These days, more of us are trying to improve the nutrient quality of the foods we eat, whether it is avoiding certain added ingredients or choosing foods that contain more nutrients. As food prices continue to rise, however, it is getting harder to do. So here are a few of my tips to eat healthier and save money:
1. Don't skip the leafy greens! Kale, arugula, and spinach are some of the most nutritious and affordable foods you will find in a grocery store. The darker the color of the leafy green, the more nutritious it is because of the antioxidant, beta-carotene. Many salad greens are also a good source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber. Rather than buying the pre-packaged bags of lettuce, go for the fresh heads. They are cheaper. However, if your store has those automatic misters, and the greens are priced per pound, be sure to shake off the excess water.
2. Canned tomatoes are a good source of the heart-healthy antioxidant, lycopene, which your body absorbs more easily from canned tomatoes than it does from raw tomatoes. It is time to make your own pasta sauce from crushed tomatoes: just add a tablespoon of olive oil and some spices, and you'll have a great sauce for about a buck (rather than three to six dollars), and you'll be avoiding those added sugars and other ingredients. The new MyPlate recommendations call for doubling our consumption of red and orange vegetables to two servings a day, and this is an easy way to do just that. Look for canned tomatoes that are naturally steam peeled. Most use chemical processes.
3. I grew up in a dairy family. My grandfather was a dairy farmer in Belleville, New Jersey, and I love natural cheeses. Because of the "Standard of Identity," set by the USDA Federal Standards, natural cheeses like Swiss, Cheddar, and Monterey Jack that are aged for the same time from the same state, are the same quality, whether they are bought from the dairy case, deli or cheese table. Cheeses from the dairy case are wrapped in clear plastic, versus fancier packaging found elsewhere, and may save you up to 40 percent.
4. The USDA Agricultural Projections that were just released February 23, 2012, predict that the price of beef will continue to rise through the year 2017. But you don't have to buy an expensive cut of beef to get your daily protein. Eggs are a great source of protein, and egg whites (found in the refrigerated sections of most super markets) are an even healthier way to get essential vitamins and minerals without the fat, calories and cholesterol.
5. If you don't like eggs but still want to get your animal protein, try fish! In fact, the USDA Dietary Guidelines released last year specifically recommend "eating seafood in place of meat or poultry twice a week." But don't buy it from the "fresh" fish table. Look at those signs: most will say "previously frozen." So head over to the frozen fish section, where you'll find salmon, tilapia, sole, shrimp -- all the basics are here -- at about half the cost. And they are better, since they are frozen only once. Typically when fish is caught, it is put on ice or in a freezer on the boat, as the boat is on the water for weeks at a time. When it is brought to shore, it defrosts and is shipped to the supermarket. Then the store puts these "fresh" fish on ice again. Be sure to also read the country of origin label, which is usually on the back of the package, to make sure you know where the fish is coming from. About 80 percent of previously frozen and frozen fish is now imported.
What tips do you have and can share about saving money and eating healthier?