The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage us to eat more fruits and vegetables. But frequently the comment is heard that healthy foods are too expensive to afford.
The latest statistics from the Economic Research Service in 2008 showed food prices increased over 6 percent. With the strain of current economic conditions, it is hard for many families to put food on the table. But buying less nutritious foods won't help the situation.
For example, consider two options at the grocery store.
Option 1:1 pound cookies, 1-pound bag of chips, 2 liters of soda and 1/2 gallon of ice cream. Total cost, $13.
Option 2: 2 pounds apples, 2 pounds oranges, 1 pound bananas, 1 pound broccoli, 2 pounds potatoes, 1 pound cabbage, 1 pound carrots, 1 pound romaine lettuce. Total cost, $13.38.
For an extra 38 cents, a much more nutritious selection of foods could be purchased.
Here are some tips to help cut costs and still have a healthy diet.
*Buy fresh fruits and vegetables that are in season, as they usually cost less. Frozen vegetables without sauces, canned vegetables and canned fruits in juice or light syrup are healthy and low-cost options. If you can't find canned vegetables without added salt, drain and rinse canned vegetables before using.
*Some fresh fruits and vegetables that are often among the cheapest include bananas, apples, oranges, cabbage, sweet potatoes, dark green leafy vegetables, green peppers and regular carrots. Regular carrots are less expensive than "baby" carrots and a head of lettuce or other greens is usually less expensive than pre-cut packages.
*Store fruits -- including tomatoes and avocados -- separately from vegetables to prolong their shelf life. As some fruits ripen they can give off ethylene gas, which makes vegetables like lettuce wilt faster.
*Wash fresh produce just before you are ready to use it.
*Fresh fruits and vegetables are perishable, so don't buy more than you can expect to use while they are still fresh and tasty.
*Buy canned and frozen fruits and vegetables when they are on sale. They're handy to have for times when you don't have fresh produce on hand, or when the fresh produce is not in season.
*Use fruits and vegetables as snacks. Keeping some fresh produce washed and cut up in the refrigerator makes them more convenient to grab for a snack.
*Grow your own. Planting a garden provides fresh produce and tending a garden is good exercise.
It's good to get kids involved in growing vegetables, as they are more likely to want to eat what they have helped grow.
*Shop the farmers' market for fresh seasonal produce. Not only are you getting produce fresh from the garden, you're also helping the local economy.