For most of us, the answer is yes and the food choices we make come from what we are familiar with and what is available. As dietitians, we strive to help people make better choices in support of their health goals while taking into consideration all the things that impact people’s food choices, from culture to taste to kitchen skills to budget and more.
When it comes to grocery shopping, sometimes the budgetary considerations outweigh the nutritional considerations. How do we help people manage the two, and can healthier shopping be done on a budget? This topic is always on our minds as health professionals, and this month, Hunger Action Month, is a great time to pause and consider the one in six Americans who are at risk of hunger.
Here are some of our favorite shopping and planning tips to help your clients navigate the wallet vs. taste bud conversation:
- Consider culinary skill level in addition to health literacy. Many people today may not have the kitchen skills or time to create elaborate meals. Provide simple recipes and food group pairings to create balanced meals and snacks in minutes with minimal preparation steps. Check out www.healthyfoodbankhub.org for recipes that use simple, budget friendly ingredients with easy-to-understand directions. Read the criteria used for inclusion on the site here. The Healthy Food Bank Hub is a platform that was developed in partnership with Feeding America and network food banks, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and National Dairy Council. It is a collection of evaluated tools and resources and showcases existing best practices and nutrition initiatives.
- Provide options for economical, nutrient-rich food choices from every food group. With today’s busy consumer, it’s more important than ever to not only guide them to better choices from each group, but also how to use them and help make their dollars go farther. For example, in addition to highlighting beans/legumes, offering tips like adding them to soups, stews, salads and casseroles seems like an easy step but oftentimes, people may not think of all the uses for them without our prompting.
- Educate people about foods that do double duty, like dairy. Many people don’t realize that dairy foods like milk, cheese and yogurt are an affordable source of high-quality protein in addition to providing the other essential nutrients like calcium. Encourage people to stock their pantry, freezer, and fridge with items that have carbohydrate and protein in one item to make it easier to meet their nutrient needs.
- Find ways to help others in need. There are millions of food-insecure Americans who don’t have access to nutrient-rich foods, including milk. It’s one of the most requested, but least donated foods to our nation’s food banks. In partnership with Feeding America, America’s milk companies and dairy farmers created the first-ever nationwide program to encourage Americans to donate nutrient-rich milk to hungry families in their local communities – the Great American Milk Drive. And, as health experts and dietitians we can help reinforce the need – especially in the grocery store. We have many tools for retail dietitians to support the cause – from health fairs to in-store activations. Visit our Supermarket RD Hub for more information.