Connie’s Healthy Eating Blog
Connie answers nutrition questions from @TruthOnHealth twitter fans
Q. What are some tips for kids from low income families in areas with limited options such as corner stores? – @CardinalsPlay60
A. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), 23.5 million Americans live in “food deserts,” which are defined as urban neighborhoods and rural towns without ready access to fresh, healthy and affordable food. Instead of grocery stores, these communities rely on convenience stores or fast food restaurants that offer few healthy, affordable food options. This is one reason that obesity and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease are more prevalent in low income communities.
There is hope for these communities due to grants and also the actions of local nonprofit organizations who are working to open access to supermarkets, farmer’s markets and foster the development of community gardens. For more information on grants and success stories, visit this site.
Families faced with these obstacles can partially offset the lack of readily available fresh food by stocking up on budget-friendly nutritious staple foods. Below are some tips for families living in food deserts.
Growing fresh produce in containers or a plot is one way to add inexpensive, organic produce to your diet. Your local cooperative extension agency is a great resource and master gardeners can often assist consumers in getting started with gardening.
Low cost fresh vegetables that have a long shelf life include carrots and potatoes. Carrots are a great source of beta-carotene and fiber and one of the most affordable nutrient-rich vegetables. Fresh potatoes are an important source of potassium, vitamin C and many other nutrients.
Apples, oranges and dried fruit also have longer shelf lives and are healthy options for including more fruit in the diet.
Frozen vegetables and fruits have the same (or even higher) nutrient levels as fresh produce. So when families have the opportunity to stock up at a supermarket, they can purchase frozen foods, which will also cut down on spoilage and waste. Canned foods are another nutritious option, especially the varieties that do not have excessive salt or sugar added.
A true “super food,” dried beans are underrated and under-utilized. In fact, beans are such a nutrient powerhouse, they are recognized in two food groups – vegetables and protein. Besides being rich in protein, fiber, iron, potassium and a whole host of nutrients, they are extremely affordable and versatile.
At around ten cents per serving when purchased in a canister, oatmeal is a nutritious, high fiber whole grain that makes an ideal breakfast, especially when combined with low-fat milk and dried or frozen fruit.
Q. Is it ok to add butter or light cheese sauce on veggies if you child likes them this way? I’m thinking yes…? – Maryanne N. @MNicoTarm
A. My advice is to use a small amount of fat to enhance the taste of nutrient-rich foods such as whole grains and vegetables. Fat provides essential nutrients and is an important source of calories for growing children. I prefer heart-healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado, fatty fish, nuts and seeds. But even small amounts of butter, cheese and other saturated fats are acceptable if used in moderation. Day-to-day food decisions are ultimately determined by our taste buds. So I agree with you that enticing children to enjoy vegetables by adding small amounts of fat or oil is an acceptable practice in most cases.