How to eat healthily in the face of rising food prices? Expert says plants are ‘all the way’ – National

Even as food prices continue to rise in Canada, healthy eating is possible by looking for cheaper alternatives and dabbling more in plant-based diets, some experts say.

As the cost of food has risen, some suggest that more and more Canadians are choosing to replace one type of meat with a cheaper option or opting for a plant-based diet.

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« I honestly think you can save a lot of money if you (go for plant-based alternatives), » Nicole Osinga, an Ontario-based registered dietitian, told Global News.

« I say plant-based all the way. »

According to the most recent Statistics Canada report, food prices “increased less in October (+10.1%) than in September (+10.3%) year over year”.

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Prices for meat, fresh fruits and vegetables all saw some slowing in month-over-month price growth.

But Statistics Canada noted that many food staples saw significant year-over-year increases: the cost of dry or fresh pasta rose 44.8%; margarine costs 40.4% more; and soup was 18.4% more expensive.

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« There is a misperception that healthy eating has to be expensive eating…and that just creates barriers for people, » Osinga said, adding that there are ways to reduce food costs while still focusing on preparing healthy and nutritious meals.

A few of her tips include meal planning and the strategic use of certain ingredients to eliminate food waste.

« Have a few goals for each ingredient…you don’t just go to the grocery store and just buy something that looks good, » Osinga said.

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Some plant-based options Osinga recommends include “soy milk as a cost-effective alternative” and tofu, which is a high-protein soy food.

Although there are soy food alternatives like « soy bacon, ‘no chicken’ nuggets, corn dogs, and hamburgers, » according to the University of California San Francisco health website , Osinga would not necessarily recommend them to save costs.

“I would consume more plant-based proteins like beans and tofu which are more cost effective than (plant-based) meat,” she said.

According to Canada’s Food Guide, Canadians can find plant-based protein sources at local grocery stores, including peas, lentils, peanuts, almonds and cashews that can serve as meat substitutes.

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Another tip, says Osinga, is to take advantage of frozen food and canned food options.

« They can definitely be healthy…we just have to watch out for low sodium versions. »

Thrift shopping may be another way to find healthy, affordable meal options at lower prices, with some Canadians turning to coupons to meet rising costs.

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“Canada’s food inflation rate is the second lowest among G7 countries…so overall we’re not doing too badly. But still, (the rate of increase) is huge,” said Sylvain Charlebois, professor of food policy at Dalhousie University, on the Roy Green Show Last weekend.

« That means some products are much higher…and that’s probably what people are seeing right now because our food inflation rate has exceeded the general inflation rate for 12 straight months, » Charlebois added.

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With that increase in mind, Charlebois says Canadians need to be aware of the bargains available at different stores, so he wouldn’t necessarily buy a prime rib for $200.

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“You can find deals. You just have to be a little more careful… Some specialty shops will offer different prices,” Charlebois said.

Charlebois says the one thing Canadians tend to forget about high prices is that there are a lot of different products on the market and people believe that if the cut of meat is very expensive, it’s is that it was produced in a very careful and specific way.

“It’s the specialty products that we need to be a bit more careful about. But there are good deals. It’s just that you just need to look around,” he said.

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A 2022 study by the Angus Reid Institute released in January found that almost 60% of Canadians struggle to provide for their families. For many, when they can afford to buy food, they cannot afford to buy enough or buy the food they want.

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A September study of 5,000 Canadians published by Dalhousie University also found that 23.6% of the population cut back on food purchases and 7.1% skipped meals due to inflation.

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Osinga says cheaper food alternatives are helpful, especially during this time of year when it’s cold, prices are high and people are more drawn to soup.

« You can easily pour a can of beans and then a few other frozen veggies into a pot or something and then create a really nutritious meal, » Osinga said.

However, for meat lovers who don’t want to buy plant-based protein, especially for Christmas dinner, Charlebois recommends Canadians buy turkey now, as its price is likely to rise due to avian flu.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) said it is currently responding to cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) H5N1 in farmed birds across Canada.

“There are over 60 investigations going on right now…and I actually think the CFIA and the provinces are handling the situation quite well. But we are still losing birds. So supply is going to be an issue and prices are going to go up,” Charlebois said.

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If Canadians think turkey is too expensive, Charlebois recommends they opt for ham or pork.

“Pork is only up 5% year over year. Pork is big business right now. So I would definitely encourage people to take a closer look at pork,” he added.

– with files from Craig Lord of Global News and The Associated Press


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