Healthy on a budget

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We’ve been discussing how important the updated Thrifty Food Plan is for individuals and families utilizing SNAP benefits. While everyone benefits from nutritious food, health disparities often exist in populations suffering from food insecurity and lack of access to medical care.

Unfortunately, the myth that healthy food is “more expensive” than processed food has been around for years and won't seem to die. While marketing companies do a great job of pushing organic, gluten-free and non-GMO labeled food, the majority of the population does not benefit from these often more expensive options.

The US Dietary Guidelines advise us to choose at least half of our grains as whole grains or 3 per day. With so many items to choose from, this shouldn’t be too difficult, even on a budget. Whole grains such as rolled oats, brown rice and bran cereal may be found at discount stores as well as traditional grocery stores. Quinoa, farro and bulgur are additional grains to try.

Benefits from whole grains include reduction in type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease and certain cancers. Whole grains contain more fiber, vitamin E, selenium, zinc and other minerals than their processed counterparts. They’re also a source of antioxidants. Brown rice is a versatile, affordable whole grain that can be combined with beans for a delicious, nutritious dish.

1 cup whole grain brown rice

1 (15 oz.) can black beans, drained & rinsed

1 ½ Tbsp. red wine vinegar

1 ½ cups thawed frozen corn or canned corn, drained and rinsed

¾ cup finely chopped green or red bell pepper

1 clove garlic, minced ¼ tsp. garlic powder

½ cup red onions, chopped

½ cup finely chopped cilantro (optional)


Juice from 2 limes or ½ cup lime juice

1 tsp. salt

1 ½ tsp. ground cumin

1/3 cup olive or canola oil


1. In a medium stock pot, boil 2 cups water, then add brown rice. Boil for 1 minute, then reduce heat to low and cover the pot. Continue cooking for 30 to 35 minutes until all the water has been soaked up and rice is al dente.

2. While rice is cooking, in a small bowl, toss black beans with red wine vinegar.

3. Transfer the rice to a large bowl and cool for 15 minutes.

4. Add beans, corn, bell peppers, onions, garlic and cilantro to the rice and toss well.

For Dressing:

1. In a small bowl, whisk together lime juice, salt and cumin and canola oil until well blended.

2. Drizzle dressing over the rice salad and toss to combine.

3. Salad can be made ahead of time and keeps for ~5 days

Makes 8 to 10 servings

Lisa Andrews, MEd, RD, LD


Saleh ASM, Wang P, Wang N, Yang L, Xiao Z. Brown Rice Versus White Rice: Nutritional Quality, Potential Health Benefits, Development of Food Products, and Preservation Technologies. Compr Rev Food Sci Food Saf. 2019 Jul;18(4):1070-1096

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