After reading the title, you may be wondering, “what does having a nutrient-dense diet even mean?” Nutrient-dense foods provide vitamins, minerals and other substances that may have positive health effects with relatively few calories. To put it simply, nutrient-dense foods can be defined as “all vegetables, fruits, whole grains, fat-free/low-fat milk and milk products, seafood, lean meats, and poultry, eggs, legumes, and nuts/seeds that are prepared without added salt, sugar, and fat.” So if you mostly consume food items from the list above, then you have a nutrient-dense diet.
However, buying and preparing nutrient-dense food can pose a challenge. Food items can be very expensive and going to the grocery store seems to be a task that we all dread. Add in going to the grocery store during the middle of a pandemic, and it makes it one of the last things any of us want to do right now. Also, we are spending a lot more time at home and, likely, consuming a lot more food there than we are used to which leads to an increase in food expenses.
I know that figuring out how to budget grocery expenses (and stick to it) can be extremely difficult which is why I am going to provide some tips and tricks to help you all budget and plan your grocery trips.
Create a Meal Plan
· Check your freezer/pantry inventory to see what you already have available to use which will save money on your grocery trip
· Use the Meal-o-Matic at Dr.Yum Project (https://doctoryum.org/) to use up items you already have in your home.
· Choose recipes. Pick a day to sit down and think about what meals you are going to prepare for the week. Use a free meal planning template or write it on paper.
* Try to create balanced meals that include a source of protein, 2 vegetables or 1 fruit and 1 vegetable, grain (preferably whole grain), and dairy.
· Create a grocery list and go shop or shop online and do grocery pick up at the store
· Plan to consume fresh grocery items first to ensure you use them before they spoil (Freeze meat/fruit as needed)
Without meal planning, it is easy to buy foods that you don’t need which will increase your grocery bill and create food waste. You will also have to think about what to prepare each day which can become stressful and overwhelming.
Choose budget friendly nutrient-dense foods
· Eggs, lentils, brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa, canned beans, canned tomatoes, carrots, corn, russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, onions, green peppers, green cabbage, spinach bundles, bananas, oranges, apples, frozen berries, applesauce, canned fish, chicken breast, yogurt, and milk
Don’t buy many (if any) processed/pre-packaged snack items.
· These items are very high in calories and low in nutrients. Plus they can be expensive and can run your grocery bill up quickly.
· Choose fruits/vegetables, yogurt, cheese and whole grains instead.