The 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, introduced by USDA, encourage us to consume more fruits and vegetables. Often the first response is that ‘they are too expensive.’ Is this true?

The latest statistics from the Economic Research Service in 2010 showed food prices increased over 6 percent, and are still increasing. With the strain of the recession, it can be difficult to put food on the table for many families.

Many believe that nutritious fruits and vegetables are beyond their budget. A comparison may show that you can consume more fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables are rich in the vitamins and minerals needed to keep you and your family healthy.

Most children and adults do not eat enough vegetables.

On any given day, about half of all the food you eat should be fruits and vegetables.

Pick a rainbow of fruits and vegetables when shopping at the grocery store or farmers market: green, purple, yellow, red, and white. These colors will add interest to your meals as well as many vitamins, minerals and fiber.

For more nutrition, eat all forms of fruits and vegetables. Fresh, frozen, dried—they are all healthy choices.

Select fresh vegetables and fruits when in season and the prices are low. Cooked frozen vegetables are nutritious and taste great. Stock up on canned vegetables when they are on sale. They are great in soups and casseroles. Dried fruits and vegetables can be eaten as snacks. In a 2,000 calorie diet with proper fruit and vegetable consumption each day, these foods would cost $2.00 to $2.50 each day. According to Jan McMahon of Kansas State Cooperative Extension Service, consider these options.

Option one: 1 pound cookies, 1 pound bag of chips, 2 liters of soft drinks, ½ gallon of ice cream. Total cost: $13.00.

Option two: 2 pounds apples, 2 pounds oranges, 1 pound bananas, 1 pound broccoli, 2 pounds potatoes, 1 pound cabbage, 1 pound carrots, 1 pound romaine lettuce. Total cost: $13.38.

Yes, as grocery prices increase, (and depending on where you shop) these total costs will increase. However, for a small amount of money, fruits and vegetables can be served; we must be willing to give up some of the ‘empty calorie foods’ that we often purchase. And, fruits and vegetables have fiber that is necessary for a healthy diet.

— Rita Hodges is an Ellis County Extension Agent-Family & Consumer Sciences with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service located at 701 South I-35E in Waxahachie. She can be contacted at (972) 825-5175 or rmhodges@ag.tamu.edu.