Fruits and vegetables: Not as pricey as you think
MO Dept. of Health & Senior Services
Nutrition & Health Education Specialist
Americans consume only half the recommended two to six cups of fruits and vegetables a day. People may avoid them because they think produce is too expensive, difficult and time consuming to prepare and spoils quickly. Fruits and vegetables are actually good buys.
They contain many vitamins and minerals we need more of, like vitamins A and C. Foods that often replace fruits and vegetables, like chips and cookies, contain nutrients we need much less of, like fat and salt. Chips and soda aren’t cheap either. Recently, at one St. Charles grocery store, a serving of potato chips was 21 cents while a banana was only 15 cents. At another store, a serving of cookies cost 21 cents and an apple 17 cents.
A governmental study agrees that consumers can get the recommended three servings of fruits and four servings of vegetables for only 64 cents a day. That is a lot of good-tasting nutrition for just 64 cents, a slim 225 calories and less than one gram of fat. More than half of common fruits and vegetables cost under 25 cents a serving, about half the price of a candy bar.
Are fresh fruits and vegetables more expensive than processed? Definitely not. According to the same study, more than half of common fruits and vegetables are less expensive in their fresh form. However, fresh fruits and vegetables will spoil more quickly than their canned or frozen counterparts, so consider these solutions:
Plan menus so you have a clear idea when you will use the fresh produce you buy.
If you shop once a week or less often, buy both fresh and canned or frozen fruits, vegetables, and juices. Use the fresh first; save the processed items for use later in the week.
Buy both ripe and not-so-ripe fresh fruits and vegetables (such as yellow and green bananas) so that the not-so-ripe items will last a few days longer and be ready to eat after you’ve finished the ripe ones.
Fruits and vegetables are the
original “fast food” because many can be eaten with minimal preparation. Be sure
to rinse off all fresh produce
before eating to remove any surface dirt or bacteria. Try replacing less-healthful snacks with these quick, inexpensive nutrient-rich snacks some of the time.
Raw vegetables (such as celery,
carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, green beans, cucumbers, mushrooms, or
zucchini) with low-fat ranch dressing, dip, cheese, or peanut butter instead
of chips and dip.
Fruit (such as apples, grapes, pears
and berries) with low-fat yogurt rather than candy.
Low-fat quick breads and muffins
(such as pumpkin, zucchini, banana or bran) in place of high-fat cookies.
No-sugar-added cereals or snack
mixes made with popcorn, whole-grain cereal, raisins, and nuts, instead of
Shakes and smoothies with low-fat
milk or yogurt and fruit, rather than soft drinks or flavored coffee
100-percent fruit juice, instead of
soft drinks or sugared sports drinks.
Make fruits and vegetables part of your meals and snacks every day; save candy, chips and soft drinks for an occasional treat. Both your health and your food budget will benefit.
For additional information, contact St. Charles County Extension office at 636-970-3000 or your local county Extension office