Eat more fruits and vegetables. We hear that often, but how much does one need in a healthy daily diet? It depends on the source you consult, but most reputable sites/organizations are pretty consistent with their guidelines.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends 1 ½ to 2 cup-equivalents of fruits, and 2 to 3 cup-equivalents of vegetables daily. This comes from the USDA’s 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The biggest health benefits come from eating leafy green vegetables (kale, spinach) as well as fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C and beta carotene (citrus, berries, carrots). These are primary sources of antioxidants that might play a role in preventing cancer, according to a Harvard University study.
The American Heart Association suggests four servings per day of fruit and five servings of vegetables. Check out this handy table at https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/add-color/fruits-and-vegetables-serving-sizes
Sadly, most Americans don’t reach the suggested goals. In 2019, 12.3% of adults met fruit recommendations, and 10.0% met vegetable recommendations. So, what are the implications from these statistics?
A healthy diet supports a strong immune function and helps to prevent obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and some cancers. A healthy diet consists, in part, of consuming the recommended daily servings of fruits and vegetable. Therefore, eating more fruits and vegetables helps prevent chronic diseases, right? Seems like a no-brainer, doesn’t it? Then why do Americans fall so short of these dietary guidelines?
Often, we don’t buy enough fruits and vegetables because they cost too much…or so we think. And food costs represent a sizable chunk of our budgets. But with careful meal planning, smart shopping, and a few tweaks in storage and preparation techniques, you can make the most of your family’s budget by always including fruits and vegetables in your meals. (fruitsandveggies.org)
Here are some strategies for buying healthy food and staying within budget limits.
Planning ahead allows you to think about your food needs, preferences, and budget. If you have to stretch your money for the week, meal planning can really pay off. Use recipes with common ingredients. For example, if chicken is your preferred protein, cook a whole chicken and use it for several dishes. Using different herbs and spices can turn common ingredients into meals with different flavors. Consider making meals that freeze well. Make a big batch of soup or chili. Eat some for a day or two and freeze leftovers for later.
Once you’ve planned your weekly meals, make a shopping list with required ingredients. Using a list makes shopping easier and faster, and it helps you reduce impulse buying. If your list includes nuts, beans, or grains, consider buying in bulk to save money and to keep your pantry well-stocked. Don’t shop when you’re hungry—you might be tempted to buy things that are not on your list, and that can shoot a hole in your budget.
Generally, fresh fruits and vegetables are cheaper when they’re in season. Keep in mind that all forms of fruits and vegetables are nutritious, so consider canned, frozen, and dried forms. They usually cost less and last longer. Take advantage of local farmers’ markets, roadside stands, and other places to buy locally-grown fruits and veggies. Visit an orchard and pick your own peaches!
Coupons save money! Just by using five 50-cents-off coupons a week, you can save over $100 each year. Search online for coupons for the ingredients on your list. With over a billion coupons available annually, you can certainly find ones that work for you.
Buying generic or store brand items can save 20% to 30% on your food bill. Be sure to compare the ingredients list on packages to ensure you’re not getting products with added ingredients that might not be healthy, such as added sugar and sodium.
If you can, grow your own fruits and vegetables. Gardens are a great way to save money and have fresh produce at your fingertips. Many fruits, vegetables, and herbs can grow in pots on patios and balconies.
Let the staff at Endocrinology Associates help you reach the recommended dietary goals for a healthier life and stay within your budget.