By Betsy Finklea
Eating healthy on a budget through smart shopping is not as difficult as one might think.
It is the topic of a new DVD project by RALI-Dillon County and S.C. DHEC, who partnered to bring the public important information on how to make healthy and affordable food choices.
The hosts, Megan Puryear, a registered dietician, and Triza Cox, the tour guide, take viewers on a journey of smart shopping at three local grocery stores – KJ’s IGA in Dillon, Latta IGA, and Market on Main in Lake View, and to the kitchen of Chef Patty Griffey at Abingdon Manor in Latta. Money-saving tips and other information is offered.
“My Plate” is used as a guide to make healthy food choices. The food groups are fruits, vegetables, grains, proteins, and dairy.
“It’s important to eat from every single food group every day because no single food group can provide all the nutrients you and your family need to stay healthy,” said Cox.
Fruits and Vegetables
One half of your plate should be fruits and vegetables.
“Most Americans don’t eat enough fruits and vegetables,” said Puryear, who said you may need to change the look of your plate.
Fresh, frozen, and/or canned fruits and vegetables can be used to make up the one-half of your plate of fruits and vegetables.
Three money-saving tips for buying fruits and vegetables include the following: 1) Buy in season, 2) Buy whole, and 3) Buy in bulk.
“In season, produce is always less costly,” said Cox. She suggests going to www.scfarmtoinstitution.com (under resources) to see what produce is in season. She gave strawberries as an example. Strawberries cost more in January because they are not in season; however, they are less costly in April and May when they are in season. When certain fruits and vegetables are not in season or you cannot use the fresh amount before it spoils, then use frozen or canned items. “Frozen or canned produce is always a money-saving alternative,” said Cox.
Buy whole produce instead of chopped produce to save money. This is true for any item. If an item has been cut, chopped, or pre-seasoned to save money, it will cost more. “You pay for convenience,” said Cox. She gave cabbage as an example. “Buying a whole head of cabbage will be cheaper than buying a chopped bag of cabbage,” said Cox.
Cox also suggests buying in bulk. For example, she suggests buying a bag of apples instead of a single apple.
An important skill for any grocery shopper is learning how to compare unit prices in order to get the best deal.
“Comparing unit prices can help you see how buying in bulk or buying frozen or canned items can save you money,” said Cox
Often one can find the unit price on the edge of the grocery store shelf on the tag where the price is.
Shoppers should find the brand or amount that costs less per unit.
When dealing with fresh items especially, it is only a good deal if you can use all of the product before it goes bad.
If the unit price is not available, you can divide the retail price by the number of units to get the unit price.
Healthy Choices for Fruits and Vegetables
“We want you to save money, but we want you to make healthy choices,” said Puryear.
When buying canned vegetables or beans, Puryear suggests looking for low sodium or no salt added to get the healthiest options. “Rinsing canned vegetables before use can also reduce the sodium,” said Puryear.
When buying canned fruits, buy fruits canned in 100 percent juice instead of heavy syrup to reduce the sugar content, said Puryear.
Grains include foods such as breads, pasta, tortillas, grits, and breakfast cereals.
“Whole grains contain the whole grain kernel and provide fiber to help you feel full and can also reduce the risk of some diseases,” said Puryear.
Puryear said you should make at least half of your grains whole grains.
Puryear said to know if you are buying whole grains, check the label for the ingredients.
On cereal, for example, whole grain oats will be listed on the nutrition label. Another thing to look for on cereals is the amount of sugar.
Nutrition Facts Label
“To shop healthy, pay attention to the nutrition facts label,” said Puryear.
Compare sugars when choosing between products.
Compare nutrition facts for the same serving size and for how much you really eat.
For all foods, pay attention to and aim for low saturated fat, sodium, and sugar content.
Added sugars are found in many foods and beverages. “These sugars are empty calories,” said Puryear, “and provide no nutritional value.”
Puyear suggests these options for reducing added sugars:
1) Replace soda or fruit juice with unsweetened beverage options such as sparkling or flavored water.
2) When baking a dessert, replace sugar with unsweetened applesauce, mashed bananas, or spices such as cinnamon, nutmeg, or extracts such as vanilla or lemon.
3) Choose foods with less than five grams of added sugar per serving.
Money Saving Tips for Grains
Money-saving tips for grains include:
1) Buying larger boxes if you can eat it before it goes stale.
2) Buy store brands versus name brands.
3) Look for sales and coupons.
Cox said it is important for your health to choose lean cuts of protein.
For ground meats and poultry, be sure to note on the label how lean it is.
For example, ground turkey may be 85 percent or 91 percent lean.
For beef or pork, lean cuts usually include the words – round, loin, or leg in the name. Examples include pork loin chops or tenderloins.
“Variety is also important in the protein section,” said Puryear.
“Variety is also important when it comes to the protein section on your plate. Other examples of proteins include seafood, canned or dried beans, and lentils, eggs, peanut butter, nuts, seeds, and soy products.
“The way you cook your meats makes a difference,” said Puryear. Healthier options are to bake, roast, grill, sauté, or steam it instead of frying.
To save money on proteins, Cox offers the following tips:
1) Buy larger packages. When you buy a larger package, it will have a lower unit price or lower price per pound. You can freeze these in smaller containers or packages when you get home to prevent waste.
2) Lower cost seafood options include frozen fish fillets and canned seafood.
3) Eggs, beans, or lentils are healthy, less expensive options to meat.
4) Try to replace half of the meat in your tacos, soup, or other meals with beans.
Puryear said the main nutrient fat to be aware of in dairy food are saturated fat and sugar.
When shopping for milk, cheese, and yogurt, compare the saturated fat of whole milk foods versus skim, non-fat, and reduced fat options.
“Try moving your family to more low-fat dairy options,” said Cox. “You may need to do this gradually.”
She gives an example of going from whole milk to two percent milk. She said going from whole milk to skim milk may be too drastic of a change for most people.
She also suggests trying to replace sour cream, cream, and regular cheese with low-fat yogurt, milk, and cheese.
Puryear said added sugars are a concern when it comes to buying dairy. She said to “choose dairy with less added sugar.”
Puryear suggested buying plain yogurt and flavoring it with fruits and a little granola. “This is a great way to reduce sugar intake and add to your family’s dairy,” she said.
Cox offered the following money-saving dairy tips: 1) Buy larger containers. They have a lower unit price or price per ounce.
2) Dairy foods can be frozen if you feel you can’t use it all before it goes bad.
Cox said when you are comparing nutrition facts, be sure you are comparing facts for the same serving size.
She suggests making a grocery list before shopping.
Chef Patty Griffey ends the video with cooking demonstrations of three recipes using lean ground turkey – pasta sauce, turkey tacos, and chili.
Throughout the demonstrations, she offers great tips to make the most of these dishes.
She suggests meal planning, making a list before you go to the store, and looking for good values and bargains.
Get The Video
Copies of the video may be downloaded from the RALI website, www.rali-dchi.com or may be obtained by e-mailing [email protected]