By Kathleen Wolf, PHd, RD
In today’s economy, household finances are tight and sticking to a budget is essential. Successful athletes still require healthy meals and snacks to fuel their bodies. How can you get the most nutrients for the best price? Here are some tips to help stretch your food dollar.
Eat “out” less and “in” more
Prepare more food at home. Keep a selection of staples in your cupboard/pantry (tuna, dry or canned beans, peanut butter, brown rice, whole grain pasta, canned tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, canned fruits/vegetables and soups) so that you can easily prepare a meal or snack without going to the store. Take food with you to eat before/after swim practice and school. Avoid the temptation to rely on restaurants, fast food chains and convenience stores. The selection may not be as healthy and your food dollars will run out.
Plan your meals/snacks in advance. Use a shopping list and compare prices. Most store brands cost less than name brands but provide the same ingredients and nutrients. Budget more to fruits & vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meats. These foods provide more nutrients for your money. Spend less on empty calorie foods such as sweets, salty snacks and soft drinks.
Buy fresh fruits and vegetables when in season. The quality is higher and the price is right. Try shopping at a farmer’s market to find local produce at a reasonable price. Buy frozen or canned fruits and vegetables when out of season.
Eliminate energy bars & beverages
Energy bars and beverages may be convenient. However, they are expensive and can easily be exchanged for real food. Replace these items with fruits & vegetables, fig bars, bagels, granola, nuts, low-fat dairy products or a PB&J sandwich.
Drink more water
Eliminate soft drinks, energy drinks, sugar-sweetened beverages and specialty coffee/tea products from your lifestyle. Sports drinks should be reserved for events lasting longer than 60 minutes. Depending on your local water, refill your sports bottle with tap water to stay hydrated throughout the day.
Kathleen Woolf, PhD, RD is a registered dietitian and a member of the American Dietetic Association, the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group, and the American College of Sports Medicine.