Spend Less on Healthy Eating
Posted Jan 21, 2013
Although modern junk food can be cheaper than fresh fruit and vegetables, it's a myth that eating healthy has to mean a higher grocery bill.
"It doesn't have to be expensive," said Debbi Beauvais, a registered dietitian and spokeswoman for the American Nutrition and Dietetics Association. "You don't have to buy all organic fruit and vegetables; you just need nutritious food that's low in fat."
Planning ahead, clipping coupons, buying in season are some of the ways to meet the recommended dietary requirements without putting a dent in your budget.
"It's a really matter of changing habits," said Melinda Bewley, an Amherst-based registered dietitian. "People are crunched for time so they look for convenience, and they are unaware of affordable options that can save them money."
Furthermore, junk foods, while sometimes less expensive, are high in fat and calories. But pricier healthy options are high in nutrients and low in calories. In the end, fresh produce gives you a more nutritious bang for your buck, according a recent study done by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service.
Additionally, a USDA Economic Research Service study in 2008 found that a 2,000-calorie-per-day diet could adhere to dietary recommendations for fruit and vegetables for less than $2.50 per day.
When shopping healthy, it's recommended you make a shopping list to avoid aimlessly wandering into aisles loaded with temptations.
"Create a shopping list so you're not throwing away your money, picking up things you don't need," said Bewley, who owns Balanced Nutrition on Alberta Drive.
Planning and preparing your meals in advance are crucial to eating healthy and cutting costs.
"I can't stress planning ahead enough," said Bewley. "If you don't plan, than you'll buy convenience foods. It could be the choice between a $1 value meal and a 99-cent bag of carrots. With the value meal, that dollar is spent right there, but with the carrots, it'll last you a week. If you're planning ahead, you can budget for those food items."
Bewley suggests preparing meals that can be stored in a freezer and eaten over time, and saving strips of vegetables for stir fry.
When buying produce, it's more economical to do so when they are in season and to buy from sources closest to you.
"This is great farmers' market season; you pick up fresh fruits and vegetables right in your own neighborhood," said Beauvais, who is also the nutrition director of two school districts in the Rochester area.
"They are usually very affordable, cheaper than getting them in the supermarket.
"You have to eat with the season. June is strawberry month, which is when you can get the best prices. The fall is the best time for apples and root vegetables, like squash, potatoes and zucchinis," she said.
Canned and frozen varieties are nutritious and even cheaper substitutes during the cold-weather months, she added.
To boost savings at the checkout, the American Nutrition and Dietetics Association suggests using coupons and signing up for supermarkets' rewards cards. Coupons can reduce a grocery bill by 10 to 15 percent, according to the organization.
Picking up store brands can also cut costs. According to the Food Marketing Institute, almost 60 percent of shoppers said they saved by buying private label products, which tend to be 15 to 20 percent cheaper than national brands but with comparable quality.
Cutting back on protein can also reap savings. Americans tend to eat more than the recommended protein, largely from meat sources, which can be expensive. Reducing the portion is one way to save money and make room in your food budget. Additionally, buying cheaper cuts of meats, like beef round or a whole chicken instead of parts, will lower your grocery bill.
There are also healthier and cheaper sources of protein that can be incorporated into a diet, like eggs and beans.
While there are various ways to achieve a balanced diet on a budget, the singular goal is to adhere to the recommendations at ChooseMyPlate.gov, the website of the Department of Agriculture, Beauvais said.
"The main thing is to include all food groups on your plate," she said. "That's the best way to ensure overall health."
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