Is the fruit and veg aisle too expensive or lacking in choice?

You may already be aware that eating more plant foods such as vegetables, fruit and beans is the cornerstone of a healthy diet. These foods are full of fibre, which is essential for optimal digestion and can support healthy weight management, detoxification and the gut microbiome. Plant foods are also bursting with an array of minerals, vitamins and plant chemicals called polyphenols that protect cells from damage and mop up harmful compounds that our body produces during metabolic processes.


With the price of food increasing almost daily, you may be struggling to find inexpensive and healthy options that are affordable. Many of us are also pressed for time and, despite our best intentions, don’t have the time to cook every meal from scratch.

Cheaper food tends to be higher in calories and lower in nutrients and fibre as well as containing questionable additives that, over time, can be detrimental to health. However, many people find that trying to eat healthily and using ingredients listed in recipes for nutritious meals is simply beyond their reach. This perpetuates the idea that a healthy diet and lifestyle are unaffordable.

Sometimes it's all about seeking out alternatives and knowing what foods are good for you despite maybe having a long shelf life or coming from the frozen aisle.

Some options have a long shelf life which helps reduce food waste and, yet, are full of nourishing nutrients.

Frozen vegetables and fruit

If you’re finding the vegetable aisle is looking bare or the price of red peppers, broccoli or sweet potatoes is a bit pricey, then take a look in the freezer section. Frozen vegetables are a convenient way to always have a range of ready-to-use when needed, and they have a long shelf life meaning you'll have them to hand for longer.

They can also be cheaper than buying fresh, so can end up saving you money. You're also less likely to throw any away unlike when fresh vegetables sit in the fridge for just a day or two too long and go brown and unpalatable.

They can be added to almost any dish – tip into a chilli, curry, or stew, throw into a soup or stir-fry and add to risotto and pasta dishes. Frozen vegetables and herbs are often flash-frozen very soon after they are harvested, meaning much of the nutrient content is maintained. One thing to note is that freezing can change the texture of some foods, so you may find that broccoli or cauliflower is a bit softer than fresh.

Frozen herbs, garlic and chilli can add flavour to your dish and you can even get frozen cauliflower rice if you're looking to swap out rice for a lower-carb alternative. Some supermarkets offer a mix of grains, vegetables and beans with a simple dressing, however, these are not the cheapest option.

Just make sure you check the ingredients – if there is anything on there you don’t recognise, and you wouldn’t be able to buy yourself, then it may be better to avoid. Naturally flavoured with herbs, spices, lemon juice and olive oil should be OK.

Frozen fruit is also a delicious addition to overnight oats, breakfast protein smoothies and healthy homemade desserts. They are unlikely to have anything added to them, unlike tinned fruit, which can often be preserved in a sugar-laden syrup.

Frozen berries are lower on the glycaemic index (GI) meaning that they are less likely to spike blood sugar levels as quickly as fruit such as bananas or mango might. Darkly coloured berries are also packed full of phytochemicals such as anthocyanin, which have been shown to support gut health, eye health and heart health. Watch the portion sizes of fruits that are higher in sugar such as bananas, mango and pineapple.

One thing to avoid is partially cooked fried foods such as chips or potato wedges and check the ingredients to make sure that you avoid unhealthy additives.

Nourishing tinned options

Often seen as unhealthy or old-fashioned, tinned foods are a great option that you can always have in the cupboard and will last a long time before they go out of date. Tinned beans, lentils and chickpeas instantly add plant protein and increase your fibre intake with little effort. These can be added to soups, stews, curries, chilli, salads, pasta dishes and rice dishes bumping up your protein and fibre intake with a healthy plant source.

Tinned tomatoes are essential in many households creating a base for multiple sauces and dishes. An interesting fact about tomatoes is that cooked tomatoes have higher levels of a phytochemical called lycopene than fresh tomatoes. Lycopene is a phytochemical shown in research to have protective properties supporting heart, bone, prostate and oral health. The cooking process seems to increase the availability of lycopene for absorption in the intestine by breaking down the fibre in the tomato.

Consideration - as part of the preservation process, tinned vegetables are heated to a very high temperature, often reducing the nutrient content. Frozen veg may be a better choice if freezer space is available.

When buying anything in a tin, aim to select those that are in unsalted water. Also, look on the back of the tin and, whenever you can, choose tins that are free from Bisphenol-A (BPA) which is often found in the plastic lining of tins. BPA has been shown disrupt hormonal balance and many companies, particularly organic and wholefood, are now removing it from their packaging.

Don't despair if the fruit and veg aisles are bare or costly, stock up on some frozen and tinned alternatives. If you're struggling to improve your health and would like further guidance on making healthy choices, then contact me for a dietary review or a one-to-one consultation.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Halesworth IP19 & Beccles NR34
Written by Rebecca Leonard, BSc Hons, BA Hons, NTPDip, mBANT, mCNHC
Halesworth IP19 & Beccles NR34

I offer one-to-one nutritional therapy consultations helping people to improve their health and find ways in which they can manage specific health conditions. Some of the health conditions that can be supported with nutrition and lifestyle changes include gut health issues, immune issues, thyroid conditions and hormonal imbalances. 

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