JAMESTOWN, NEW YORK (March 9, 2021) Eating healthy, two words that tend to have a strong connotation to expensive food. Afterall, numerous blogs and articles tell us that organic food is the only way to go, which is unrealistic and expensive. The fact is, that with careful planning and a little bit of knowledge, most people can afford to eat heathy.
Today it is especially crucial to eat the right foods. Our bodies depend on nutrient dense foods to maintain proper health, and our immune system is just one of the many functions that make it possible for us to survive. According to the article, “Nutrition and Immunity” from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nutrition-and-immunity/, some of the nutrients that we need to maintain a strong immune system include vitamins C and D, zinc, selenium, iron and protein. If we aren’t eating whole foods, we likely aren’t getting these nutrients which potentially makes us more susceptible to diseases like COVID or cause severe outcomes from such infections.
A diet rich in whole foods will provide the majority of the nutrients essential to keeping our immune system functioning well. Each day, we should eat 1-3 cups of vegetables, 1-2 cups of fruit, 3 to 8 - ounce equivalents of grains (at least half being whole grains) 2 to 6 ½ - ounce equivalents of protein and 1 ½ - 3 cups of dairy. All of these amounts depend on age and level of daily activity. See https://www.myplate.gov/ for more information on these numbers.
There are many ways to afford eating healthy. Buy fruits and veggies when they are in season, or stock up on canned and frozen versions when they are on sale. Canned produce is a good option and, in some cases, the most affordable one. Pineapple is an example of a food that is generally more affordable canned, especially when we factor in the waste leftover from a fresh pineapple.
Buy less expensive cuts of meat and marinate or slow cook to make them tender. Use meat sparingly in soups, stews, casseroles or salads. Hamburger used in spaghetti sauce or chili will go much further than making hamburger patties for a family. Try using more plant-based proteins like beans and lentils. They are inexpensive, and full of fiber and other various nutrients. While dried beans are the least expensive option, canned beans are also very affordable and easy to use. Dry lentils cook quickly and take on the flavor of whatever they are cooked in. Don’t forget that nuts and seeds count as a nutrient dense, protein food.
Grains are essential, but keep in mind that an average bagel actually equals 4 – ounce equivalents. It is also important to incorporate as many whole grains as possible. Try mixing brown rice with white. Wild rice has a chewier texture and nutty flavor. Either one will be more filling than white rice alone. When buying whole grain foods, look for the word “whole” before any grains in the ingredients list. Also, the grains should be at the top of the list. Looking at the fiber content is another good way to know if you’re buying a whole grain food.
The key to making successful change is to start small. Add one extra serving of veggies each day. Once that becomes easier to do, try different types of grains either as a side dish, in bread, or for breakfast. Each time you add another whole food to your diet, you are adding nutrients that will help keep you healthier.
Try making a veggie pizza
Roasted Veggie Pizza
1 small eggplant (or 1/2 large), sliced thinly
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 small white or yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 cup mushrooms (I used baby portobello), chopped
olive oil for roasting veggies
1/3 cup pizza sauce (homemade or store-bought)
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
Pizza crust of your choice
Preheat oven to 375°F (191°C). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Toss veggies with olive oil in large bowl, then spread them, in a single layer, on the baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast until they are browned to your liking, about 20 minutes.
Remove roasted veggies from the oven and set them aside.
Preheat oven to 475°F (246°C)). Top the crust with pizza sauce, then the shredded mozzarella, then all of your roasted vegetables. Bake for 15 minutes.
Slice and serve immediately. Store leftover pizza covered tightly in the refrigerator and reheat as you prefer. Baked pizza slices may be frozen up to 1 month.
The EFNEP Program is one of many programs offered by Cornell Cooperative Extension of Chautauqua County (CCE-Chautauqua). CCE-Chautauqua is a subordinate governmental agency with an educational mission that operates under a form of organization and administration approved by Cornell University as agent for the State of New York. It is tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. The association is part of the national cooperative extension system, an educational partnership between County, State, and Federal governments. As New York’s land grant university Cornell administers the system in this state. Each Cornell Cooperative Extension association is an independent employer that is governed by an elected Board of Directors with general oversight from Cornell. All associations work to meet the needs of the counties in which they are located as well as state and national goals. For more information, call 716-664-9502 or visit our website at www.cce.cornell.edu/chautauqua. Cornell University Cooperative Extension provides equal program and employment opportunities.
Last updated March 9, 2021