Your budget-friendly, nutritious guide to the grocery store
When that cookie aisle beckons, stop, take a deep breath and think of how much money and calories you’ll be saving by choosing some equally delicious items in other parts of the grocery store.
We asked an expert to help create budget-friendly lists packed with healthful foods. Registered Dietitian Heather Steele, RD/LD, who works for Reasor’s in Broken Arrow provided these tips on shopping.
Q: What are some budget-friendly foods that also pack a nutritional punch?
Steele: When shopping, I am always looking for the best nutritional bang for my buck when it comes to feeding my family. Some of my favorites include:
- Milled flaxseed as it is easily incorporated into staple recipes like oatmeal for an added nutritional boost.
- Beans because they are so versatile and packed with fiber and other great nutrients keeping us full longer. Try dry beans in the slow cooker for even more cost savings.
- Canned proteins like tuna. Having some stocked in your pantry is great for when you want to throw together a meal last minute without wrecking your health goals.
- Frozen, shelled edamame. Edamame can be a quick and nutritious snack or used as a protein alternative and thrown in to a stir-fry or on a salad.
- Eggs are a great source of protein and can be enjoyed any time of day. With a relatively quick cook time, it is also a great option for families’ on-the-go.
Q: If you’ve made a resolution to feed your family healthy, made-at-home meals, what tips do you have for doing that? What should you avoid or substitute if you’re trying to make your grocery list a healthy one?
Steele: The number one thing I talk to customers about with cooking more at home is having a plan. Set your expectations to what is realistic for your family. If you know you will be busy a couple nights a week, plan for leftovers or something you throw together quickly.
- Mealtime shouldn’t be a source of stress. Research shows children who sit down for a family meal tend to be a little healthier – so start by just sharing a home-cooked meal.
- I like to start with small, attainable changes like swapping out mayo or sour cream and using plain Greek yogurt in its place.
- A great way to boost the nutritional content of your food is by blending diced mushrooms into your favorite ground meat. This trick can add vitamin D and other nutrients to your meal and save you a little money. Plus, most parents love that they can sneak more veggies into their children’s diet.
Q: What are the most important things to know about reading food labels?
Steele: Sometimes when we are trying to be conscious about our health, we get caught up in calorie counting. Calories are simply a measure of energy; if you only look at calories, you may end up excluding some nutritionally dense foods like avocados and nuts that can play an important role in health.
- Look beyond the front of the package. Marketing on product labels can sometimes be confusing, so your best bet is to flip the product over and read the nutrition facts and ingredients.
- When I am looking for products more suitable to younger members of the family, I try to be conscious about the amount of added sugar and sodium in a product. These two nutrients are only necessary in smaller amounts. A great way to reduce your family’s intake is by preparing more meals and snacks from home and not salting your foods.
Q: Are fresh fruits and vegetables more nutritious than frozen?
Steele: Frozen fruits and vegetables are just as nutritious as fresh! The great thing about frozen produce is that it is picked at peak harvest, processed, and frozen immediately locking in the nutritional content. Frozen produce is economical, helps to reduce food waste, and great when some of your favorite options may be out of season. Look for frozen vegetables without added sauces and frozen fruit without added sugar.