We all want to find ways to improve our health and eat the most nutritious foods. We search for accurate information and tips to get the best nutrition we can afford.
Let’s face it, food can take a large chunk of our weekly and monthly budget as a family which can limit buying the freshest foods that are often recommended.
The latest update of nutrition recommendations from the government, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015, based on the latest scientific evidence, was just released by the Advisory Committee and are currently in the public comment phase for anyone to make comments. Once they have heard all the comments and concerns from all interested parties, they will be distributed and public health policy organizations will begin focusing their programs to achieve the goals.
We will hear more about these new recommendations in the future. We expect them to help guide us to more healthy food choices.
The recommendations in the 2015 report includes information and action steps for all Americans over 2 years to eat a more healthy diet, to maintain a healthy weight, be healthy and prevent disease.
Healthy Dietary Patterns According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015
The goals for 2015 are:
- include more fruits and vegetables;
- choose more whole grains;
- limit added sugars in foods and beverages to less than 10% of total calories (energy) intake; make water the preferred beverage;
- limit intake of sodium to 2300 mg per day;
- reduced saturate fat intakes by substituting them with polyunsaturated sources to be less than 10% of total calories (energy) intake;
- limit red and processed meat servings by using more seafood, legumes and nuts;
- using low/non-fat dairy;
- limit portion sizes;
- learn about your intake and how to improve your family’s diet with a qualified healthcare professional;
- achieve a healthy weight; and,
- increase physical activity and limit children’s screen time.
Meeting Dietary Guidelines on a Budget
Most people want to follow nutritional guidelines, such as the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans, but find that their limited food budget makes that very difficult.
In fact, recent studies show that if a family ate at home instead of relying on fast food which is ‘more convenient’, they would be healthier including reduced rates of obesity. It is also true that the more convenient, highly processed foods found in the grocery store are more expensive per serving than cooking from scratch.
There are some tips that you can use to get healthy foods for the whole family without breaking the bank.
- Understand unit pricing can help your family’s food budget stay on track. Many of us think that the more we buy, the cheaper it will be but that is not always the case. Sometimes a smaller container could be a better value ounce for ounce. The unit price is marked on the shelf tag and shows the price per ounce, unit, roll, sheet, pound, etc. You can compare like products from different manufacturers and also different sizes of the same product to find the cheapest version per unit. Unit pricing is especially helpful to look closely for when a product is on sale because then the size on sale is often but not always the better value. Buying in bulk can save money but you have to be aware of unit pricing to be sure you are getting the best deal.
- Create a week long menu for the family using the grocery store ad. When you can set up meals for the week using the products on sale, it can help you stretch your food budget. You can also take advantage of sale pricing especially buy one get one offers to restock your pantry which helps in the long run. When your pantry stays stocked, it is easier to shop with sales and make meals well rounded with what is on sale and what is on hand.
- Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Produce that is in season near you can be a great bargain. You can use these items to plan into your weekly meals and even buy quantities to use later at the peak of ripeness and affordability.
- Cook more meals from scratch compared to buying convenience items and fast foods. If cooking is not one of your strengths, take part in a community cooking class to get more comfortable. Get recipes online and use them to get creative. Involve your children and family members to share the workload of the family meal. Ask your friends for their tips and your mother or grandmother who probably has a wealth of knowledge about food and cooking waiting for you to tap into.
- Use coupons! Couponing will help offset some of your food costs. Be careful not to buy just because you have a coupon and again check the unit pricing to be sure you get the best deal, especially when the coupon requires buying 2 or more to get the cents off. Many grocery stores will double some coupons, which yields even greater savings on your staple items. Coupons don’t just come from the newspaper anymore. There are online sites to print your own and your favorite brand’s website also will have coupons for the products you do use regularly which is worth a little investigating.
- Buy generic! Supermarkets have their own store brands, which are usually similar in quality to the higher priced national brands. Whenever possible try those out and get the savings.
- Don’t go hungry! When you do the food shopping when hungry or with the kids you might tend to buy things that weren’t on the list which drives up your food bill. Make a list and stick with it to avoid costly impulse buying.
- Portion yourself! If you want single-serving foods like cut up fruits, containers of applesauce or snack bags of raisins, it will be cheaper to buy the bigger container and section it out yourself. The kids can even portion their own snacks or lunch bag favorites on the weekend after you shop. Snack bags or small plastic containers work well. Pre-cut fruits and vegetables are more expensive than cutting it up yourself.
- Buy what you need! Be aware of the appropriate portion size for each person in the family and buy only that amount to avoid waste. If you want to cook once and serve twice then plan to double the usual recipe. Leftover meals save time and money not to mention reduce food waste. Meat and poultry is costly when you buy 6 ounces per person and only 3-4 get eaten and the rest is discarded. Ounces of meat being wasted adds up fast!
- Make your own condiments such as salad dressing, barbecue sauce and other sauces or gravies. It will be more nutritious without the added salt, sugar and preservatives but will be cheaper too. These can be stored and used throughout the week.
Prepare Meals as a Family
Attacking meal preparation with the family, including them in the planning and preparation will help build family bonds and give everyone a choice in the meals.
Kids can tell you their favorites and learn new foods from other family favorites. Getting kids in the kitchen to learn cooking skills will help them take an active role in their own eating habits/health and be able to follow a healthy lifestyle in the future.
It takes planning and effort to select healthy foods especially when on a budget, but being healthy is worth the time.
Most of us have preconceived notions that we can’t eat well on a budget, but we can if we commit ourselves to it. Pretty soon, eating right will become a habit and preparing the family meals will be easy!