Where can I buy healthy food?
Where can I buy healthy things to eat for my family?
Eating healthy food is one of the most important things you can do to maintain your health. Most refugees come from countries where you eat a lot of fruits, vegetables and other healthy foods.
However, when you are adjusting to life in a new country, cooking healthy, nutritious and affordable foods for you and your family can be challenging. In the United States, there are lots of processed and fast foods available. These foods are not healthy.
In order to eat healthy food, one of the most important things you can do is to find the supermarkets nearby to your home. Most supermarkets today are big and carry a variety of foods from around the world at reasonable prices. Other resettled refugees in your community may have suggestions of supermarkets and other stores where you can find low-cost foods from your country.
Try to shop only at large supermarkets or grocery stores. Most of the time, large stores will be cheaper than small stores.
How to save money at the grocery store
Many supermarkets have coupons, which are tickets that lower the cost of certain grocery items. Coupons are made available online, in newspapers, and through the mail. Supermarkets also post discounted items on their web sites and in booklets available in-store. Consider buying different brands of the same foods as coupons change week-to-week.
Your supermarket may have a “club card,” or membership card, that gives you access to discounts. They show the discounts in the aisles and shelves. Visit the customer service counter to learn about the opportunities your supermarket has for savings.
Store brands are often cheaper than famous brand names. Figure out where store brands are shelved at your supermarket. They are usually on lower shelves, while name brands are shelved at eye level.
Look at unit prices
Be mindful of unit prices when shopping. A unit price is the cost of a specific quantity (per ounce, pound, liter, etc.) of a product. For example, you may think a jumbo-sized box of cereal is the best deal, but the unit price on a smaller box may be less. In that case, it would be to your advantage to buy the smaller box. Unit prices are usually listed just below the selling price.
Buy fresh foods in season
Out-of-season produce is generally more expensive, so try to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. In the warmer months, planting a small garden at your home or in a community plot can be an inexpensive source of vegetables and other foods for your family.
Buy some foods in bulk
Buying in bulk quantities can save you expense over the long term but do so cautiously because some foods spoil quickly. Spoiled food means wasted money. Beans, spices and other dried foods are cheaper in bulk.
Use convenience stores for urgent needs only
Take care to avoid convenience stores for bulk shopping. As their name suggests, convenience stores are convenient. They are common in urban neighborhoods and are open late or even 24/7, but their goods are often over-priced and the amount of healthy things to eat is limited. They are best visited for small grocery runs and urgent food needs only.
Where can I find food from my country?
Some foods you are used to eating may be hard to find or expensive in America. Meats and fruits that are not common, such as papaya, may be quite expensive because they are imported. If these items are too expensive, you can try finding fruits that are similar or buy them in smaller amounts.
Specialty sections of grocery stores may carry some items that are familiar to you. These sections are usually limited, but in large towns you will find smaller stores with a larger variety of foods from one or more cultures. You can search for these stores using our In Your City database or at Specialtygrocery.net.
It is also possible to buy nonperishable foods (foods that do not spoil quickly) on the internet. You will have to use your credit card or bank account to do this but it is convenient, since the foods are delivered to your home. One example of an ethnic foods retailer online is efooddepot.com.
What if I don’t have enough food?
Go to this page to find good pantries, soup kitchens, and non-profit grocery stores that can help you. Also, visit Feeding America to see if you qualify for any of their food assistance programs or to find your local food bank.
Adjusting to American food
You may be surprised to see how many choices there are when it comes to American food. There are many different brands of food in all kinds of packages. Fruits and vegetables can be bought even when they are not in season. You will notice that restaurants serve food from many different cultures. Fast food is popular in the United States and it is easy to get a cheap meal quickly and without even getting out of your car.
Many American foods, especially fast foods, in the United States may contain sugar or preservatives (ingredients put in food to make it last longer). Many fruits and vegetables are sprayed with pesticides, which are chemicals used on farms that keep insects away. Your body may not be used to these types of foods so you may feel sick at first or may start to gain weight. Consuming unhealthful foods is a problem for many people in the United States who are overweight and may experience issues with their health as a result. Although you might be excited to try new foods, you may choose to do so gradually, in order to let your body adjust.
If you are trying to eat healthfully, you may want to avoid eating at restaurants often. The food served in restaurants tends to be less healthy and contains many more calories, which are units that measure how much energy a food has. Ice cream, for example, has many calories. Fruits and vegetables have fewer calories.
American views of immigrant food
Some Americans may not have tried the food you eat in your native country. In big cities, there are many ethnic restaurants so it is more likely that people there have experience with foreign foods. In smaller towns, with less cultural variety, people may not be as experienced. Most Americans are open to trying new types of cooking and will be curious to try new dishes. Many Americans participate in “potlucks,” which are social gatherings where everyone brings a dish to share. Potlucks happen at big gatherings or at casual dinners. This may be a good opportunity to introduce others to your food, both in school and social situations. You can also invite people over for dinner and serve dishes from your culture. Some people may not be open to trying new food, however, and it is important to respect that.
Food at your children’s school
Students in American schools do not receive breakfast except in some preschools for young children. They are expected to have eaten by the time they arrive, or in some schools children can buy a small breakfast at the school cafeteria. At lunchtime, children can either buy their food or bring food from home. Packing lunches for your children is the best way to make sure that your children have healthy since many schools serve unhealthy foods and sugary drinks. Children in the United States also bring “snacks” to school. These are small amounts of food that they eat during breaks between classes. Examples include fruits, nuts, granola bars, or crackers.
If your family does not have a lot of money, sometimes the school will provide free (or cheaper) meals, including breakfast, for your child. Every school is different, so it is best to talk to your child’s teacher or the school secretary you have any questions.
There is a possibility that children may make fun of your child for eating unfamiliar food. Younger children are sometimes afraid of new things and think that teasing others is the right way to deal with their feelings. You should talk to your child about this, so they are not surprised or very upset if this happens. Your child may choose to explain what the food is made out of, as some ethnic dishes contain similar ingredients to those eaten in the United States. If the children are not interested, your child may want to choose to walk away from the situation and to try to choose a different group of companions. If the children continue to make fun of your child’s choices of food, you or your child should talk to the teacher about the situation. Another strategy would be to talk to the teacher about organizing an activity where you make a larger amount of the food for the class, and it is discussed and shared.
Helping children develop good eating habits
Children usually get used to their new culture more quickly and may be eager to eat American food in order to fit in with other students. Teaching children healthful habits from an early age is important. Many American children have problems with their weight and health as a result of poor nutrition. You can help your children be proud of the food from your first culture by cooking nutritious food at home. Children are usually more excited to eat food at home if they help make it. It is smart to have them go grocery shopping with you and to have them help you make meals. Making a habit of eating meals together can help your family stay close and allows you to make sure your children are eating nutritious food. At mealtimes, you may choose to cook food from your culture or to try foods that are new to you. Cooking familiar dishes allows you to retain food traditions and encourage your children to stay bonded to their roots. When trying new American foods, you have the opportunity to share a new experience with your children and to share their enthusiasm for your new environment.
Foods in the US have labels on them that describe, in detail, what ingredients are in the food and how much of it you should be eating. Learning how to read these labels is smart because it allows you to find out if a food has many calories and if it has vitamins and minerals that will benefit your health. If you would like to learn more about these labels, you can visit this page from the Food and Drug Administration.
It is also important to encourage your children to be physically active. Many children in the United States watch television, play video games, or use their phones too much. Playing outside with our children after dinner, signing them up for after-school sports, and monitoring how much technology they use are all ways to do this.
Polite ways to decline food
If you are invited to someone’s home for a meal and cannot eat a certain food because of your religion or culture, you should feel comfortable explaining that to your host and hostess. It is appropriate to do this before you go to the event. Most Americans are very respectful of others diets and may even ask you questions to learn more about your lifestyle. If you have eaten enough and do not want any more food, it is not impolite to say, “No thank you, I am full,” even if the host offers it many times.
Taboo or hard-to-find foods
Some foods that you are used to eating in your home country are either not available or are taboo, which means that they are considered inappropriate or forbidden within a culture. Some types of meat, such as horse meat and some organs of animals, are not sold or eaten. Baby or fetal animals are not consumed, as many Americans think doing so is wrong. Insects also are not part of the traditional diet, but you can occasionally find them at some ethnic markets.
In America, dairy products are pasteurized (heated) to kill bacteria, and fresh milk and cheese that do not go through this process cannot be sold. Some fruits, such as mangosteen and askee, also are not sold in the United States either because they are considered unsafe or to keep out insects that sometimes live in them.
Growing your own food
Most Americans, especially those living in cities, do not grow their own food or have their own livestock (cows, goats, etc). However, that does not mean that it is impossible to grow some of your food and is a great way to make sure your family has healthy things to eat. Seeds and materials for planting are easy to buy in many home and garden stores. If you live in a city and have little space, you can grow herbs in your home or a few fruits and vegetables on your balcony or in the yard. If you wish to have a large garden or animals, it is best to find a home in a rural area, where it is cheaper to have a backyard or own land. Growing food may help you keep some of the routines you had in your home country.