In recent weeks, I turned my focus to limit my grocery shopping to comply with social distancing directives.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything including the way we grocery shop. When everything seems uncertain, everything that is important comes into focus.
I put on my nutritional lens to find grocery items that fit the following criteria:
The items had to be relatively inexpensive, widely available, and shelf-stable.
Grocery items that are filling and tasty with wholesome nutrition.
Today, I am sharing with you grocery items that are affordable and healthy.
By necessity, with limited access to my usual farmer’s market, I’ve become more flexible, expanding my repertoire for foods that are available even if I felt uncomfortable with canned items in the past.
Here are a few of the best grocery deals that put nutrition on our plates, without sacrificing health or taste for our budgets.
Carrots are a unique fridge item because of the many ways they can be used. They can be eaten raw as a quick snack, used into a variety of dips, or cooked in a myriad of ways. Carrots are the perfect addition to lunches because this root veggie can stay fresh longer.
Many people buy only baby carrots, which are snack size and already washed. Whole, unwashed carrots are much cheaper, so don’t ignore them plus you get the added benefits of the carrot green tops to make into a pesto. All varieties of carrots contain valuable amounts of antioxidant nutrients.
If you prefer your carrots cooked its best to do a quick steaming method to retain the six different minerals potassium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, magnesium, and calcium found in carrots.
Potatoes are sometimes villainized due to their being starchy and without color. But compared to white flour, with which they are sometimes lumped, they are way richer in micronutrients, and much more filling.
White potatoes tend to be more available when supermarkets are running low on produce. Potatoes are a very good source of vitamin B6 and a good source of potassium.
Vitamin B6 is necessary for the breakdown of glycogen, the form in which sugar is stored in our muscle cells and liver. This vitamin is a key player in athletic performance and endurance. Once cooled potatoes offer resistant starch, helping feed the friendly bacteria in your gut and increasing the production of short-chain fatty acids like butyrate that supports digestive health.
The potato skin is a concentrated source of dietary fiber, so to get the most nutritional value from this vegetable, don’t peel it and consume both the flesh and the skin.
Fresh berries can be expensive, but frozen berries are picked at their peak freshness, affordable and won’t go bad if you forget to eat them.
They’re a mainstay of delicious smoothies, or they can be combined with oatmeal to make a crisp, or with yogurt to make for a quick and satisfying treat. Part of what provides berries with their spectacular flavors, aromas, and colors is their unique combination of phytonutrients and flavonoids.
Having trouble remembering that ballet you learned last year? Flavonoid-rich foods like blueberries have been shown to enhance spatial memory. Blueberries also rank as a good source of fiber, providing about 3.5 grams per fresh cup. When you combine their low glycemic value with their ability to provide us with a good amount of fiber, it should not be surprising that blueberries might help us improve our blood sugar regulation, even though they have enough sweetness to feel like a delicious treat.
As one of the most healthy and inexpensive sources of protein and iron on the planet, lentils are a legitimate superfood and are the perfect ingredient to warm your heart and soul.
Lentils come in many varieties and can be used interchangeably very rapidly and are quite useful for a time-pressed athlete. Unlike other legumes, lentils don’t need to be soaked for hours before cooking. Lentils are packed with protein, iron, and B vitamins; all key nutrients for athletic performance and recovery. Lentils are also high in fiber and can help with satiety (fullness). This may influence sensible portions at mealtimes and less mindless munching between meals. They’re good for the environment, easy to find and very inexpensive. Great for salads and sides, lentils also can be used for soups and stews (especially if overcooked accidentally).
In addition to providing slow-burning complex carbohydrates, lentils can increase your energy by replenishing your iron stores. Lentils are also a good source of iron, which transports oxygen throughout your body and is key to energy production and metabolism for dancers.
Store lentils in an airtight container in a cool, dry, and dark place. Stored this way, they will keep for up to 12 months. Lentils can be prepared on the day of serving since they do not need to be presoaked. Before washing lentils you should spread them out on a light-colored plate or cooking surface to check for, and remove, small stones or debris.
To boil lentils, use three cups of liquid for each cup of lentils. Lentils placed in already boiling water will be easier to digest than those that were brought to a boil with the water. When the water returns to a boil, turn down the heat to simmer and cover. Green lentils usually take 30 minutes, while red ones require 20 minutes. This is a black beluga lentil pictured in this recipe that takes a short amount of time and keeps its shape and consistency for salads.
Pastured Raised Eggs
Eggs are typically seen as an inexpensive source of protein. A dollar per two eggs my seem expensive but that is relatively a good compared to other animal protein sources, and eggs are a nutritional powerhouse.
Compared to non-pastured eggs, pastured eggs are higher in omega-3s and fat-soluble vitamins. Eggs contain especially high levels of choline, an essential nutrient with a variety of health benefits.
Choline supports muscle performance during exercise, and it can improve stamina. Choline supports communication with muscle fibers and promotes muscle recovery following repetitive motion, so overall training output is improved.
For athletes and other physically active individuals, choline promotes and regulates proper metabolism for increased energy and endurance. Choline aids in maintaining the nervous system, which also delays the onset of fatigue during strenuous activity.
They’re also good sources of B vitamins, highly-bioavailable vitamin A and selenium. Nutrients are concentrated in the yolk, so don’t expect to be able to throw away the yolk (maybe because you fear it will raise your cholesterol) and still obtain all those benefits.
Perhaps the most appealing feature of eggs is their versatility. Eggs can be hard-boiled then stored as a protein-rich snack. They can also be part of a wide variety of dishes such as quiche, omelets, and scrambles.
Food for Life
My passion as a nutritionist is to think about the nutrient content of food and the benefits of its healing qualities. Usually, most of us just want good food to eat that tastes great! This dish delivers both nutritional values without sacrificing flavor. Go ahead, indulge your taste buds, and nourish yourself during these challenging times.
This post was created for the Los Angelos Dance Project and its community of dancers, patrons, and artists.
Please consider donating to your local food banks during the Coronavirus Pandemic.