ST. PAUL, Minn-- New numbers show food stamp use is at an all time high. Nearly 46 million Americans depend on the federal assistance program to buy groceries.
In Minnesota the number is also at a record high. More than 500,000 people rely on the program compared to
440,000 last year.
The program allows $122 a month per person for food and tries to promote healthy eating. But a new study shows that a healthy diet could add an additional $380 a year to food costs.
Alicia Stewart, a clinical dietitian with United Hospital, said eating healthy doesn't have to be that expensive though.
"I would say more than anything that looking for things in season would be generally the cheaper option for things to buy if you're looking for fresh produce," she said.
Things like corn and lettuce, which are good for many vitamins, usually sell for less than a dollar.
Getting in meat for protein is important too. While it can be expensive Stewart said going lean and cheap is possible.
"I would say for steak products chuck steak is generally one of the leaner sources of steak," Stewart said.
Yogurt is also an inexpensive option for calcium at about 60 cents a cup or less than $3 for a tub. Eggs are a nutritional option too that can be used for any meal. Stewart said for families on a really tight budget frozen food is also a good choice because you can keep the food longer without losing any nutritional value.
She said for families watching their diet and their budget there are options.
"If you buy a fresh filet of salmon every week it's going to be more expensive than a can of tuna. At the same time the can of tuna gives you the same nutrients as the salmon so while you might have to make a few compromises you can still get the same nutrition," she said.
Many farmers markets have started accepting food stamps as part of the Minnesota Department of Human Services efforts to promote healthy eating.
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)