Healthy and low-cost? It can be done

Published 7:16 pm Wednesday, July 8, 2009

By By Carolyn Bivins
Extension agent

As food prices sky rocket, people are either eating too much or not eating at all. According to Jane Weaver, health editor for, some nutrition experts are worried that tough times will make Americans heavier than ever as they turn to low-cost, high-calorie, high-comfort, high-fat foods.
Alabama was named the third most obese state in America in the fifth annual “F as in Fat: How Obesity Policies Are Failing in America, 2008” report from the Trust for America’s Health and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. Alabama’s adult obesity rate is 30.1 percent.
So how can we eat healthy on a tight budget and not become overweight or obese?
You have to shop smart and plan ahead. Many people think that you can only get protein from lean cuts of meat, such as beef, chicken and fish.
But you can use meat substitutes, such as dried beans and peas, eggs and peanut butter.
Who says you have to eat breakfast food in the morning? You can eat cereal or other breakfast foods for dinner. It is a good alternative to eating meat and potatoes for dinner.
When everything is so expensive, people buy cheaper food and do not think about eating healthfully. Check store specials, coupons and seasonal items. Also, compare prices at different supermarkets that are fairly close together. Stores usual compete with each other.
Cook more at home instead of going out to restaurants. Most restaurants will have a combination of things going on. The dollar menus are being pushed. There’s also the possibility that restaurants will serve smaller portions instead of raising prices. This is a good thing if you are watching your calorie intake. The problem with dollar menus is they tend to be filled with fried or high-sodium items.
Sometimes restaurants give you a large portion of food. If that is the case, ask for a carry out box as soon as you get your meal . Divide the meal in half and eat half now and half later.
During the spring and summer months, buy locally grown fruits and veggies. It’s better for your health, and oftentimes less expensive than buying the same products at a grocery store. Some farmers’ market vendors may have end-of-day sales.
Carolyn F. Bivins is regional extension agent for human nutrition, diet and health .