Editor’s note: Trisha Hardy is a registered dietitian and the director of child wellness at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, where she works to reduce childhood obesity with Strong4Life. Before joining CHOA, Hardy worked at United Healthcare and the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention.
With today's busy lifestyles, it can be difficult to plan and pull off healthy meals for the family. Follow these five simple tips to eat healthier on a budget:
Frozen vegetables can be as good -- and sometimes better -- as fresh ones
Despite their natural goodness, many Americans don't eat enough vegetables and fruit, citing high cost as a reason. It may shock you to find out that frozen vegetables can actually be fresher than “fresh” produce! While “fresh” produce can sometimes lose nutrients between being picked and delivered to your local market, frozen veggies are picked at the peak of freshness, then flash-frozen to lock in the nutrients. Since frozen vegetables will last longer and often cost less, you should fill half of every plate with a colorful variety at every meal.
Read the ingredient list on products
If you can purchase almost every item in the ingredient list in the store, the product is probably relatively wholesome. If sugar is in the top three ingredients listed, it is probably not the healthiest of products. If you can't pronounce an ingredient, then you probably shouldn't be eating it.
Frozen doesn’t always mean low in sodium
While frozen meals are great when you are on the go, some can be high in sodium. Excessive amounts of sodium (salt) intake can lead to high blood pressure, which can put you at higher risk for stroke, heart attack, and blood disorders. Look for packaged meals with less than 500 mg of sodium per serving.
A diet of pre-made frozen meals can get expensive. With a little planning and preparation, you can make your very own freezer meals! From your favorite hearty soups to spaghetti sauces and stir-fries, you can create great meals in minutes. These types of meals will also often be of higher quality, made to your exact tastes, and can be a fraction of the cost.
Try it -- you might like it
We often get a bit complacent about the foods we eat. By being open to new foods, you may find you like a new variety of seasonal tastes that can save you and your family money. I always tell kids, "Try it and you might like it." Let's not lose that adventurous streak as adults. Take a chance with a new frozen vegetable -- you might be glad you did!