Dietitian advises on eating healthy with food stamps - WSFA.com: News Weather and Sports for Montgomery, AL.

Dietitian advises on eating healthy with food stamps

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Lower-cost junk foods such as sodas and candy are allowed under SNAP benefits. Lower-cost junk foods such as sodas and candy are allowed under SNAP benefits.
HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -

Eating healthy may become more challenging for folks with food stamps. Those enrolled in the program known as SNAP are now forced to feed their families with less money.

The loss of federal stimulus money in November caused a decrease in SNAP benefits. Now, people in the Tennessee Valley could feel the pinch as they get their benefits for December.

For example, a family of four receiving the maximum benefits will now receive $632 per month, down from $668. That breaks down to $7.52 per meal.

That $36 discrepancy can make a big difference when it comes to the kind of food you can buy. A local dietitian said it is still possible to eat healthy with food stamps.

"Some of the healthier food is more expensive, but some of it is not. You can buy a big bag of apples for $3, or you can buy a bag of chips for $3. Which is obviously going to be more healthy for you? That bag of apples or oranges, or even a pound or two of bananas is going to be a healthier option," said Registered Dietitian Linda Steakley.

Canned fruits and vegetables are always cheaper, but if you want fresh produce, Steakley recommends only buying those that are in-season.

What if you still want those potato chips? Should junk food be stricken from the list of allowable food stamp items?

Buying things like beer and cigarettes with food stamps was outlawed several years ago. But under the SNAP program, people can purchase almost any food item, including soda, cookies, and even birthday cakes.

Steakley said buying junk food with SNAP benefits shouldn't be allowed. There is already a debate that links food stamps and obesity. Plus, people on a limited budget tend to buy unhealthier foods because they are often thought to be cheaper.

Now that budgets will be more limited due to SNAP cutbacks, the fear is the problem could get worse. Steakley said people often end up with a bunch of junk food in their carts because they fail to plan their meals and make a grocery list.

"You know what you need and where you need to go in the grocery store to find it. You put those things in your cart and then you leave, rather than going up and down the aisles thinking and looking, saying ‘Oh, that sounds good. Let's just put that in the cart,'" Steakley said.

With an eye to a budget, we made up our own dinner using a current grocery ad available on Walmart.com. 

 

  • Main dish - boneless, skinless chicken breasts, $1.99/lb.
    • A pound of chicken is all you would need to feed four people.
  • Side dish - Two cans of corn, $0.67 each
  • Side dish - Bag of Green Giant Steamers Cheesy Rice & Broccoli, $1.50.
  • Dessert - Can of mandarin oranges, $0.98
At a total of $5.82, a nutritious dinner for a family of four comes well below the $7.52 per-meal budget based on the figures mentioned above.

 

Numbers show nearly 50 million Americans – one in seven – rely on the program. Meanwhile, a record 27 percent of adults in the US are considered obese.

Some items allowed by SNAP that you may not expect include Red Bull, sugary drinks, candy, mixers for alcoholic beverages, and artificial sweeteners.

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