SNAP benefits are an avenue to buying healthy food

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program gives qualifying households buying power to select healthy foods that nourish families.

Every day households across the United States are using their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also called the Electronic Balance Transfer (EBT) card to purchase food. The multitude of SNAP eligible food choices at grocery stores and other SNAP eligible retail sites provides shoppers an opportunity to nourish their family by selecting and buying delicious, healthy food items.

Reading nutrition facts labels, using low cost recipes, menu planning and creating a shopping list are skills Michigan State University Extension promotes during their nutrition classes with SNAP-Education and Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) participants. With so many food items on store shelves, it can be challenging to know what to buy. Learning more about the array of foods and food products is key when selecting healthy foods that are nourishing, rather than foods that provide minimal nutritional value.

The list of SNAP eligible foods includes foods from all the five food groups: Grains, fruits, vegetables, dairy and protein. The emphasis for SNAP benefits is buying foods that are to be prepared or eaten at home. The best way to wisely use your food assistance dollars at the checkout is to use your shopping list and purchase only the foods on the list, eliminating the urge to buy something spontaneously, and potentially blowing your food budget.

The bread and cereal aisles at most grocery stores are packed with choices. When buying foods from the grain group such as bread, cereal, crackers and pasta consider the MyPlate recommendation to make half of your daily grains whole grain. Whole grain foods provide added fiber and other nutrients, boosting the nutritional value and your buying power. Read the nutrition facts and compare unit prices on grain food products to get the most for your money.

Fruits and vegetables supply tremendous nutrition and should be on everyone’s meal plan and on the weekly shopping list. Fresh, frozen, canned and dried produce are excellent food choices to nourish every family member. Selecting seasonal produce helps to increase your buying power, and adds variety.

Buying low-fat or reduced fat dairy and dairy products is important to lower the consumption of saturated fats in your diet. Again consider the cost and the nutrition of your dairy foods and beverages to see where they fit best within your meal plan. A 2,000 calorie food plan includes three cups of dairy each day.

Protein foods include meat, beans, poultry, seafood, eggs, soy foods, nuts and seeds. The MyPlate website contains helpful ideas for eating a variety of protein foods to consume adequate nutrients from that group and to assist with your menu planning.

SNAP participants may also use their benefits to purchase seeds or plants for a home garden to grow their own food. Creating a container or home garden can be a beneficial way to enjoy fresh vegetables and fruits and a good way to burn calories.

SNAP benefits offer participants buying power to purchase food they need. As the name indicates –Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is meant to be supplementary and is not designed to cover 100 percent of all foods needed in one month. Participants should plan to contribute 30 percent of the monies needed for the food each month.

Whether you shop weekly, bi-weekly or monthly it is important to consider each food purchase you make to manage your SNAP benefits efficiently. Food is your fuel and selecting and buying nutritious food provides the energy necessary for an active family.

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