Nutrition on a budget: Buying fruits and vegetables

By: Janice Daciuk

Author: Canadian Living


Nutrition on a budget: Buying fruits and vegetables

By: Janice Daciuk
Putting healthy meals on the table doesn't mean spending more at the checkout and more time preparing at home. With a little planning and creative thinking you can have it all – nutrition, economy and great taste. Read the great food information, nutritional advice and shopping tips below.

Do you think it's possible to eat well on a budget? Share your thoughts and tips in the comments section on the next page!

Canada Choice/Canada Fancy
Buy Canada Choice vegetables and fruit instead of the higher priced Canada Fancy. They are just as nutritious and a better deal. Canada Choice still taste good, though they may not look as perfect or be as uniform in size as Canada Fancy. Most of the canned fruit I found was Canada Choice regardless of the brand.

Buy apples in bags instead of loose when you're planning to cook them. They may not be Canada Fancy but they will be just as nutritious. And they'll cost less. You may have to cut out some bruises or other blemishes before using.

Frequent farmer's markets
Shop at farmer's markets or from local farm stands whenever possible. Buying local means your produce should be fresher, thus retaining more of its important nutrients. For instance, tomatoes lose vitamin C over time, so the quicker the tomato gets from the field to your table, the better. Vine- or tree-ripened produce tastes much better, too. Be inspired and try a new vegetable or fruit each visit. Get to know your market vendors to be certain that what they are selling is indeed local.

Buy local produce in season when possible. Since it has travelled a shorter distance than imported produce, it has retained more of its nutritional value and taste. The following vegetables and fruits have high nutritional value: bok choy, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, cauliflower, collard greens, corn, green beans, kale, romaine lettuce, potatoes, rutabagas, spinach, squash, sweet potatoes, swiss chard, tomatoes, apples, bananas, blueberries, cranberries, grapes, grapefruit, kiwis, nectarines, oranges, peaches, pears, plums, strawberries.

Page 1 of 2 – Do you turn your nose up at frozen, bagged veggies and canned tomatoes? Discover food facts that may help to change your mind on page 2.Fresh fruits and veggies from the freezer and canned vegetables aisle
Plain frozen vegetables are a good buy with less waste as you can use the exact amount you need. They are also quick and easy to prepare. Fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruit are nutritionally similar. In fact, processed products may actually be higher in nutrients than the fresh. Choose from: Whole leaf spinach, chopped spinach, whole okra, cut broccoli, Brussels sprouts, peas, cut green beans, corn, sweet peas, diced butternut squash or choose a mix, though note that mixed varieties can be marginally more expensive. Frozen vegetables are an excellent quick way to add lots of vegetables to soups, stews and casseroles to boost the fibre, vitamin and mineral content. Try broccoli for fibre and vitamin C. (Blanching before freezing results in some loss of vitamin C, however once produce is frozen, the vitamin is retained); chopped spinach for calcium, carotenoids, folate and riboflavin.

Stock up on canned tomatoes when they are on sale. Though fresh and canned tomatoes are almost identical nutritionally speaking (except that canned have quite a bit more sodium), cooking tomatoes with a little fat or oil makes it easier for the body to absorb the lycopene, an antioxidant that may help prevent prostate cancer, heart disease and age-related macular degeneration. What's more, except during harvest time, canned tomatoes taste better than fresh tomatoes.

Saving money in the produce department
If you find that your lettuce is always going brown and slimy before you can eat it – try the pre-packaged salad greens. They are usually more expensive than buying plain lettuce but if it means you actually eat them instead of it being wasted, then they are relatively economical. It also saves a lot of time. Choose mixes that include darker lettuce such as romaine for more folate and antioxidants. Add tomato slices, diced fresh carrots and use a low-fat salad dressing or make your own. Low-fat versions are often the same price as the regular or full-fat salad dressings.

Potatoes are versatile, economical and tasty. Top with fat-free sour cream (same price as regular sour cream) and snipped fresh chives. Or layer on chili with lots of kidney and black beans. Or chopped steamed broccoli with grated lower-fat Cheddar cheese. A well-topped potato can be a nutritious and filling meal in itself. Leave the skin on for the most fibre. Potatoes are also low in fat, are a good source of iron and contain folate and other important B-vitamins. Regular table potatoes are a bit cheaper than Yukon Gold and Russet.

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Nutrition on a budget: Buying fruits and vegetables