Cheap doesn’t mean unhealthy; nutrient-rich value for your produce dollar

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

As food budgets tighten, you often hear people claim, “it’s more expensive to eat healthy.” Smart shoppers know to look for fresh fruits and vegetables in season and on sale. They also know there are some super healthy produce items that are as expensive as they are tasty.

Eat Right Montana suggests the following tips for stretching the produce dollar:

Dried Beans, Peas and Lentils

Beans are a vegetable. Legumes (black beans, kidney beans, pintos, chickpeas, red or green lentils, split peas, etc,) do double duty. They are the only foods that count in two groups: vegetables and protein. Canned beans are convenient and quite inexpensive, but the real bargains are in dried beans. All it takes is an overnight or quick soak (see package), a couple hours to cook, and they are perfect for soup, chili, tacos, burritos, or baked beans.

Sweet Potatoes

There are many nutrients in sweet potatoes. They are packed with fiber, potassium, Vitamins A, C, and phytonutrients. Sweet potatoes are more nutrient-rich than white potatoes. They can be baked, mashed, baked as fries (slice, toss with a little olive oil and your favorite seasonings, then bake for 30 minutes in a 425-degree oven).

Frozen Fruits and Vegetables

When fresh produce prices are high and money is tight, you can feel great about serving frozen produce to your family. Research shows frozen vegetables (broccoli, green beans, corn, peas, etc.) contain similar levels of vitamin C, fiber, magnesium, and potassium as fresh. Frozen berries and other fruit are also nutritionally similar to fresh. Buy a large bag, use what you need, then keep the remaining produce frozen with a tight seal on the bag.

Canned Fruits and Vegetables

Canned produce can also be convenient, economical and healthful. Canning locks in nutrients at peak freshness. Due to the absence of oxygen during storage, canned fruits and vegetables remain relatively stable and nutritious until they are served. Look for vegetables without salt and fruit canned in 100 percent juice.

Dried Fruit

Dried fruit is another nutrient-rich option when fresh is too expensive. They are rich in vitamin A, several B vitamins, minerals like potassium, and even iron in some cases. Choose brands with no-added sugar and buy in bulk when you can. They are easy to store with no peels to worry about. Dried fruit makes a great on-the-go snack by itself or mixed with nuts and seeds. Dried fruit can also be added to salads, pancake mixes, muffins, rice dishes, and casseroles.

Contact Dianne Gatewood, extension agent, Family and Consumer Sciences, at 253-2610 (Brunswick County) or 798-7663 (New Hanover County) if you have any questions.