A Guide to Cooking Healthy Meals Using Food Stamps
This information is current as of April 28, 2022.
Using food stamps to buy your groceries doesn’t have to be plain or boring. If you’re purchasing some or most of your food with SNAP, you might enjoy some tips on eating healthily and happily with food stamps.
You can use food stamps to create many healthy meals and snacks. This article provides some guidelines on choosing the best ingredients for yourself and your family and options for healthy, quick, and easy recipes through SNAP.
Consider using this handy and helpful guide to cooking healthy meals with food stamps!
Healthy Foods You Can Buy With Food Stamps
SNAP – also called food stamps – was created to help low-income families put healthy food on the table. With monthly benefits automatically loaded onto your EBT card every month, you can use food stamps to purchase plenty of healthy meals and ingredients at locations near you.
- Fish: Full of omega 3 fatty acids, fish makes a great alternative to red meats and reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, and stroke.
- Broccoli and cabbage: These veggies are perfect for detoxing the body and curing certain stomach disorders.
- Lentils and beans: These legumes lower cholesterol and protect against diabetes. They’re also great for regulating your digestive system.
- Berries: Flavor foods like oatmeal or Greek yogurt with a handful of berries and enjoy a meal packed with anti-aging antioxidants.
- Peanut butter: Ideal for a snack or a sandwich, peanut butter is packed with the protein, carbs, and sugars necessary for recovery after physical activity.
- Spinach and leafy greens: The vitamin K in dark leafy vegetables protects your bones and fights against inflammation.
- Quinoa: This grain can be cooked and used much like rice. It’s high in fiber and protein and, in some studies, is seen as healthier than other grain alternatives.
- Almonds and other nuts: Nuts can help protect against eye degeneration and are a delicious snack to eat in small portions.
- Chocolate: A small piece of dark chocolate can be beneficial now and again in the right portion size.
You can also buy meats, dairy, cereals, bread, vegetables, fruit, healthy cooking oils, and non-alcoholic drinks with your EBT card.
Where to Use Your EBT Card – Stores That Accept SNAP
Most stores will have an “EBT-accepted” sticker or sign near the cash register or at the customer service center. You can also use the SNAP Retailer Locator to find EBT-accepting stores.
Some popular stores that accept food stamps include:
- Whole Foods
- Shop Rite
- Food Giant
- Piggly Wiggly
- Food Lion
- And more!
How to Cook Healthy Meals on SNAP
When it comes to cooking healthy meals through SNAP benefits, your creativity is the limit! And, nowadays, recipe possibilities are nearly endless with the internet. If you don’t have internet access at home, check out this article to learn how to get free or discounted communication services from the government.
We’ll include some top-notch meal options below, but if you ever want to expand your options, you can do some Google searches on the following topics:
- Cheap recipes
- 30-minute meals
- Simple one-pan meals
- Low-cost recipes
- SNAP recipes
- Recipes using food stamps
What to Look For
The first step to eating healthy with food stamps is planning what you’re buying. Going into a grocery store and throwing many healthy items into your cart isn’t helpful. You might get home and have no clue how to pair them together.
Instead, use some healthy meal options recommended here or Google your own before grocery shopping. Find some recipes that overlap in ingredients so you can buy the items in bulk. Then, create your grocery list for that week and stick to it.
When shopping, you’ll want to focus on certain shopping strategies.
- Stick to the sides and backs of grocery stores – the middle aisles are usually where the processed and high-fat foods are.
- Try to purchase items that are marketed as “real,” such as “100% fruit juice” or “100% whole grains.”
- Learn how to read a nutrition label. While it may just say it’s 100 calories, you’ve got to learn how to find things like the serving size, which could show you that the entire package is more than 10 servings or 1000 calories!
- While you’re there, always check out the ingredients list. Challenge yourself to only buy things with five ingredients or less – you’ll be surprised at how many added, and unnecessary chemicals go into some everyday items.
- Try out some lower-fat options of foods, especially dairy products you may eat or drink multiple times a day. If you opt for full fat, you may want to keep your portions small or limited.
- When buying canned foods, be careful of the salt content. Whenever possible, choose things canned in water, low-fat soups, olive oils, and assorted vinegar to add to your pantry.
What Foods to Avoid
Planning is an important part of staying healthy, and your plan should include both things to look for and things to avoid.
Certain ingredients, labels, and products can be misleading. Sometimes an item seems to advertise health when in reality, it’s hurtful. Be sure to avoid these things while shopping for and preparing healthy meals:
- Sugar-sweetened drinks and juices: It doesn’t mean it’s healthy because it’s fruit juice. On average, the typical 8-ounce juice cup or soda contains almost eight teaspoons of sugar! Natural fruit juices are already high in natural sugars, so there’s no need to get a juice that adds on extra.
- Refined grains: Any white grains (white rice, white bread, etc.) are made by removing the husk, bran, and germ of the rice. This process takes away most of the product’s nutrition, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Some white bread will even have sugar on its ingredients list! Choose whole-grain products instead, and your body will thank you. It may take you a couple of tries to get used to it, but – trust us – with time, you’ll love it just as much!
- Red meat: There’s nothing wrong with a steak or burger now and again, but eating red meat is often costly for your wallet and your body. Red meat has significantly more fat, cholesterol, and salt than protein sources like chicken or fish.
- Packaged items: Avoid packaged items whenever you can. Instead, buy non-packaged items. This includes fruits, vegetables, meats, bread, and dairy products you can buy fresh. Anything wrapped in plastic or found in the snack section is sure to have tons of preservatives, sugars, and fat.
Healthy Meal Options
Eating healthy can be an exciting way to get creative and try new recipes. And, no, you don’t need a fancy kitchen or tons of free time to cook a healthy meal.
There are plenty of healthy recipes that can be prepped and cooked in 30 minutes or less, and some meals can be made and frozen at the beginning of the week to last you through the busy workweek.
Plenty of kids can be picky when encouraged to eat healthily, but the silver lining is that most kids don’t expect a 5-star meal. Try making them things like oven-fried pork chops, meatballs, pasta skillets, casseroles, baked potatoes, chili, and burrito bowls like these.
Snacking away at sugary items is usually our downfall when it comes to being healthy. Luckily, there are plenty of healthy snacks we never knew of that can replace those chips or cookies.
For starters, fruit like apples, bananas, and berries are great to munch on. You can also pair some with Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey to satisfy your sweet tooth.
Combining some fruits and veggies—like apples or celery—with things such as peanut butter or hummus also makes for a healthy snack.
Nuts and dried fruits—especially in a homemade trail mix—can satisfy hunger and keep you feeling full between meals.
Check out this list for more ideas.
Fast and Easy Recipes
You can use your SNAP food stamps to buy plenty of healthy items from local retailers. Combine that with your new knowledge of how to shop healthily, and you have the potential to create plenty of energy-packed meals for you and your family!
Remember to follow the Healthy Eating Plate guide and check out the rest of our blog for other SNAP tips and tricks.
Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service
When you qualify for government benefit programs like SNAP, you may also be eligible for Lifeline or the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP). Both Lifeline and ACP are government-run programs that help low-income consumers receive free or heavily discounted communication services.
Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.