Want to save a little on this month’s food budget? The Mediterranean Diet might just help you pinch a few pennies at the grocery store.
That’s according to a new study from the Journal of Hunger and Environmental Nutrition that found that clients from a local food pantry program were able to spend less on more nutritious foods after six weeks of cooking classes based on a Mediterranean-style diet.
- A total of 63 people gathered from low-income housing and food programs participated.
- They participated in six weeks of Mediterranean Diet cooking classes where they learned how to make simple dishes from fresh ingredients.
- The ingredients did not include meat and seafood, which can quickly eat up a grocery budget. Instead, ingredients included fresh fruit, veggies, nuts, and whole grains.
- Participants left class with one bag of groceries and no instructions about what to do next.
Six Months Later
- A peek at participants’ shopping lists revealed they were buying more fresh fruits and veggies and less junk food.
- Participants ate a wider variety of food than before they took the cooking classes.
- They had incorporated up to three meals a week based on the Mediterranean Diet.
- Participants’ reliance on food pantries dropped 6%, and 15% fewer were food insecure.
- As a bonus: 50% of participants lost weight.
Mediterranean is Heart Healthy and Budget Friendly
The Mediterranean diet has long been lauded for it’s health benefits. The most recent study tells us that it can not only reduce risk of heart disease by 30%, but might just reverse heart disease as well.
Though the diet typically includes fish and chicken as protein sources, eggs are an excellent, budget-friendly alternative. Nuts are expensive, but with the growing season fast approaching seasonal fruits and vegetables will at bargain prices again.
As someone who works with a low-income population every day, I’ve seen first hand how hard it can be for people to cook fresh, healthy meals every day on a food assistance program. The key to this study’s success was education. I think that it’s natural to crave healthier meals with fresher ingredients, but cooking doesn’t come naturally to everyone, nor does the necessary creativity to load up on fresh foods without going over budget.
Do you have any tricks for eating a healthy diet based on fresh ingredients without overspending? Share them in comments below.