For National Nutrition Month this March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is focused on the theme “Go Further With Food,” an idea with several meanings. One is to choose foods that will help maintain your energy for longer periods of time. Another is to buy only food you plan to use within a certain timeframe to reduce food waste. These concepts can help you eat more nutritiously and save money.
The key is to plan. By taking the time to plan out your weekly meals and snacks, you can make a concise list for your grocery shopping each week, cutting food waste, shrinking your budget, and trimming some extra calories as well. Studies have shown that people who go to the grocery store with a specific list and stick to it spend less money and buy more healthful foods.
Having more nutritious food choices at home, in turn, will help you make healthier meal and snack choices throughout the week. Before heading to the grocery store, consider the foods you already have at home and try to incorporate anything that needs to be eaten soon in your short-term plan.
Beware of bulk
Buying in bulk can save money, but be careful when it comes to food, especially perishable items. If you end up throwing away a portion of what you bought, are you really saving? Plus, having excess food in the house may make you more likely to overeat. In short, choose what to buy in bulk wisely, so that both your wallet and your waistline benefit in the long run.
Part of your weekly meal planning should be to consider portion sizes. For example, did you know that for a healthy meal the recommended portion size for a piece of chicken or beef is 3 ounces? That’s about the size of a deck of cards. Portion sizes in the U.S. have significantly increased over the past 20 years, and research shows that people eat more when they’re given larger portions.
In addition to helping you maintain a healthy weight, saving some of an oversized piece of chicken breast from dinner will give you leftovers for another meal, cutting food-prep time during your busy week.
Another planning focus should be incorporating items from all food groups at nearly every meal. The goal per the USDA’s dietary guidelines: Fill up half of your plate with produce, one quarter with whole grains, and one quarter with lean protein.
Trim your waste
The USDA estimated that in 2010 food loss and waste at the retail and consumer levels was 31 percent of the food supply, amounting to $162 billion lost. By planning your meals, buying only what you need, and taking into account what you already have at home, you’ll be doing your part to reduce food waste.
Choosing the right foods—a good mix of lean proteins, fruits and vegetables—will help you have energy throughout your day. Planning meals and snacks will help you make better food choices, stick to a budget, and reduce food waste. Together, all of these elements will help you go further with food!