By Becca Rovenstine
Currently, half of all American adults have one or more preventable, diet-related chronic conditions, such as Type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, or obesity. The best way to prevent them is with a proper diet.
Eating healthy can be tough if you don’t know where to start—or how to afford it. The good news? There are ways to get assistance in purchasing healthful foods for you and your family.
What is a healthy diet?
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends a diet rich in nutrient-dense foods for a healthy lifestyle. Nutrient-dense foods are foods rich in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients our body requires, such as:
Grains (half or more should be whole grains)
Low-fat dairy or fat-free dairy products, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese
Proteins, such as seafood, lean meat, chicken, eggs, beans, nuts, seeds, and soy products like tofu
The suggested eating pattern limits foods with low nutritional value, including highly processed foods and foods that are high in saturated fats, trans fats, added sugars, or sodium.
This kind of diet is necessary, but it can be hard on your wallet. To avoid breaking the bank when shopping for nutritious foods, use this list of budget-friendly ideas to decrease costs.
Low-income families may qualify for one or two of these government assistance programs.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Plan (SNAP) is a service that helps families in need with their food budget. Those on SNAP are also offered SNAP-Ed. SNAP-Ed is an educational program that teaches families how to shop for and cook healthy meals. Eligibility for SNAP depends on your state’s requirements. To learn more and see if you qualify, click here.
Some families may qualify for Woman, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides federal grants to states for food and nutrition education. This grant is available for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women. It is also available for infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk. WIC is great for those looking to eat healthily on a budget as it includes a Farmers’ Market Nutrition Plan, which provides fresh locally grown fruits and vegetables from farmers’ markets or roadside stands. To see if you qualify for WIC, learn more here.
Buying a larger portion is typically more expensive initially, but per serving it can save you money in the long run. Think of food items like pasta, whole-grain cereal, or low-fat cheese. When shopping at the store, simply look at the price per ounce, which is often located in a corner on the label near the total price. Go with the product that is cheapest per ounce—but make sure you can finish or freeze the product before it spoils.
Often bought in bulk, dried goods usually come in large quantities and can be stored for longer periods of time. Examples of dry goods include rice, beans, oatmeal, nuts, and dried fruits. These products are typically considered healthy as they have minimal processing.
Meal planning is an easy way to help your budget. Researching budget-friendly meals and only buying the ingredients you need to make them helps save on your grocery bill. There are many websites like Budget Bytes or $5 Dollar Dinners that have great healthy recipe sections crafted with only affordable ingredients—and when you stick to your list, you avoid purchasing unnecessary items.
Generic products often have a lower price tag when compared to brand-name products. As an example, when shopping for canned peaches in juice (not the sugary syrup), the store brand will likely be cheaper than the Del Monte brand. While occasionally the off-brand foods don’t have the same taste, most of the time the difference is only in the label. One Consumer Report’s taste-off even found many consumers could not taste the difference between products.
The first thing you should know is that coupons are not traditionally for healthy items, but for processed, or “junk,” food. However, it’s worth watching for discounts on nutritious options like yogurt, trail mix, or unsweetened sparkling water.
You’re more likely to find savings on healthier options during store sales. These sales may be for items like fruits, vegetables, and certain cuts of meat depending on what is in season or what the store has an excess of available. Keep an eye on local advertisements (many of which you can sign up for digitally) to see if any are any healthy choices at a discounted price.
Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh produce. With the right seasonings and preparation, they can taste just as good as their non-frozen counterpart. Frozen fruits and veggies are especially affordable for off-season produce. They also generate less food waste. While fresh veggies may spoil in the fridge, those in the freezer will last much longer.
Hopefully, these tips will help your family save when purchasing healthy foods. Even if your grocery budget increases a little when you start making healthier eating choices, in the long run, it can save you money by decreasing your risk for chronic diseases.
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