nutritionists know, food truly is medicine and fuel. Whether we are exercising, caring for loved ones, or meeting a deadline at work, the foods we choose affect how we perform and give us that extra boost to 'go further.' You can read more about Food Loss and Waste.

A dietitian can be a part of your health care team. Using Secure Messaging (sign in required), you can contact them to learn more about this or other nutrition-related topics. Ask to speak with a registered dietitian today.

Read More

Food Journal (sign in required)

Eat Healthy, Take Care of the Planet: Sustainable Eating Tips (PDF) (VA Nutrition Service) 

Do You Know Basic Food Safety? (Veterans Health Library)

Updated February 24, 2021