Make Delicious, Nutritious, Easy, Affordable Meals

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture
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While some health experts traditionally recommend shopping the grocery store perimeter for nutritious options like fresh produce, the center of the store may warrant a closer look, given rising food costs.

Many options there not only are nutritious and taste great, they also can be more cost-conscious and have a conveniently longer shelf life. Families can stock up on healthy and affordable staples like whole grain rice and pasta and a variety of beans, for example. Tomato products like pasta sauces, canned tomatoes, salsa and tomato paste and juice also are versatile, inexpensive and nutritious staples to keep on hand to make quick, wholesome meals, says the Tomato Products Wellness Council.

In addition to being a vegetable that even the pickiest of eaters like, tomato products are good partners with other healthy foods because they offer great flavor and texture. Right after being picked from the vine at peak ripeness, tomatoes that become shelf-stable products are cooked and sealed in containers. This guarantees their full sun-ripened flavor and safety from salmonella and other food-borne pathogens -- plus the heating process provides an enhanced value of lycopene, an antioxidant that helps fight disease. Tomato products also offer important nutrients like vitamins A and C, potassium and fiber. Clinical trials show heart-health and other benefits of consuming tomato products.

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To beat the summer heat and rising food costs, TPWC offers four easy recipes -- two quick, no-cook summer ideas and two year-round family favorites -- that pair nutrient-dense tomato products with other nutritious staples. If sodium is a concern, use low- or reduced-sodium products. Each recipe has just three easy steps and costs only about $1.00 per serving.

-- Penny-pinching Gazpacho combines tomato juice and diced canned tomatoes with fresh, in-season vegetables in a summer favorite that costs only $0.97 and has just 132 calories per serving.

-- "Shirley Temple" Sangrita, traditionally a tomato-based chaser to tequila in Mexico, is a refreshing beverage all by itself. It has layers of flavors at just 92 calories and $0.47 per serving.

-- Recession-proof Spaghetti combines spaghetti sauce, whole grain pasta and carrots, and is less that 500 calories and $1.25 per serving. And, it is high in fiber and vitamin A.

-- Cost-conscious Chili Con Carni makes two meals for a family of four at just $0.95 and 308 calories a serving. It combines tomato paste with beans, ground turkey and onions for a winning taste that also provides lots of fiber.

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