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5 Ways to Use “Food As Medicine”

About 60% of American adults have at least one chronic disease, and the most common are diet-related diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease. What we eat plays a huge role in health outcomes and healthcare costs. Diet now ranks as the leading risk factor for death in the U.S. This is why insurance companies and health care providers are regarding “food as medicine” as an important component for managing chronic diseases cost-effectively.

The “food as medicine” movement advocates for doctors to prescribe healthy food as medical treatment. Emerging research shows that this concept can save money, prompting increased investment in this approach. For example, in 2024, about a fourth of all Medicare Advantage plans will offer eligible participants financial assistance to buy healthy food such as fruits and vegetables. Expect to see a growing number of state Medicaid programs and health care systems also engaging with the food as medicine trend.

Using food as medicine empowers us all to take control of our health, whether we are managing a chronic disease or seeking to prevent future illness.

Apples can be Food as Medicine (Apples in a bin)

5 Tips for Planning an Affordable, Disease-Fighting Dietary Pattern:

1. Start with consuming more fruits and veggies.

90% of U.S. adults do not consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables. Consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables can help reduce the risk of many leading causes of illness and death, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, some cancers, and obesity. Ensure inclusion of a fruit and/or vegetable with every meal by stocking your kitchen with a variety of fresh, frozen, canned, and dried choices.

Include affordable and long shelf life options to avoid waste. Michigan Apples, for example, can be utilized in a variety of recipes and will last several weeks when refrigerated. Apples also offer numerous health benefits due to plant chemicals called flavonoids and pectin, a fiber that breaks down in your gut. Scientists attribute benefits to apples including enhancing lung strength, heart health, bone health, weight control, brain health, and immune system support.

Find quick tips to add more apples to meals and snacks.

2. Plan your meals for the week and make a grocery list.

By dedicating time to planning out meals for the week with an abundance of affordable, nutrient-rich foods, you can save money by adhering to your list and purchasing only necessary items. Begin by assessing what you already have in your cupboards and freezer, then create a menu and shopping list.

Explore our Michigan Apple Healthy Living Menu Plan to kickstart your planning process.

3. Cook at home more.

Preparing meals at home typically costs much less than dining out. Depending on your schedule, you might prefer to cook for the entire week on weekends, while others may opt to prepare one meal at a time. Cooking for yourself also provides the advantage of knowing precisely what ingredients are in your meals, allowing you to make healthy adjustments to recipes such as incorporating more fruits and vegetables, selecting low-fat dairy products, or substituting whole grains.

4. Go meatless for some meals.

Beans, legumes, nuts, eggs, and canned fish are all inexpensive and highly nutritious sources of protein and other nutrients. Try combining the healthy benefits of Michigan Apples into meatless meals like chopping an apple in your tuna salad or these tasty recipes:

5. Don’t skip the frozen aisle.

When you buy frozen fruits and veggies you can simply take out what is needed and keep the rest in the freezer for later use so there is no spoilage. In addition, most fruits and vegetables are frozen within hours of being picked which locks in their nutrients. Individual frozen meals and packaged fish or chicken fillets are already pre-portioned and trimmed to minimize waste.

Consider ways to use affordable, nourishing frozen products in weekly meal plans like this delicious Grilled Chicken with Apple & Feta.

Grilled Chicken With Apple And Feta

You Don’t Have to Break the Bank to Get the Food as Medicine Benefits

There are many ways to eat nutrient-rich foods even on a tight budget. These include planning your meals, cooking at home, and making smart choices at the grocery store. Thinking about those foods, like Michigan Apples, that give you the most nutrition for your money, is a great way to start. You really can’t put a price on your health and eating healthy foods will pay off in the long run. Remember, staying healthy is much less expensive than managing a chronic disease.

Find more Michigan Apple nutrition information and recipe inspiration.

Meet the Author

Shari Steinbach

Shari Steinbach, MS RDN
Shari Steinbach & Associates, LLC

For the past 26 years, Shari has worked as a dietitian in the grocery industry for two major retailers in the Midwest. In her retail roles, Shari has managed consumer health communication, health influencer partnerships, nutrition programs, and solution-selling strategies.

Shari has served as a nutrition expert and corporate spokesperson, providing food and nutrition advice through monthly television spots on ABC, NBC and FOX affiliates and local radio segments. She has also conducted numerous educational presentations to community groups and professional organizations throughout the country. Her timely nutrition and food product information and strategic social media messages have reached millions of consumers.