University of Wisconsin-Extension
Whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish, low-fat milk; these foods are basic to good health, yet most children and their families don’t eat enough of them, says Gayle Coleman, nutrition education program specialist with the University of Wisconsin-Extension, my advisor, and a nationally renowned contributor to the field of nutrition.
“People often believe healthy foods aren’t affordable,” says Coleman, “but recent information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service indicates that when we compare the average portion sizes of healthy foods to foods high in solid fat, added sugars or salt, healthy foods are often less expensive. For example, a medium apple costs less than a standard-size candy bar.”
Coleman suggests choosing foods that give the greatest nutritional bang for your buck minus the empty calories, and has some suggestions.
* Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.
* Know when fruits and vegetables are in season (https://snaped.fns.usda.gov/nutrition-through-seasons/seasonal-produce) or a good buy.
* Frozen and canned vegetables and fruits may be less expensive than fresh, especially when the fresh varieties are not in season. Choose frozen vegetables without sauces, and fruits canned in juice to reduce fat and sugar.
* Buy only the foods that your family will eat before they spoil. Throwing away food is equivalent to throwing away money.
* Keep fruits and prepped vegetables where they can be easily seen so they are more visible and more likely to be eaten.
* Grow some of your own vegetables. Even a few tomato plants in containers on a porch can yield a bounty of tomatoes in the summer.
* Choose 100 percent whole grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice and pasta.
* Brown rice, oatmeal, and unsweetened whole-grain cereal bought in bulk are usually good buys. Look for whole-grain breads, tortillas and whole-grain pasta instead of white, which is processed and not as dense with nutrients.
* Compare “Nutrition Facts” on food labels, as well as prices to find the most nutrition for your money.
* Be willing to spend a little more time preparing foods. In most cases, the more processed a food is, the more it will cost.
Vary your protein sources —eat seafood and beans.
* Canned tuna, canned pink salmon and frozen fish are usually a good deal. Tuna salad, salmon patties and fish tacos are a quick and tasty way to eat fish.
* Dry beans and peas (black beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, lentils, pinto beans, split peas) are a great buy whether purchased dry or canned. Drain and rinse canned beans with water to remove about half of the sodium.
* Use beans in place of some or all of the ground meat in recipes. Cooked lentils are versatile and delicious on their own or as a meat substitute.
For more information, see “Healthy Eating on a Budget” and a video about the cost of healthy foods from NutritionFacts.org.
For more detailed information on how to save money on your food budget while eating well, or to refer someone to the series of free nutrition classes for eligible parents, call the UW-Extension Nutrition Education Program at (262) 625-6824.