Meal Planning While on SNAP


SNAP benefits provide an opportunity for beneficiaries to both budget food expenses and seek out more nutritious meals. According to the USDA, everyone needs appropriate amounts of the five major food groups: Fruits, Vegetables, Protein, Grains and Dairy.

Make It Mostly Fruits and Veggies and Choose Grains Carefully

The USDA recommends that the majority of a person’s diet consist of fruits and vegetables. The reason for this is that fruits and vegetables are high in antioxidant compounds that prevent cellular damage and aid in repairing cells. Vegetables not only have high concentrations of antioxidants, but contain high amounts of vitamins and minerals as well. For example, one cup of baby spinach has around half of the recommend daily requirement of vitamin A and a third of the requirement of vitamin C. Portabella mushrooms are high in protein, B vitamins and potassium. Tomatoes are also high in potassium, vitamin C and vitamin A. These three ingredients could be topped with olive oil dressing and shredded cheese for healthy fats, making a well-balanced meal.

When grains are included in your diet, make sure to avoid eating them alone as meal. One reason for this is that grains contain compounds called phytates that block the absorption of minerals. Oatmeal might be one of the best grains due to its ease of preparation and high content of the amino acid, cysteine, which is important for your health. Cysteine is a fundamental building block of glutathione, a major detoxification enzyme produced by the body.

Managing Junk Food and Snacks

Foods that are high in sugar and salt contain empty calories, making the body want to eat more to make up for the lost nutrition. This can cause you to fall into a cycle of junk food consumption. You can stop the cycle, save money and get more nutrition through proper meal planning. To limit junk food snacking, use your SNAP benefits to stock up on healthier snack options like vegetable dip platters or fruit bowls. Because these items spoil quickly, it is a good idea to lookup tips on how to preserve particular vegetables. Many fruits and veggies can be preserved for much longer time periods by keeping them either moist or dry, or layering them in paper towels. However, some produce spoils more quickly in the fridge, like potatoes, tomatoes, onions, bananas, melons, and olive oil.

Quick and Nutritious Meals

One of the best healthy meals you can eat is a salad. The prerequisite is finding a dressing you like and then adding whatever toppings you have on hand. Because there are so many different types of greens and toppings, you can make a different salad or every night of the week. Salad is a staple of our diet that many people do not eat enough of. An complete salad will have lettuce, bell peppers and tomatoes, and be topped with cheese, boiled or poached eggs or other protein, and a light dressing. Other wholesome toppings include artichokes, olives, celery and a variety of lite cheeses. For a Mediterranean salad for example, you just have to add onions, artichokes and olives; for Middle Eastern salad, mix in parsley, croutons, and oregano; for Thai style salad, top it with crushed peanuts, rice vinegar dressing and bean sprouts; or for a Mexican salad use cilantro, cheese, tomatoes and cumin-spiced meat. Salads are so versatile because all five food groups can be put on a salad.

Using a crock-pot or slow-cooker is another way to make easy and nutritious meals containing whole foods. Preparation is simple and can be left unattended in the crock-pot for hours. Ingredients and style vary considerably when you use a slow cooker for meal preparation. A typical slow-cooked meal will call for vegetable broth with a seasoned pot roast, potatoes, carrots, peppers and onions.

The USDA recommends not to eat only foods like cereal, even though they may appear to have all the required nutrition. The reason cereal is not ideal is that the body needs a variety of foods to stay healthy, and cereal does not contain many of the nutrients found in fruits and vegetables.