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Dietitian explains how to eat nutritiously on a budget

Dietitan Amanada O'Brien says there are many ways to save money and eat healthily at the same time.
Dietitan Amanada O'Brien says there are many ways to save money and eat healthily at the same time.

For many families and individuals alike, buying groceries can be an increasingly difficult chore thanks to rising food prices.

According to Statistics Canada, food costs have been rising over the past several years, particularly so on items like meats and fresh fruit.
Often, the cheapest items include the least healthy ones, like junk foods. Some people also decide to do without instead of overpaying for certain items, in many cases omitting foods that provide essential nutrients for a healthy diet.
Amanda O’Brien, a registered dietitian for Eastern Health in St. John’s, says there are many ways to keep eating healthily without breaking the bank.
She says a lot of healthy foods are the most expensive, but there are plenty nutritious options that aren’t necessarily the highest priced.
In an interview, she offered some tips for people who are interested in saving but not at the expense of their diet.
“It’s important for people of all ages (to eat healthily). Whether it’s young children, whether it’s women of childbearing age, whether it’s parents looking after young families, whether it’s seniors, we all want to have good nutrition at any age,” said O’Brien.

Replace — don't omit
— the proteins
Many meals are focused around meat.
Some of the highest priced items in stores are beef or other meats, which provide the centre to dishes prepared by families.
O’Brien says instead of leaving a roast on the shelf, people can get a comparable amount of daily protein from other cheaper options, according to Eating Well from Canada’s Food Guide.
“Fish can be a cheaper alternative, especially if you’re looking at canned tuna. Certainly, seasonally, different fish can be cheaper ... If you’re taking advantage of the food fishery, cod is even cheaper again.”
O’Brien says there are overlooked foods that do the job of meat as well.
“Another food that often tends to get forgotten is legumes. You’re looking at beans and peas.”
She says pea soup, or meals involving chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans or lentils are economical because they are available canned or even cheaper if bought dried.
“Aside from those legumes, you can look at things like eggs. Maybe you could make a quiche or a frittata or an omelette and those foods go well for any meal for the day - not just breakfast.”
She also says tofu is an unfamiliar alternative but is a good choice both economically and nutritiously. Tofu can also be a source of calcium.
O’Brien says the alternatives often provide a higher nutritional value than the meat, including more fibre.
Going frozen, canned and dried over fresh
Some other highly expensive items are fresh fruit and vegetables.
O’Brien says if you venture into the aisles of the grocery store that have frozen, canned or dried options of the same food, you may find it much less expensive.
“They’re just as nutritious as fresh (and) they have longer shelf life.”
People may see more of a variety of canned and frozen vegetables than in the fresh selection, she added.
Reduce portion sizes and cook your own meals
“So many of us overeat,” said O’Brien.
“If you find that you want to stretch your food dollar, also consider how much you’re eating, not just what kind of food.”
She says overeating is also directly linked to excess calories leading to weight gain as well.
She also suggests making your own food from scratch instead of relying on takeout or restaurants.
“An easy example is cooking oatmeal instead of buying instant packages of oatmeal. You can save money on simple things like that.”

jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

According to Statistics Canada, food costs have been rising over the past several years, particularly so on items like meats and fresh fruit.
Often, the cheapest items include the least healthy ones, like junk foods. Some people also decide to do without instead of overpaying for certain items, in many cases omitting foods that provide essential nutrients for a healthy diet.
Amanda O’Brien, a registered dietitian for Eastern Health in St. John’s, says there are many ways to keep eating healthily without breaking the bank.
She says a lot of healthy foods are the most expensive, but there are plenty nutritious options that aren’t necessarily the highest priced.
In an interview, she offered some tips for people who are interested in saving but not at the expense of their diet.
“It’s important for people of all ages (to eat healthily). Whether it’s young children, whether it’s women of childbearing age, whether it’s parents looking after young families, whether it’s seniors, we all want to have good nutrition at any age,” said O’Brien.

Replace — don't omit
— the proteins
Many meals are focused around meat.
Some of the highest priced items in stores are beef or other meats, which provide the centre to dishes prepared by families.
O’Brien says instead of leaving a roast on the shelf, people can get a comparable amount of daily protein from other cheaper options, according to Eating Well from Canada’s Food Guide.
“Fish can be a cheaper alternative, especially if you’re looking at canned tuna. Certainly, seasonally, different fish can be cheaper ... If you’re taking advantage of the food fishery, cod is even cheaper again.”
O’Brien says there are overlooked foods that do the job of meat as well.
“Another food that often tends to get forgotten is legumes. You’re looking at beans and peas.”
She says pea soup, or meals involving chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans, navy beans or lentils are economical because they are available canned or even cheaper if bought dried.
“Aside from those legumes, you can look at things like eggs. Maybe you could make a quiche or a frittata or an omelette and those foods go well for any meal for the day - not just breakfast.”
She also says tofu is an unfamiliar alternative but is a good choice both economically and nutritiously. Tofu can also be a source of calcium.
O’Brien says the alternatives often provide a higher nutritional value than the meat, including more fibre.
Going frozen, canned and dried over fresh
Some other highly expensive items are fresh fruit and vegetables.
O’Brien says if you venture into the aisles of the grocery store that have frozen, canned or dried options of the same food, you may find it much less expensive.
“They’re just as nutritious as fresh (and) they have longer shelf life.”
People may see more of a variety of canned and frozen vegetables than in the fresh selection, she added.
Reduce portion sizes and cook your own meals
“So many of us overeat,” said O’Brien.
“If you find that you want to stretch your food dollar, also consider how much you’re eating, not just what kind of food.”
She says overeating is also directly linked to excess calories leading to weight gain as well.
She also suggests making your own food from scratch instead of relying on takeout or restaurants.
“An easy example is cooking oatmeal instead of buying instant packages of oatmeal. You can save money on simple things like that.”

jonathan.parsons@thepacket.ca

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