Eat Cheap & Healthy For Youth Sports
As a sport parent, it’s always a challenge to fuel your child with healthy meals while also not breaking the bank. Thankfully, there are many ways to overcome this economic obstacle and provide healthy eating for youth athletes even on a budget.
These 10 tips in particular will help your shopping dollar go further so your athlete can eat to play and feel their best.
- Plan menus and make a list: Plan out your meals before going to the store and write a shopping list that corresponds with the store aisles. Look for menu plans and recipe ideas on your supermarket’s website.
- Use coupons and rewards cards: Clipping coupons or printing them online can save you 10-15% on your grocery bill. Also consider joining your supermarket’s shopper’s club.
- Buy store brands: Private label brands are 15-20% less expensive than their national brand counterparts, and the quality of the food is often equal.
- Buy on sale and in bulk: Cruise the aisle for sales on shelf-stable items or products you use regularly. Buy larger quantities only if you have proper storage space and will use the food before it spoils.
- Compare unit prices: Use the “unit price” (price per pound, ounce, or pint) on a shelf tag to compare national brands with store brands, or bulk and economy-sizes with single-serve or regular-size packages.
- Read food labels: Compare nutrients using the % Daily Value on a foods’ Nutrition Facts label. Five percent or less is low—try to aim low in trans fat, cholesterol, and sodium. Twenty percent or more is high—try to aim high in fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
- Shop the perimeter: Fresh produce, meats, dairy, and breads tend to be on the outer perimeter of supermarkets. Start there before hitting the inner aisles for other necessities.
- Shop seasonally: Fresh produce often costs less when it’s in season. Visit a local farmer’s market or join a produce club to take advantage of seasonal fruits and vegetables. For produce not in season, frozen and canned fruits and vegetables (with little or no added salt or sugar) are a nutritious option.
- Keep foods safe and prevent food waste: Use dating information (“sell by” and “best used by”) to select the freshest foods at the market. Put cold and frozen foods in your shopping cart last and store them right away in the refrigerator and freezer once you’re home, with the oldest “sell by” dates to be used first.
- Pay attention at the check-out: Make sure prices ring up as advertised or as indicated on the shelf label, especially for sale items.
Grocery Store Food Groups 101
All food groups aren’t created equal, especially when it comes to shopping. Keep these pointers in mind about each:
- Produce: Seasonal produce usually offers the best value for your money. However, if not in season, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables may be more economical.
- Grains: Count on whole-grain breads, cereals, pastas and other grain products to add variety to your meals at a low cost. Buy in bulk when possible and cook them yourself rather than buying quick-cooking or pre-seasoned varieties.
- Dairy: Look for special sale promotions for milk, cheese, and yogurt. Avoid purchasing more than you can use by the expiration date.
- Protein: Calculate cost per serving, not cost per pound, when buying meat, poultry, eggs, and fish. Eggs, chicken, and turkey are usually your most economical choices. Also consider alternative sources of protein like beans, peas, peanut butter, and nuts.
Material revised from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, January 2013, www.eatright.org.