With inflation at its highest level in decades, trips to the grocery store are becoming increasingly pricey. For many people, that makes it a challenge to buy the fresh vegetables and lean meats that typically make up a healthy diet. But Novant Health dietitian Kristen Andrews says there are other good food options available. She shared her tips for keeping costs down without sacrificing health with WFDD's David Ford.
On persistent food misconceptions:
Every day I'm hearing that canned vegetables, frozen vegetables are not as nutritious, but that's actually a huge myth. Fruits and vegetables that are canned and frozen are actually just as nutritious as fresh fruits and vegetables. So, I always encourage everyone to choose no-salt-added canned vegetables, canned fruits, as well as frozen fruits and vegetables just because they're so convenient. They're quick to prepare and they're shelf stable, they last longer, so we have lots of benefits left in our fruits and vegetables.
On proteins like lean meats and their less costly substitutes:
Protein is very much essential, just like our fruits and vegetables. So, protein is a component of our hair, our muscles, our skin and nails. Proteins help in all different types of ways, but they also keep us full and satisfied. And so, plant-based protein options like beans and peas, and nut butters are really great options for our protein that will provide us with different nutrition but also still give us that same amount of protein that we need.
On bare-bones nutrition needs:
Most certainly we would want to include some type of carbohydrate. And carbohydrates kind of have a bad rap here lately, but I can promise you they are definitely essential for our health. So, we would want to choose some type of carbohydrate to include every time we eat. That might be rice, it might be beans, it might be bread, it could be crackers, it could be a hot cereal like oatmeal or cream of wheat. But certainly our grains are essential. We would want to pair those carbohydrate foods with a protein source — lean meats, but also your plant-based proteins. So, going back to your beans or tofu, or your nut butters — things that are going to make it more of a complete meal even if we can't include fruits and vegetables all the time.
Andrews encourages people to investigate budget-friendly grocery stores that may carry foods they regularly eat at lower prices. And for individuals and families facing severe financial challenges, she suggests connecting with local resources such as food pantries and seeking out national agencies like WIC, the Women's Infant and Children program serving pregnant and postpartum women, and SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program providing direct financial aid.