You CAN eat healthy on a small food budget

EatHealthyOnSmallBudgetWe’ve all heard many stories about how the lowest income groups cannot afford healthy food because it’s too expensive. While it is true that  often the best (organic) food is more expensive than conventional food, it is also  true that just as often that the processed/fast food Standard American Diet consumed by so many people is simply a matter of laziness, convenience and/or ignorance.

But there’s help available for those of limited budget who are genuinely interested in a nutritious diet for themselves and their families. The Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org)  has posted a great guideline on the most nutritious foods for the lowest price–and most of those foods are plentifully available at your local grocery store. All you have to do is ignore the beckoning fast food signs and most of the middle aisles of the market with all their packaged meals, and learn about WHOLE FOOD and cooking from scratch.

The EWG guideline gives you a handy rundown on each category of food needed for balanced nutrition, even if you can’t afford much organic. Here are some samples:

FRUITS–The following conventional fruits are low in sugar and toxic pesticides and are loaded with vitamin C, fiber, folate and potassium. The most nutritious ones are bananas, watermelon, cantaloupe, apricots, tangerines, avocadoes, kiwi fruit, lemons and grapefruit. (Apples and peaches are also healthy choices, but, unfortunately they contain far more pesticides than the others–check out organic for these.)

VEGETABLES–Vegetables are superfood powerhouses and are inexpensive compared to most foods, but 7 of 10 Americans don’t eat nearly enough of them, according to EWG. The top nutritional benefits come from broccoli and dark greens such as collard, kale, Swiss chard, mustard greens, turnip greens, Romaine lettuce and parsley. Other good choices are carrots, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkins, alfalfa sprouts, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, onions, okra, summer squashes and eggplants. (Sweet red and green peppers are also very healthy, but come with a load of pesticides. Potatoes and green beans also have more pesticides.)

BREAD AND PASTA–Choose whole grain, and always check the sodium, sugar and additives content. If you’re like most families you depend on boxed cereals, most of them filled with junk you don’t want to eat if you are concerned about your’s and your childrens’ health. EWG’s choices for breakfast cereals are oatmeal or shredded wheat. Even better is quinoa, but it is more expensive.

PROTEIN–Bad news for hot dog and deli meat addicts–they are the very worst for you, loaded as they are with salt and additives, so for health’s sake limit them. All meats have their own nutritional value, but keep in mind that no factory farm chicken, turkey and beef at the supermarket, fed on GMO corn, soy, hormones and antibiotics,  have the nutritional quality we once enjoyed in our meat. Pasture-fed natural meat is available–but unaffordable for most of us. Other good protein choices include nuts like peanuts, walnuts, almonds and pecans.

But the best protein nutrition at the lowest price is BEANS–all kinds of beans, preferable purchased dry in bulk and cooked from scratch. Lentils and black-eyed peas are good too. Eggs are also an excellent, relatively inexpensive source of protein and other nutrients.

Good staple foods to stock up on if you can are honey and peanut butter. They won’t be getting any cheaper and they should make the kids happy.

Visit EWG’s website and learn all the information you need for getting the most for the least!

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