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The Nutrition Crunch

If gas prices have already got you down, then brace yourself for this: Grocery prices in the United States have increased by about 5% in the last year, the largest increase in 17 years.

And it’s not going to get any better any time soon. Experts say necessary items like eggs, milk, wheat and corn have jumped even higher and the forecast for 2008 shows prices may increase an additional 7.5%.

But don’t think eating healthy on a budget is impossible. There are a few key items you can toss into your cart at the supermarket to help you save money, according to Monica Reinagel, NutritionData’s chief nutritionist.

* Beans: A good source of protein and fiber. They are cheaper—and taste better—when you buy them dried and cook them yourself, but canned beans also are very inexpensive. Throw together chili, soup or a red beans and rice dish, and you have dinner!
* Whole grains: Reinagel recommends quinoa which is higher in unsaturated fats and lower in carbs than most grains.
* Greens: Check out items such as kale, mustard greens and chard. They’re inexpensive, easy to prepare and packed with nutrients, including vitamin K, calcium and folate.
* Pasta: Make whole wheat pasta even healthier by combining it with vegetables for a quick, low-cost dish. Reinagel suggested pasta with sautéed greens and cannellini beans.
* Green beans: These babies keep well and contain A, C and B-vitamins.
* Cabbage: A flexible item to cook and a great source of vitamin C and cancer-fighting compounds.
* Canned tomatoes: They save time in the kitchen and nutrients like lycopene are more available in this cooked version.

Reinagel said shoppers should also stop paying more money for convenience items, like bagged lettuce or pre-sliced cheese. In addition, pass on meal kits, skip the junk food aisle—chips and cookies are costly—opt for frozen veggies when fresh is too pricey and skip individual serving sizes for items like yogurt. [Nutrition Data]

Posted: 5/19/08