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Healthy Food Choices for Budget-Conscious Seniors

Paper bag filled with groceries and banknotes

Eating well as you age is important on so many levels. Many chronic health conditions that plague older Americans, including heart disease, diabetes, joint pain, cancer, and even digestive problems, are the result of poor eating habits and excess weight. The National Institute on Aging’s article Eating Well As You Get Older delves into the many health benefits of healthy eating and the benefits it offers to aging seniors. So how can you balance the need for quick, affordable meals while making sure you are eating nutritious, balanced food that can give you the energy you need to be active and healthy? With a little planning ahead you can save money and time, both at the grocery store and hopefully on future doctor’s visits!

Why do so many Americans turn to fast food? It’s convenient, it’s cheap and you probably think it tastes good. The problem is that fast food is often packed with unhealthy fats, sodium, and sugar while it lacks fiber, antioxidants, healthy fats, and whole grains. So how can you make cooking at home more appealing and affordable? Write out your meals for the week, making note of which ones use the same ingredients. A store-bought rotisserie chicken can be used for tonight’s salad and tomorrow’s chicken fajitas It’s ok to make your favorite fast foods at home—just make healthy substitutions like baked (frozen) sweet potato fries, turkey or veggie burgers instead of beef, chicken sausage instead of pork, whole wheat buns instead of white, etc. Plan on at least two “leftovers for dinner” nights or bring leftovers in to work for lunch. Frozen fruits and veggies are often cheaper than fresh and can be steamed in minutes, don’t require the chopping and cleaning, and are great in smoothies for a quick breakfast. Buying frozen also means you don’t have to worry about wasting money on produce that goes bad before you have a chance to eat it. Apples and bananas are great to have on hand all the time—top either with some peanut butter for a quick breakfast or snack. Check out Choosemyplate.gov’s Steps to Healthy, Economical Meals for more tips and recipes to make cooking at home easier and more affordable.

It is a great idea to peruse your favorite grocery store’s weekly ads, but don’t fall into the trap of buying something just because it’s on sale. Don’t go to the grocery store when you’re hungry as you will be more likely to stray from your list. Another trick that healthy shoppers use—stick to the outside perimeter of the store and avoid the middle aisles as these typically contain the more processed, less healthy food choices. Aim for small changes (eat out two less times per week, try one new recipe a week) rather than trying to overhaul your entire eating habits at once—and you’ll be on your way to a healthier, budget-conscious lifestyle!

 

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