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When you’re living on a shoestring budget, it can seem hard to make healthy, affordable meals for the whole family. But by learning a few helpful skills and habits, parents can start to make a difference in their wallets and waistlines.
The University of Georgia Hall County Extension Office is offering free Food Talk sessions to parents. The sessions are part of the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Program. Lessons are at two times, 4:30-5:30 p.m. and 6-7 p.m. Thursdays, Oct. 17, 24 and Nov. 7. Sessions on Fridays are from 10-11 a.m. and 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. at the extension office, 734 Cresent Drive, off Jesse Jewel Parkway in Gainesville.
“Basically, we teach healthy eating on a budget,” said Sandra Stringer, EFNEP Program Assistant at the UGA Hall County Extension Office. “We show parents how they can make a healthy meal in 15 minutes or less.”
For the first of four talks, Stringer showed program participants how to make a quick, healthy dish using Ramen noodles in her “rolling kitchen.”
The program covers a variety of topics including how to make meals and snacks healthier, shopping tactics to save money and making healthier choices, keeping food safe and planning meals.
Stringer said learning how to make healthy decisions is important since research has shown people make an average of 200 food choices each day.
“It’s kind of like friends just getting together for a meal,” Stringer said. “We talk about food in a fun way and easy things you can do. You don’t have to clean out your refrigerator completely or your cabinets and start from scratch.”
Many of the recipes covered in the program are based on items people already have in their home, like Ramen noodles. The inexpensive noodles can be used in a number of dishes if the small pack of sodium-loaded seasoning isn’t used.
To further reduce the amount of sodium in menu items, Stringer suggests rinsing canned vegetables such as corn with water in colander before adding to recipes.
Leslie Davis, bariatric weight management dietitian for Northeast Georgia Medical Center, said Ramen noodles are very low in fiber and protein so adding vegetables, beans or lean meats to the noodles would help make it more healthy.
Davis said people can help themselves stay on track by going to the grocery store with a list and sticking to it.
“I always tell people to plan out their meals and snacks for the week and make the grocery list and shop by the list,” Davis said. “It’ll save you money and keep you from buying junk. Junk foods tend to be the pricier items.”
Davis also encouraged those interested in improving their eating and budgeting habits to use coupons and shop around.
If a group is interested in learning more about the program, contact Stringer at 770-535-8290 or firstname.lastname@example.org.