New USDA Dietary Guidelines - Done Cheap!

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The new 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans was released on Monday. The press conference was attended by many dietitians on the world wide web, and all the while we were discussions were in real-time on Twitter. At the press conference, one of the age old questions was raised. I am paraphrasing, “How does the average American that is struggling in this economy feed their family the way these guidelines recommend?  Healthy foods are expensive!” Many of us in “Twitterland” were wishing they would have provided the public some good examples, but they answered only in generalities. Is a bag of chips really cheaper than a bag of frozen veggies? What about a box of twinkies?

Unfortunately, the report that was put together in order to come up with the guidelines revealed that children eat the bulk of their calories from grain-based desserts, yeast breads, processed chicken, sugary drinks and pizza. In other words, our children are overfed, yet are still undernourished.  This post will list the foods the USDA wants us to eat MORE of along with some budgetary tips (utilize the active links!) on how you can do this without blowing your monthly budget.

Increase vegetable and fruit intake, which includes eating a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas. My local grocery store often sells 10 bags of frozen vegetables for $10. The other day, they had a sale on canned foods where you only pay 26 cents for 20 cans! You have to watch the sales and then buy in bulk when able. But remember, frozen is about equal to fresh on nutrient quality and very low sodium canned vegetables and canned fruit in their own juices are just a close second. You can often buy bags of beans for less than $1. Consider searching out a produce co-op in your local area or visiting your local farmer’s market. Locally grown produce usually contains superior nutrient quality since it’s farm to plate distance is shortened, and you get to support your local farmer. If your funds are really tight, government programs or WIC cards encourage for the purchase of produce items through special incentives.

Consume at least half of all grains as whole grains. Increase whole-grain intake by replacing refined grains with whole grains. Make your own breads! Make your own pancakes by adding half whole wheat or buckwheat flour. Start your day off with a big batch of steel cut oatmeal in the crockpot. Purchase things such as wild rice, whole wheat couscous, brown rice and barley in bulk or in the bags versus the boxed varieties. Cook them in large quantities and eat them throughout the week. Add these grains with beans, top with a low-fat cheese – serve with a side salad or frozen veggies for a super easy and nutrient-rich meal!

Increase intake of fat-free or low-fat milk and milk products, such as milk, yogurt, cheese, or fortified soy beverages. Generic brands of milk are often cheaper. Look for dairy items that are on sale. Blocked cheese is cheaper than the pre-shredded. Purchase yogurts in the larger containers instead of the single serve for big savings. Use dried/powdered milk for recipes.

Choose a variety of protein foods, which include seafood, lean meat and poultry, eggs, beans and peas, soy products, and unsalted nuts and seeds. Bulk, bulk, bulk. Remember that 3-4 ounces is a portion – decreasing portion sizes for each family member is a huge cash saving!

Increase the amount and variety of seafood consumed by choosing seafood in place of some meat and poultry. Shop ethnic grocers such as Asian stores, as they have a tendency to have cheaper prices. Look for frozen bags and canned seafood on sale.

Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils. Higher fat meats may seem lower in price, but how much are you paying for the actual meat of that portion? You actually get LESS protein per pound than lower fat/lean cuts. So pound for pound, you pay MORE for the nutrients found in fattier meats. Food for thought!

Use oils to replace solid fats where possible. I am sure you have noticed by now, but canola oil is much cheaper than olive oil. I like canola oil because it has the least amount of saturated fat (~7% as compared to ~15% in olive oil) large percentage of omega-3 “heart healthy” fat. Canola oil can be used for both baking and cooking, so it’s very versatile.  Again, look for savings in the generic or store brands.

Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products. Make budgetary room for low-fat dairy in your diet because dairy will help you achieve potassium, calcium and vitamin D. Beans of all kinds are a fabulous fiber and nutrient source that could be enjoyed alone, added to salads, soups and casseroles.

Other Tips

Be Flexible. Maybe your favorite food items are out of your budget. Remain patient and there will come a sale. Explore other foods. You might find something you like better! And the more variety we have, they better nourished we are.

Plan Ahead. Shop for your groceries one full week in advance in order to avoid the eating out trap. Eating out excessively leads to both budget and belt busting every time!

Bulk and freeze. This will not only save you money, but will also save you time – two precious commodities these days. Free resources for doing this can be found at http://www.menus4moms.com/bulk/index.php and http://bulkfreezercooking.com/. Be sure to choose the healthy recipes!

Grow your own garden. Again, eating on a budget demands that flexibility! There are a lot of resources for first time produce gardeners.  What a fun thing to do with your children and as a family.  Don’t have enough room outdoors? No problem. Many people are growing all kinds of produce indoors.

Brown bagged your lunches. Many of these components not only save you money, but they also help you stay on track with your healthy lifestyles. You can bag healthy food items that go on sale or even eat leftovers from last night’s dinner.

Be on the lookout for sales and good coupons. Grocery stores have weekly specials that can be found in a saver book located at the front of the store. You can also shop for coupons online at websites such as http://www.coupons.com/, http://www.couponsurfer.com/ and http://www.smartsource.com/. Consider taking a look at the coupons to help plan your weekly menu. You can search for recipes by ingredient at websites such as http://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.gov/ (under Recipes) and http://allrecipes.com/search/ingredients.aspx.

You can read more about all the recommendations in the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines by going to http://www.dietaryguidelines.gov/.

Are your food budgeting tricks not listed? Share them with us!

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