Nutritional Disorders Telehealth Network Project

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Nutrition Education for Limited Budgets

Background Education for Providers
Obesity disproportionately affects families who are low-income. Many of these families, who are on a limited food budget or receive government assistance to purchase food, lack the knowledge of how to buy and prepare a low-cost, healthy diet. When grocery shopping, it is often easier and cheaper to buy foods that are high in sugar, salt, and fat. In addition, in some areas, it may be more difficult to find healthier food options. The perceived high-cost of healthy food and the lack of access is a barrier for many of these families, resulting in poor food choices. This leads to the issue of not enough good-quality, nutritious foods to provide adequate nutrition, and it can often lead to macro/micro nutrient deficiencies and weight gain.
Instructions for Provider
Providing nutritional education and helping families plan for food shopping and making healthy choices can provide them with the knowledge they need to make better choices for their families.
  • Tips for Planning:
    • Set a budget
    • Make a list – and stick to it.
    • Cut coupons
    • Plan your meals ahead of time and buy only the amounts you need to feed your family
      • Options for finding healthy low-cost recipes are or the USDA Recipe Finder Database
  • Tips for Shopping:
    • Compare prices
    • Buy store brands
    • Read labels
    • Buy seasonal fruit and vegetables
    • Shop farmer’s markets – many accept food stamps and WIC provides supplemental income to shop locally
    • Compare the cost of fresh, frozen, and canned vegetables (low-sodium)
    • Ask the bakery to purchase day-old bread
    • Buy store-brand whole-grain breads/cereals
    • Avoid buying instant grains – try regular oatmeal and whole-grain rice
    • Buy brown rice or whole grain tortillas for extra fiber
    • Buy whole chickens and trim them of fat and skin
    • Beans are a nutritious alternative to meet and are high in protein and fiber
    • Choose Skim or 1% milk
    • When possible, buy food in bulk that can be stored for long periods of time – it may cost more up-front, but it will be cheaper in the long run and last the family longer
    • Buy only what perishable foods you will use to prevent waste
  • Tips for Cooking and Storing;
    • Store food properly to ensure it will not spoil and go to waste
    • Cook with non-stick cook spray rather than butter or oil
    • Choose healthy, low-fat recipes
    • Get everyone involved in making the meal
    • Use leftovers to make new meals
In addition to providing families with these simple ideas, nutritional education is available to low-income families through WIC and the University of Wisconsin Extension Nutrition Education Program. These services are provided at no cost to families, and they can be easily referred.
© 2015 Medical College of Wisconsin
Page Updated 04/15/2014