4 Ways to Use the MyPlate App to Teach Healthy Eating on a Budget

As I mentioned in last week’s blog, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently released Actions on Nutrition Security, a report on the agency’s commitment to ensuring both nutrition security and food security to support optimal health and well-being for all Americans.

  • Food security is having enough calories.
  • Nutrition security is having the right calories.

Healthy Eating on a Budget Poster

Our Healthy Eating on a Budget poster conveys a simple, yet effective, four-step approach to help your students, employees, or clients make healthy, budget-conscious decisions at the supermarket.

  • Step 1: Buy on sale and in season
  • Step 2: Buy less processed food
  • Step 3: Buy only what you need, avoid food waste
  • Step 4: Skip the royalties (high fat/high sugar foods and beverages, like chips, candy, and soda)

Go a step further by combining the Healthy Eating on a Budget poster with USDA’s free Shop Simple with MyPlate mobile or desktop app.

  • Create an eye-catching and informative bulletin board. Put the Healthy Eating on a Budget poster in the middle, surrounded with color printouts of key screenshots from the app, OR
  • Hold a lunch-and-learn session to introduce the four steps to eating healthy on a budget. Use the Shop Simple with MyPlate app to engage your audience in real-life scenarios.

Using MyPlate App with Healthy Eating on a Budget steps

  1. How to find seasonal fresh produce or the most affordable canned/frozen fruits and veggies using the Shop Simple with MyPlate app:
    • Click on Ways to Save -> Shop Smart -> Fruits and Vegetables. From here you’ll find a link to the Seasonal Produce Guide from SNAP-Ed Connection, as well as tips on choosing canned and frozen fruits and veggies.
    • You can also Browse Budget-Friendly Fruits and Browse Budget-Friendly Vegetables.
    • To locate the nearest farmers market, click on Farmers Markets in your area. Enter your zip code, then click on Find Farmers Markets. You’ll get a list of farmers markets in the area. Click on the market to get directions.
  1. How to choose less-processed protein foods when meat, poultry, and fish prices are so high, using the Shop Simple with MyPlate app:
    • Click on Browse by MyPlate Food Groups -> Protein Foods. You’ll find a list of budget-friendly protein foods, along with tips, serving ideas, recipes, and nutrition information.
      • For example, under chicken drumsticks or thighs, there’s information on freezing chicken when it’s on sale, and how to make baked chicken nuggets at home.
  1. How to cut down on food waste using the Shop Simple with MyPlate app:
    • For each budget-friendly food, the app gives tips that can help limit food waste.
      • For example, the app tells you how long milk stays fresh after opening, and how to freeze and thaw milk. It also provides ideas on how to use up foods that are about to go bad or are over-ripe.
  1. How to avoid impulse purchases of junk food using the Shop Simple with MyPlate app: Even when junk food isn’t on your shopping list, it can end up in your cart when you shop while hungry or give in to a screaming child. One way to deal with this is to order online for curbside pickup.
    • Not all grocery stores accept SNAP/EBT for online orders, but the Shop Simple with MyPlate app can help you find ones that do.
      • On the home page, click on SNAP EBT Savings. Enter your zip code and click Find Stores. Choose Online SNAP Stores. Click on the name of the store and you’ll be directed to the retailer’s website page that explains how to use your SNAP/EBT card for online orders.

Did you know?

One final tip: You can use SNAP benefits to purchase fresh herbs for cooking, as well as fruit, vegetable, and herb plants for gardening.

By Hollis Bass, MEd, RD, LD

Healthy Eating is Simple, Right?

At first glance, healthy eating seems so simple. If you want something sweet, we say, try fruit for dessert. So our clients go to the supermarket and what do they see next to the strawberries? Tubs of “strawberry” glaze, void of any fruit. And prepackaged shortcakes. All of a sudden, making a healthy choice isn’t so simple.

This is just one example of how our food choices are influenced by many factors. Things like product placement and marketing make the simple act of buying fresh produce more complicated for consumers.

You can see all the things that influence our food choices on our new poster – The American Diet.

There’s so much information on this poster, it is overwhelming. That’s the point. From social media to GMOs, celebrity diets to infomercials for fat-melting supplements, the American Diet is complicated.

It’s up to us to help people figure it out.

How can we do this? We’re glad you asked. Here are some ideas for you…

  1. Teach a class using our American Diet PowerPoint presentation. The slides and handouts touch on each of the eight systems that impact the food choices we make today.
  2. Use The American Diet concept as a project for high school students. Assign each student or small group an area to research. Have them create their own presentations to teach what they’ve learned to the rest of the class.
  3. Use The American Diet poster to see what people want to learn about. Let them ‘vote’ by choosing one or two ideas from the poster. You’ll find out which topics to feature in your upcoming classes.
  4. Display The American Diet poster at a health fair. Invite people to write their thoughts on sticky notes and post these for others to read.

In individual counseling or group settings, you can ask some great educational questions to generate discussion:

  1. Do you find yourself always searching for a magic bullet? For what – weight loss? Strength? Clear skin? To avoid your family’s health history?
  2. Do nutrition claims like ‘high in protein,’ ‘gluten-free,’ or ‘zero cholesterol’ get your attention? What was the last food advertisement you saw or heard? How do you think it impacts what you eat? How do you know if the claim is true?
  3. Are you or someone you know on a diet? Is it science-based? What do you think about celebrities and non-health professionals promoting diets? How are they qualified?
  4. What does convenience mean to you? Are you willing to pay more? Sacrifice taste or nutrition?
  5. What food culture did your grandparents or great grandparents live in? How is your food culture the same or different?
  6. What do you think about health-promoting ingredients being added to unhealthy foods, like hot dogs with omega-3 fatty acids or sugary cereal that’s high in fiber?
  7. What have you heard about genetically modified foods? What are the benefits for you? For the world? Why do people fear GMOs?
  8. What do you think the people on the poster are doing? Looking up restaurant reviews on their phones? Searching for recipes? Taking pictures of their dinner to post on social media? How do you use your phone when you are eating? Do you order delivery? Grocery shop? Or share photos of your food?

Talking about the topics featured on The American Diet graphic is definitely more complicated than teaching MyPlate or heart-healthy eating. But when consumers are aware of all the factors influencing them, they’ll have the knowledge and insight to make better choices.

Hopefully, they’ll become healthy food and nutrition influencers themselves!