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Eating Green on the Cheap: Is It Possible?

Author Tracye McQuirter

by Stacy Gilliam

The world is steadily going organic, and you're tempted to jump on the bandwagon, too. But a glance at the price of organic fruits and vegetables tempts you more to stretch your dollar and arm out for the cheapest deal – not always the healthiest option. In these economic times, we don’t blame you. But is there a way to embrace a greener, organic way of eating without breaking the bank?

For the answer, the Beehive consulted with Tracye McQuirter, a vegan for 20 years, speaker and author of the new book By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat (in stores May 1).

Beehive: A lot of folks have the perception that eating healthy, fresh, or organic is too expensive. As a result, they tend to pick the quick, fast and processed to feed their families. Share your thoughts on that.

TM: Actually, people tend to pick the quick, fast, and processed because that’s what they see in food advertisements.  Make no mistake—food commercials are the number one reason we eat what we eat.  It’s by design.  The food industry is the largest industry in the country and it spends more on advertising than any other industry, more than $35 billion a year. Seventy percent of that advertising is for fast food, processed foods, snacks, and sweets. Only 2 percent is for healthy foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans, nuts, lentils, split peas, etc.).

Now which of these foods do people eat the most?  Add the fact that the government subsidizes these quick, fast, and processed foods to keep the prices low so that we’ll eat more of them and ensure an ever-growing market for the nation’s industrialized agriculture sector. 

Beehive: Why are organic foods more expensive?

TM: Healthy and organic foods are not heavily subsidized, so they remain a niche, high-priced market.  However, the more we demand organic foods, the more plentiful and cheaper they will become.  The good news is that organic foods are one of the fastest growing sectors of the food business.

Beehive: If we choose conventional fruits and vegetables over organic, we save a few pennies. But is it worth it from a health perspective? Isn’t an apple an apple?

TM: In 2007, the largest study ever conducted on organic foods found that organic produce is more nutritious than nonorganic produce and may help you live longer and healthier. The four-year study concluded that organic fruits and vegetables have up to 40 percent more antioxidants (disease-fighting vitamins, minerals, and enzymes) and they taste better, too.

On the other hand, so-called conventional produce has been sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and insecticides (up to 11 different kinds). These poisonous chemicals are associated with proven health risks not only for the people who eat them, but for the farm workers who pick the produce. And no, you can’t just wash off the pesticides, unfortunately.

Beehive: If you walk in specialty markets such as Whole Foods, the cost of food is astounding. What are other options for people? Are we sacrificing quality by shopping at chain supermarkets?

TM: Other options are growing some of your own food, especially vegetables, in your own or a community garden; shopping at farmers markets, and shopping at health food co-ops, where the prices are usually lower than places like Whole Foods.  But don’t count the chain supermarkets out completely.  Many stores are now selling natural and organic foods under their own brand, which often makes them cheaper than products sold at Whole Foods.

More healthful tips from Tracye:

  • Eating fruits and veggies is essential to good health, so not buying produce should never be an option.  With that said, it’s important to start where you are: buy what you can afford and what is available, whether that means organic or not. 
     
  • Buying in bulk is generally cheaper, if that makes sense for you.  Purchasing large quantities isn’t always practical for individuals or couples.  Fresh fruits and veggies may go bad before they’re eaten.  Frozen fruits and veggies are another good option, especially when a large variety of fresh produce is not in season.
     
  • Soy-based foods, like any processed foods, are going to be more expensive. But there’s more to enjoy than soy!  I suggest folks check out the thousands of vegetarian recipes available online and at bookstores and libraries.  The choices are infinite!
     
  • If you can make a dead bird taste good, you make wholesome vegetarian foods taste great!  You just need to start experimenting with some great recipes.  (See two of Tracye’s below.)
     
  • For shopping deals, I always recommend health food co-ops and farmers markets.  I love them!

 

Ready to add variety to your healthy meals? Step outside of your comfort zone and try two of Tracye's vegan recipes!

 

All Hail the Kale Salad

2-3 bunches curly kale, chopped or torn into small pieces
1 red onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
3 TB olive oil
2-3 TB Bragg liquid amino
2 TB nutritional yeast
Cayenne pepper to taste

Put kale in bowl and pour on olive oil. Stir with salad tongs to make sure all leaves are coated.  Add in rest of ingredients and mix well with tongs.  If possible, let marinate at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before serving. Yields 6-8 servings.  Enjoy!
 

Pizza-z!

1 12-inch whole-grain pizza crust (I get Vicolo brand from Whole Foods)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon Bragg Liquid Aminos or natural soy sauce
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
Dash cayenne pepper, or to taste
¼ large red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
½ cup pitted and halved black olives
2 avocados, peeled, seeded, and chopped coarse
 

Preheat the oven according to package directions for pizza crust. Mix the olive oil, liquid aminos or soy sauce, and nutritional yeast together in a bowl and brush onto the pizza crust before baking. Bake according to package instructions. Remove pizza crust from oven and arrange the remaining ingredients on top. Bake 5 more minutes or until toppings are hot enough for your taste. Makes 2 to 3 servings.


 

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Yes, eating green can be pricey. But we spend a lot on things we really don't need. So, it's just alright to spend a little more on healthy food. Meanwhile, there has been a recall to frozen peas and mixed vegetable. The Pictsweet Company voluntarily recalled these products because there are glass fragments in the packaging. It's a good thing that they found out soon and took the necessary actions.
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You are absolutely right! We choose what we want to spend our money on. And some of us need to put a priority on eating healthy, even if it means spending a few more pennies. Thanks for sharing the information on the frozen veggies.
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