Eating well-balanced meals with lots of colorful fruits and veggies, whole grains and a limited amount of sugar, sodium and saturated fat is essential for healthy aging and may also reduce one’s risk of developing dementia. But what if you don’t have access to a full-service grocery store? Many Hoosiers today are buying their food at a dollar store.
While dollar stores typically are stocked with chips, candy and other foods with little nutritional value, you often can find healthy options to help meet your nutritional needs and save money. Many dollar stores carry the following items that you can also find in a traditional market.
Healthy food finds at the dollar store
Canned foods: Canned foods provide a great, low-cost way to meet your nutritional needs. Just remember to buy low-sodium options when available or drain and rinse the contents to reduce sodium. Below are some options to help you get the nutrients your body needs (from the Canned Food Alliance):
- Fiber: black beans, pears
- Potassium: sweet potatoes, carrots
- Magnesium: spinach, navy beans
- Iron: kidney beans, beats
- Folate: peas, corn
- Calcium: green beans, pinto beans
- Vitamin A: pumpkin, apricots
- Vitamin C: peaches, tomatoes
- Vitamin D: salmon, tuna
- Vitamin E: garbanzo beans, asparagus
Dried beans: Beans are a great, low-cost source of lean protein. Add some to a salad, soup, chili, quesadilla or pasta. Just remember that dried beans take longer to cook than canned beans, so you should plan to cook them a day ahead of when you want to use them.
Whole grains: Oatmeal, whole-grain cereal and whole-grain crackers are all foods you can find at a dollar store. Some stores also carry 100 percent whole-wheat bread, tortillas or whole-grain pasta. To see if a product is made with whole grain, check the ingredients list for “whole wheat” or “whole grain” as one of the first items listed.
Frozen produce: Frozen produce is as nutritious as fresh produce. Add frozen vegetables to a main dish, or season frozen vegetables with herbs and spices to serve as a side dish. Frozen fruit also is great for cooking, adding to oatmeal or in smoothies.
Herbs and Spices: Cooking with herbs and spices adds flavor and increases the health benefits of food. Try adding paprika, red or black pepper, turmeric, garlic, oregano or cinnamon in your dishes. Cooking without salt reduces one’s sodium intake for the day, although most of the salt we eat comes from prepackaged foods and condiments rather than the saltshaker.
Nuts: Nuts are a great source of healthy fats. Enjoy some as a snack or add to oatmeal or a salad. Just remember to avoid salted nuts, and don’t eat too many!
Easy Three Bean Salad
Check out this recipe for easy three bean salad from CICOA’s registered dietitian. This is another dish to make ahead and serve later.
- 1 can of kidney beans
- 1 can of white beans
- 1 can of black beans
- ½ cup chopped red onion
- ½ cup chopped red bell pepper
- Low sodium Italian dressing
Rinse and drain beans. Put in a large bowl with onion and red bell pepper. Feel free to get creative and use the beans that you have on hand or add any of your favorite veggies to give this dish a different spin. Some options include diced cucumber, snacking tomatoes and diced avocado. You can also try diced jalapeño for some added zing. Add Italian dressing and toss to mix. Chill salad for two hours before serving.
Katherine Starr, an AmeriCorps VISTA at CICOA, brings her passion and skill to the Meals & More Nutrition and Wellness project this year. Throughout college, Katherine volunteered 60 hours a semester at a dementia care facility, and she is now excited to help people with dementia and their caregivers live well within their own communities. Katherine received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Washington & Jefferson College in Pennsylvania and completed a dementia care certification through Presbyterian Senior Care Network and California University of Pennsylvania.