One question I hear over and over again when talking to people about eating fewer processed foods is “How do I start?” It got me thinking back to how I started changing my families eating habits, how overwhelming it seemed, and what small first steps I took. The result is this three-part series of posts about three simple things you can do to start eating healthier.
GOAL: Increase the amount of produce in your shopping cart by using the money saved from buying fewer snacks and soft drinks.
WHY: The obvious answer is because eating more fruits and veggies is healthier. But also because fruits and veggies are more filling than snack foods, sodas, or juices and eating more of the good stuff creates a habit that, hopefully, your kids will find hard to break when they are on their own.
My kids got in the habit of expecting fruit or veggies with every snack or meal. Once they even”tricked” me into giving them dessert by asking for apples. “Ha ha! The apples are dessert!” Oh, yes, they got me with that one.
HOW: The way you approach this one depends on how you handle your grocery budget. Some people follow a loose budget and some people count up every penny.
My approach was to remove any budget restrictions on produce. It became the one grocery store department where I bought whatever I wanted without looking at price – with one caveat: if I bought it, we had to eat it.
The result: Because I freed myself from thinking too much about cost, I bought whatever produce looked tasty and interesting. Because I bought it, we had to eat it or it went to waste. Because we had to eat it, I served more fruits and veg with every meal and snack. Because we ate more fruits and veg, we were more satisfied and less likely to munch on snack foods in between meals. And because we ate less snack foods, I could buy less snack foods and more produce.
If the no-budget plan doesn’t work for you, here are some easy substitutions to help you get started.
$3.99 = 17 oz bag of Doritos OR 2 lb bag of carrots
$3.99 = 6 pack of Gatorade OR ~6 bananas
$3.00 = 64 oz bottle of apple juice OR ~5 apples
$1.33 = 2 liter bottle of Diet Coke OR 1 bunch of celery
$8.49 = 33.5 oz box of Goldfish OR a box of clementines
$3.50 = 11oz bag of Lay’s Potato Chips OR ~1 lb of grapes.
$2.29 = 12 Pop-Tarts OR a container of strawberries (in season)
$2.00 = 10 Fruit Roll Ups OR 1 cantaloupe
(Price Source: Peapod.com and my grocery store receipt)
You get the idea. Start substituting one or two of these things each week and you’ll see how you can shift your budget. If you have older kids, you might be buying a few bags of chips or bottles of soda/juice/etc. every week. You can switch one or two out for easy to eat fruits like apples or clementines and not see a huge impact on your budget.
THE BOTTOM LINE: I’m not going to say it’s easy (it’s not), or that produce isn’t expensive (it is), but by substituting produce for some of the snack foods and soft drinks on your list you can up your family’s consumption of fruits and veggies without blowing your budget.
Remember: I’m not a health or medical professional and this is not meant to be medical advice. Speak to your physician if you have questions about diet and nutrition.