Managing an Athlete’s diet when Fresh Vegetables are Expensive

With the recent extreme weather and flooding contributing to poor yields, rotting crops and reduced harvest, fresh vegetables have become increasingly expensive. With a ‘Food First Focus', HPSNZ are aware of the challenges the increased cost of fresh vegetables places on an athlete’s food budget. To help our Performance Nutrition Team have put together some suggestions to help you stretch your budget and reach your nutritional goals.

Top Tips from the Performance Nutrition Team

  • Be open to trying new vegetables such as eggplant and new varieties of butternut and squash.  
  • Search websites such as to find recipes and new ways to serve vegetables. 
  • Add vegetables that are less likely to be affects by the weather extremes (such as mushrooms) to dishes to support your budget and provide variety.
  • Stretch the vegetable options by combining the more expensive and less available fresh with frozen vegetables to have the best of both. 

For example:

  • Add a smaller serving of fresh broccoli or cauliflower to frozen stir-fry mixes
  • Add diced carrot to frozen peas and corn or other combination mixes
  • Add shredded cabbage to corn
  • Add diced courgettes to frozen green beans 
  • Add sliced mushrooms to frozen stir-fry
  • Add red onion to vegetable dishes (fresh and cooked)


Increasing Options

Another way to increase vegetable options is to use vegetable soups as sauces such as pumpkin and tomato over chicken, fish, pork and beef dishes. Remember vegetables are usually at their best and most affordable during their peak season.  Use canned or frozen to boost variety in the menu with out of season options (e.g. canned tomato, canned corn).  Don’t forget to drain well and choose the options with less salt.

Best Before

Taking care with the correct storage of fresh vegetables and eating close to purchasing helps to make these foods more economical and has a higher nutritional quality.  It is expensive for athletes to throws away food that has expired or deteriorated in the fridge through lack of use.


Don’t Forget

However, where possible, HPSNZ’s Performance Nutritionists would always promote a ‘Fresh Food First’ approach and frozen vegetables as a backup. Remember if using frozen vegetables, do not overcook them as they only require heating as they are lightly precooked prior to freezing) to preserve their nutrients.