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The USDA low cost food plan allows 40 percent of the budget for vegetables and fruits.
The plan calls for 2 – 3.5 cups of vegetables per day per person and 1.5 to 2.5 cups of fruits. The amount depends on the age of the individual.
The USDA plan calls for more vegetables and fruits than what people currently eat. I challenge you to look at your food budget to determine what percent you spend on fruits and vegetables.
Not all of the fruits and vegetables are fresh on the low cost food plan. There is a perception that canned fruits and vegetables are not as good, not as nutritious as fresh and frozen is just a bit better than canned. I’d say that it all depends on how the food was handled fresh. Commercial canners try to move from field to processed in less than four hours. This helps maintain quality more than fruit that has been shipped long distances and held for sale.
Canned or frozen fruit and vegetables do not lose all of the nutritional value when processed.
Compare the price and the number of servings from fresh, canned and frozen forms of the same vegetable or fruit. Canned and frozen items may be less expensive than fresh. Choose canned fruit packed in 100 percent fruit juice and try vegetables with low sodium or no salt added on the label.
An average price survey of U.S. markets showed that the least expensive fresh vegetables were potatoes, lettuce, eggplant, prepared cooking greens, summer squash and carrots.
The least expensive fresh fruits were watermelon, bananas, apples, pears, pineapple and peaches. These were average prices and did not account for seasonal differences in prices nor compare between fresh, frozen and canned.
A healthy choice is to load up on fruits and vegetables that are not fried or prepared with a lot of extra fat, sugar or sauces.
Fruits and vegetables are naturally low in calories. They can help control weight because the fiber content is usually high compared to calories and this gives a sense of fullness, which decreases hunger.
Make half your plate full of fruits and vegetables.
Try this recipe to add some variety to your meals.
2 cups coarsely chopped tomatoes (about 2 medium size tomatoes) or 1 15 oz. can petite diced tomatoes (can use seasoned tomatoes like garlic and onion or tomatoes with green chilis) Drain well.
3/4 cup finely chopped celery
1/4 cup sliced green onions
2 teaspoons basil (may delete if using tomatoes seasoned with basil)
1 15 oz. can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
1 5 oz. can water-packed chunk light tuna, drained and flaked
1/3 cup reduced fat or fat-free ranch or Italian salad dressing
Lettuce leaves (optional)
1 cup low fat croutons (optional)
In large bowl, combine tomatoes, celery, onions, basil, beans, and tuna. Add dressing and toss gently to mix.
Serve immediately or refrigerate until serving time.
Just before serving add croutons, toss gently and serve on lettuce leaves.
Yield: Four servings at 260 calories each with 34 gms. carbohydrates; protein 14 gms., fat 7 gms. cholesterol, 20 mgs., sodium 530 mgs.
I adapted this recipe from one I had in my recipe box for a long time.
The nutritional analysis is approximate because of adapting the recipe and differences between fat-free and low-fat salad dressing.