Friday, March 6, 2015

Bang for your buck: Nutritionist shares how to shop inexpensively without compromising nutrition

KANSAS CITY, KAN. — A new shopping trend for saving money on your groceries could be costing your health, says a Kansas State University nutritionist.

"One of the trends we have seen a lot of recently are more dollar stores or general stores, particularly in low-income areas," said Sandy Procter, assistant professor of human nutrition. "In the past, consumers shopped at these stores for inexpensive household products, but more recently we've seen an increase in shoppers buying grocery items from them."

While these types of stores provide more access to food for those in lower-income areas who may not have transportation to other shops,

Procter says many of these stores don’t offer the most nutritious foods. The selection often consists of processed and packaged food. But she says you can walk out the door with healthy food with a little bit of planning.

Procter's tips:

• First, make a list. A list keeps you from making impulsive buys for dinner, like a packaged meal, which often contain higher amounts of sodium than recommended, she said.

• Check the labels on food products you want to buy. "Look to see if the canned fruit is packed in its own juice or packed in light syrup," Procter said. "They are more healthful choices than something that's packed in heavy syrup. You also can compare kid-friendly cereals to find the healthiest option. If the first ingredient listed on the label is whole grain, it is a more nutritious choice than those with white flour."

• Learn some cooking skills. By using a slow cooker or pressure cooker to prepare your food, you can buy low-priced cuts of meat and still enjoy a tasty meal. "Buying the ingredients and using a few cooking skills allows us to make more healthful choices," Procter said. "Rather than eating packaged meals that contain the amount of salt the manufacturer chose to include, you can season the food your own way and reduce the salt intake, making a delicious and nutritious meal.

• Finally, don't shop in bulk just because you can get a good deal. Procter says it's only a good buy if you have the storage to accommodate the food and can eat it before it spoils.