How to Follow the Dietary Guidelines for Americans without Breaking the Bank
You’ve likely heard about the new 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) that were just released a few weeks ago. Dietary guidelines are reviewed and revised every 5 years according to the latest scientific research and medical knowledge. They were designed to help guide Americans towards proper nutrition in order to live more balanced, healthy lifestyles.
Now that’s great, but what does it really look like when you try to include these recommendations into your day, especially while on a budget?
Firstly, including an abundance of seasonal fruits and vegetables in your diet is important. Keeping a basket on my kitchen counter full of apples, bananas and other seasonal fruit helps my family have access to fresh fruit, particularly eaten as snacks and as an after meal “dessert.” I also purchase fresh vegetables such as carrots and bell peppers weekly and chop them up ahead of time to offer with meals.
When it comes to grains, whole grains should make up at least half of the grains you consume daily, if not more. Looking for packaging with “whole wheat” as the first ingredient is one of the easiest ways to consume an adequate amount of whole grains. I also purchase extra whole wheat bread, hot dog buns, hamburger buns and rolls any time they are on sale and freeze the extras for the following week.
Limiting saturated fat and sodium are two other important recommendations from the DGA. Focusing on protein-rich foods like fat-free or low-fat dairy and leaner cuts of meat is one way to limit saturated fat in your diet.
Consuming fresh foods versus processed foods and not adding table salt to food can also help reduce the sodium in your diet. Experimenting with a variety of seasonings other than salt can not only be fun and help you and your family explore new flavors, but it can also help reduce your desire to add salt to your food.
Lastly, limiting added sugars and alcohol is recommended. Added sugars can be found in beverages and foods such as soft drinks, fruit drinks, candy and cookies. Purposely not purchasing these foods can help reduce the amount you and your family consume while also helping to keep your budget in check.
One useful strategy is to save these added sugar beverages and foods, along with alcohol, for special occasions. This allows you to still enjoy the occasional sweet and beverage without negatively affecting your health.
Below you’ll find additional budget-friendly tips along with a one-day sample menu that shows how to easily fit nutritious foods into a budget-friendly meal plan.
Budget friendly tips
- Buy low-fat or fat-free yogurt in bulk (32 ounce) containers versus the individual sizes.
- Choose block cheese versus pre-shredded cheese.
- Purchase larger containers (gallon vs. half gallon) of low-fat or fat-free milk and look for ways to incorporate the milk into recipes if you and your family don’t consume a gallon per week.
- When it comes to meat and poultry, buy in bulk and look for discounts on them with close sell-by dates.
- Buy non-perishables in large quantities when on sale.
- Check the price per ounce (usually next to the price tag on the shelf) to compare brands – the larger the container size does not always mean a better deal.
- Buy produce in season.
- Plan meals for the entire week so you can see when to serve leftovers and this way you’ll be less likely to waste food.
- Focus on consuming appropriate portion sizes.
- Check the frozen aisle for vegetables and compare them to fresh vegetables prices.
One-Day Sample Meal Plan
A glass of fat-free or low-fat milk
Oatmeal made with fat-free or low-fat milk
Turkey and 2% sharp cheddar cheese wrap (whole wheat tortilla)
Baby carrots and hummus
Fat free yogurt with berries
Cheese stick or nuts
Whole wheat crackers or roll
As you can see it’s fairly simple to consume budget-friendly meals and snacks, including nutritious dairy choices , all while following the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.