The Importance of Shopping and Eating Right

Proper nutrition is important along your cancer journey. Beyond eating healthy foods, it’s also important to incorporate the right balance of nutrients like proteins and carbohydrates along with your intake of calories. Get to know some of the important key words to look out for when managing your nutrition and learn some simple, cost-effective ways to keep healthy foods readily on hand.

Healthy Eats on a Budget

There are lots of easy ways to save money on food and eat healthy. Here are just a few cost-saving tips:

  • Buy “in-season” produce; it is usually less expensive and it is at its peak flavor.
  • Buy in bulk when you find items you like on sale and freeze for future use. Usually the unit price per serving of a larger quantity purchase is much lower than the smaller package.
  • Frozen fruits and vegetables often retain more nutrition than fresh because they are flash frozen at the peak of ripeness, and often cost less.
  • Canned fruits and vegetables can be good as long as you look for those labeled “100% fruit juice” and vegetables with “low-sodium” or “no salt added.”
  • Rice, oats, barley, quinoa, and pasta are budget-friendly grain options. Also, because they can be cooked to a soft texture, they’re easier to chew and swallow than breads and dry cereals. Try to choose the whole-grain version when possible — for example, choose brown rice over white rice.
  • Try dried beans and peas. Soak overnight and mix into your favorite soups, stews, and entrees for added protein and fiber. Canned versions are also okay but should always be rinsed before use.
  • Nut butters, eggs, and low-sodium canned meats and fish can be used as more affordable sources of protein than fresh versions.
  • Choose less expensive cuts of meat, such as chuck, round, flank, or brisket. Avoid buying prepared burgers — buy ground meats and make your own to save money.
  • Buy the larger, economy-sized yogurt instead of individual, flavored yogurts. Then add flavors by mixing in your own fruits or honey. Yogurt can also be used for making smoothies or shakes.
  • Recharge leftovers! Many meals can be repurposed and used for another weeknight meal. For example, meatloaf can be made into a delicious sandwich the next day; extra oatmeal can last for several days as a warm and hearty breakfast — just vary the toppings.
  • Bring snacks to your treatment appointments instead of buying costly and unhealthy convenience foods found in restaurants and cafeterias.
  • Avoid packaged foods — fresh foods are more cost effective.
Approximately $15 of junk food: Approximately $15 of healthy food:
1 bag of tortilla chips 3 lb. bag of apples
1 package of cookies 2 lb. bag of carrots
2 liters of soda 2 lb. of broccoli
1 pint of ice cream 1 jar of peanut butter
1 loaf of whole wheat bread

Know What You Eat

Some foods can help you build your strength. Other foods may be high in calories, which can be important if you are struggling to eat regularly. Here are some terms to help make choosing the right foods less overwhelming.

  • Nutrients — Nutrients are essential for the body to grow, work, and repair. They include carbohydrates, proteins, fats, water, vitamins, and minerals. Everyone needs nutrients, but a person’s age, gender, and physical activity level decide how much is needed.
  • Calories — Just as minutes measure time and inches measure length, calories measure the amount of energy found in a food. The body needs energy to function, which is why food is needed to sustain life. Calories are found in carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
  • Carbohydrates — Carbohydrates are the body’s main source of energy. Carbohydrates are found in most foods and come in 2 forms:
    • Simple carbohydrates or simple sugars give you quick energy and are found in foods like fruits, vegetables, and milk.
    • Complex carbohydrates or starches give you longer lasting energy and can be found in grains, potatoes, peas, and beans.
  • Fats — Fats are used by the body to make cells, protect organs, and help absorb certain vitamins.
  • Fiber — Fiber is found only in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, and seeds.
  • Proteins — Proteins are found in both plant and animal sources. They’re made of amino acids, which are used as the building blocks for the maintenance and healing of every aspect of the body.
  • Vitamins and minerals — Vitamins, such as A, C, E, and D, and minerals such as iron, calcium, and magnesium, are nutrients that are needed for the body to function, grow, and repair.

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