Shopping with EFNEP can lead to buying more healthy foods

Ashley McRae Contributing columnist

LUMBERTON — Fall is upon us!

Commercials advertising newly released horror movies are in full swing and the drop in temperature has prompted many to start pulling out those old chili and soup recipes for their families to enjoy. In stores we begin to see many of our favorite holiday treats reappear, and pumpkin-spice-themed food and drink saturate many of the aisles. With these things happening, one can imagine how hard it is to make healthy food choices when there are so many delicious, sometimes not-so-healthy options to choose from, but the truth is, it is possible.

Many families have faced challenges with maintaining healthy eating habits at some point. There are many factors that guide our decision making in the grocery store, such as budget, preparation time, and availability of fresh options. Other times it is just easier to continue to do what we are comfortable with, which may not always be beneficial healthwise.

With the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program, or EFNEP, participants not only learn ways to get the best value for their money but also to choose foods and beverages that are necessary for a healthy diet. Having an understanding of these things is increasingly important as you are making decisions about what to purchase for your family, especially when shopping during the holiday season.

Here are a few things to consider:

— Visit your local farmers market to purchase in-season fruits and vegetables when possible. Fruits and vegetables are often less expensive to buy when they are fresh and in season; some of your local vendors may even accept SNAP or WIC benefits. Having fruits available in the home is great, especially when you want a sweet treat. If you aren’t able to make it to the market, try to keep frozen and canned fruits and vegetables on hand to use with meals.

— When shopping at the grocery store, take into consideration stores are arranged in a way that encourages increased spending. If available, get a copy of the store directory so you are able to map your shopping trip. In EFNEP, we teach the idea of shopping the perimeter of the store first, which has many of your fresh foods, deli meats, dairy products, and meats. The aisles in the middle of the store normally contain more packaged foods that are high in saturated fats and sugars.

— Make a habit of allowing your children to be more involved in grocery shopping and planning. You can do things such as letting them pick a fruit or vegetable they would like the family to try. Encourage them to choose healthy alternatives low in sugar and additives. EFNEP advises children who are picky eaters are more likely to try new foods when given the choice to decide.

If you would like to learn more helpful tips about grocery shopping and planning, EFNEP could be a great series for you!

Ashley McRae is the Adult Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program assistant at North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center. She can be reached at 910-671-3276 or at [email protected]