Healthy Foods for Nutrition Month

Guest blog by Cara Rosenbloom, RD

March is Nutrition Month, and this year’s theme from Dietitians of Canada is to Unlock the Potential of Food. All month long, dietitians will be helping Canadians discover food’s potential to fuel, discover, prevent, heal and bring us together. You can learn more at

Given this wonderful theme of unlocking food’s potential, I was wondering how I could help people with low income get the most out of their food dollar. Which affordable foods are the best for disease prevention and feeling your best? Which will help unlock the power of food? Here’s what I learned:

The Power of Food

Did you know that the foods we eat can help prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease? A nutritious diet keeps us feeling well for longer. And meals don’t need to be made up of fancy or costly foods!

The eating patterns that have been the most researched for their health benefits include the Mediterranean, DASH and MIND diets. The foods that are recommended on these patterns can help prevent type 2 diabetes, heart disease, stroke, dementia and some types of cancer.

Here’s a list of the foods that are common to these diets, and how to find affordable versions. Many of these items are also common to food banks, and may already be part their hampers!   

Nutritious Foods: What To Look For:
Vegetables and fruit Any fresh, frozen or canned vegetable. The best prices are on bananas, cabbage, sweet potatoes, onion, carrots, beets, kale and canned tomatoes. Also look for hearty canned vegetable soups and chili. 
Whole grains The most affordable grains are oats, rice, barley and pasta.
Legumes like beans and lentils Dried beans and lentils cost less than canned. You can also find beans in the freezer section for about $2/2 cups. Look for canned bean chili too. 
Nuts and seeds Nuts are expensive, but seeds are much more affordable. Look for sunflower or pumpkin seeds, which cost ¼ of nuts. Or, opt for peanut butter.  
Milk, cheese and yogurt Skim milk powder, evaporated milk or tubs of yogurt (rather than single-serve containers) are best bets.
Fish, seafood and poultry Canned tuna, salmon and chicken – choose what’s on sale.
Healthy oils like canola and olive oil Choose the lowest cost oil or whatever is on sale.

These nourishing foods form the diet for disease prevention. Notice what’s missing from these eating patterns?  Foods that are high in sugar, salt and trans fat, like cake, chips and soda. Spend your money on nourishing foods instead of on ultra-processed foods when possible.

Cooking Using These Ingredients

If cooking is already a passion, try one of these recipes that feature healthy ingredients at a cost of just $4 per day:

Sometimes, the stumbling block to eating well is not knowing how to cook with these healthy ingredients. If you’re not sure what to do with these foods, see if your local community centre offers free cooking classes. Some also have community kitchens, where people come together to share inexpensive meals, recipes and ideas. There’s so much to learn from just one class!

Don’t forget, anyone can visit a grocery store and ask the in-store dietitian for cooking tips. That’s what they are in stores for!

Stayed tuned during Nutrition Month for another blog focusing on nutritious food items that you can donate to your local food bank!

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