Stretch your food budget with healthy fruits and veggies

 

HealthFitnessNASHVILLE-The Department of Health is offering tips to help home cooks include the bountiful variety of fruits and vegetables in their meals while making the most of their food budget as part of the observance of National Fruits & Veggies – More Matters Month.

“It is imperative that all Tennesseans have ready access to fresh fruits and vegetables so the right food choice can be the easy choice,” said Health Commissioner Susan R. Cooper, MSN, RN. “Careful spending doesn’t mean you have to eat less healthy foods. Eating fruits and vegetables is a sound investment in long-term health, and can be a very inexpensive part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Choosing fruits and vegetables, which are rich in nutrients and offer high vitamin, mineral and fiber content, will help you get as much nutritional value for your money as possible. Some tips to help you stretch your food dollars include:

• Cook enough for several meals and freeze leftovers, 

• Buy fruits and vegetables in season at farmer’s markets or your local grocery store, 

• Look for sales and deals on fruits and vegetables and stock up then, 

• Grow your own vegetables – seeds cost just pennies and can reward you with a bounty of produce, and 

• Get creative with your leftovers – make salsa from your tomatoes and smoothies from your fruits.

Including a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables in meals and snacks helps maintain a healthy weight and may reduce the risk of many diseases, including heart disease. All forms count as you work toward adding more to your diet: fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100 percent juice.

“We want people to know they can find healthy foods that are very inexpensive. For example, beans are a great source of protein and can be used in a variety of dishes,” said Melissa Blair, director of Nutrition and Wellness for TDOH. “Vegetables such as sweet potatoes and winter squash also have a long shelf life, so stock up when you find a good bargain.”

Individuals participating in the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) supplemental nutrition program are also receiving information about a new food package which includes vouchers for fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables. This program helps provide healthy food, nutrition counseling and access to health services to low-income women and children.

The TDOH Web site also offers tips for improving eating habits, including a cookbook of simple, low cost recipes that have been taste-tested by teenagers. Visit the site at http://health.state.tn.us/nutrition/index.htm.

Fruits and Veggies – More Matters Month is a national public health initiative sponsored by the Produce for a Better Health Foundation. For more ways to add fruits and vegetables to your meals while watching your expenses, the foundation is sharing “30 Ways in 30 Days to Stretch Your Food Budget.” For more information, visit www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org.