Food Reader Q & A

Reader Q & A: Affordable Nuts

A couple of days ago, I gave a presentation to group about the MIND diet to a local group.  One of the questions from the audience was about how to afford to eat nuts when you have a limited food budget.  To be honest, I didn’t have a great answer at that very moment.  Read on for a more detailed answer.

Questions to Ask Yourself About Nuts

First, I think it’s worth looking at your portion size.  Remember, the goal is about one pound of nuts per month.  How much are you currently eating?

One pound of shelled nuts is around $4.00-$8.00, depending on where and when you buy them.  That’s comparable to many types of meat.  Beans are more affordable but nuts offer different health benefits, including important fats.

Second, ask yourself how picky you are.  Are you willing to eat a different variety of nut? Perhaps eating a raw nut or roasting it yourself will make a difference.

Top Ten Strategies for Finding Affordable Nuts

  1. Compare different sections of the store.  Check the per pound prices in the bulk section, the baking section, and the snack section. For example, the salted roasted walnuts may be $9.49 per pound in the snack section while the raw chopped walnut pieces in the baking section are $5.49 per pound.
  2. Compare different nuts.  For example, macadamia nuts tend to be expensive.  There are regional differences—so you may find that pecans are more affordable in areas where pecans are grown.
  3. Consider seeds as an option.  Ground flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, sesame seeds, hemp seeds, and so on are all options.  Traditionally, seeds have lower prices than tree nuts.
  4. Shop the sales.  Seasonal sales come around!  I expect baking supplies, including nuts, to go on sale after Thanksgiving and/or Christmas.  Store them in the freezer until you are ready to use them.
  5. Go local during harvest season.  If you live in a nut-producing area, you may be able to buy a bushel of nuts and shell them yourself from a farm stand or market.  Again, store them in the freezer.
  6. Find a tree that isn’t being harvested.  Many people have a nut tree in their yard that drops nuts but they don’t harvest all the nuts.  Ask around and you might score a free bushel of walnuts or pecans for the effort of gathering them.  Check out this website about free food from backyard and urban trees.
  7. Check discount retailers.  For example, the Aldi’s in my area often has reasonable prices on nuts for baking, and even nuts packaged for snacks. Other stores, like Big Lots, may occasionally have nuts at a good price.
  8. Look for a local buying club.  Buying clubs place wholesale order and then split the order. They often focus on organic products but you get the wholesale price.  For example, I have three pounds of sliced almonds in my freezer from a local buying club order.
  9. Plant a nut tree.  Caveat: Nut trees are a long-term investment—some can take 20 years to produce nuts.  I’ve generally had fabulous experiences with trees from this company.
  10. Look at the prices for club stores that require membership, especially around the holiday baking season. Because these packages tend to be large, plan to split with a friend or store extra in the freezer.

Happy nut eating! Please share your ideas on the Balance: Food and Nutrition Facebook page for other readers.

Reader Q & A

Reader Q & A: What is a plant-based diet?

What is a plant-based diet? This term can be interpreted and used several ways.  So, to be honest, it’s confusing.  Read on to find out how people use it.

Types of Plant-based Diets

The strictest interpretation is a diet made up of plants. That means no meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, or honey.  In this way, it is a descriptive, appealing phrase to describe following a vegan diet.  Cookbooks, blogs, and restaurants commonly select the term “plant-based” rather than vegan because it sounds pretty.

However, many people use the term more broadly.  For example, the well-known culinary expert Mark Bittman has a “vegan until 6 pm” rule where animal products are only eaten at the evening meal.  He promotes a plant-based diet without begin a strict vegan or vegetarian.

Another less strict interpretation includes being vegetarian: no meat, fish or poultry.  Even more loosely, some people consider “flexitarian” diets to be plant-based.  Flexitarians primarily avoid eating meat but eat it upon occasion.  One example might be eating meat when invited to someone’s house (but not at home).

The intent behind the phrase is to encourage people to enjoy a plethora of plants.  Some organizations even simply state “plant-based” to indicate meat is used as a condiment or flavor component rather than the bulk of the meal.

Why would someone follow a plant-based diet?

Personal reasons for choosing a plant-based diet vary.  For example, health, environmental concerns, financial costs, ethical concerns, or even religious reasons influence choices in foods. Many people who reduce the amount of meat they eat talk about environmental and health concerns.  People who avoid animal products entirely often talk about ethical and religious concerns.  However, some people have multiple reasons choosing plant-based meals.

Whatever you choose, remember there is no perfect answer.

Need some resources to explore? Keep reading.

Recipes and Inspiration for Plant-based Diets

Meatless Mondays: Meatless Monday began to help reduce global warming. They promote avoiding meat on Mondays.  Numerous bloggers and organizations participate.  Resources include recipes, e-books, and examples of institutional meals.

Forks Over Knives: A documentary about the food system, FOK grew to include handy supporting materials for those trying a plant-based diet.  Look for items like guides on best budget picks, how to travel while on a plant-based diet, and tips for gradually transitioning into eating more plants.  Reader alert: some of the blog posts should inspire some gentle skepticism.

Oldways: Oldways promotes traditional eating patterns associated with healthier lives.  Many of their recipes and resources highlight plant groups.  Check out some of their food specific handouts for ideas (under resources).

American Institute for Cancer Research: Access their recipe database of well-tested recipes featuring healthful ingredients.  The organization works to encourage many healthy behaviors that prevent cancer.

Purple Carrot: A meal delivery service, this company also posts useful information about plant-based meals for home cooks.  Just expect a little sales pitch.

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