Tag Archives: Eating Healthy

10 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget

When people are asked why they do not eat healthier foods, a frequent answer is, “Because healthy foods cost a lot more.”  If that is your reason, I encourage you to reconsider because there is no reason to think that way. Many people are eating healthy on a budget.

Yes, some organic produce and other “health foods” can be more expensive; but,  it is not mandatory that you buy organic, etc., in order to eat clean, healthy meals. There are ways to stay on a food budget and still feed your family fresh, healthy foods on a regular basis.

  1. Buy fruits and vegetables in-season.

Seasonal fruits and vegetables will be less expensive that those out of season. You can educate yourself through online sources to make decisions about when to buy different types of produce. If you watch the prices in the groceries stores, that will be a fairly good indication, as well. Out of season produce is usually more expensive; don’t buy those.

Buying at your local Farmer’s Market or finding a good store that stocks fresh, local produce like SPROUTS, helps you buy fresh fruits and veggies at the best prices.  When you find good prices, buy in bulk and freeze the excess for later.

In the past year or so, Safeway has been making a huge shift by providing organic and local produce. Just be sure to read the signs and watch the price points.

  1. Plan Meals Ahead

When you plan ahead (preferably a week at a time), grocery shopping becomes much easier. You buy exactly what you need and can avoid impulse buying.  When you are not sure what you are going to prepare, you pick up a lot of random ingredients that you never use – a terrible waste of money and very hard on the budget.  Plan, shop with a list, and stick to it.

  1. Shop the Perimeter of the Market
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by monkey_business

It is not necessary to buy a lot of fancy foods with exotic names just to eat healthy. The majority of the food you need will be around the perimeter of the market, so limit your time in the middle aisles – go there for specific items and leave quickly.

When you are on a budget, start by making a list of the most basic items you need, such as lean protein, produce, and whole grains. The rest of the food is only chosen, based on what you need for your planned meals or on occasion when you have a little extra money.

  1. DO NOT BUY Processed Foods

Processed foods may seem less expensive, but in reality, you get much less food for your dollars, it has been stripped of nutrients, and it is filled with additives.

For example:  think about the price for a box of instant brown rice, which is good for one meal, compared to a big bag of uncooked brown rice and the number of meals you would serve from the bag.  Yes, it does take a little more time to soak and cook the rice yourself, but you get a lot more for your money, more nutrient-rich food and no harmful additives.

  1. Learn to Cook with Inexpensive Protein Sources

Protein is a vital component of a healthy diet, but that does not mean you have to eat a large serving of meat at every meal.  There are a number of protein sources that are less expensive and good for your body.

For fish, instead of always serving salmon, try tilapia, tuna, or mackerel – all much lower in cost.  Chicken breast, hard cheese, cottage cheese, eggs, beans, nuts and seeds are also low-cost protein options.

  1. Buy Grains and Beans in Bulk

The American way of life has become so dependent on prepared foods that what I am going to suggest may seem like a real stretch for some.  But, if you are living on a strict budget and want to eat better, try the following . . .

Instead of buying refried beans from a can, buy pinto beans in the bag, soak them, cook them, and add spices as needed. You can buy many grains and other legumes in bulk, which allows you prepare many meals for just a few dollars – and it is real, unadulterated food – so nice!

  1. Be Creative with Leftovers

In addition to lower cost, another reason for buying in bulk is that it saves time.  You can cook larger portions for each meal, and use the leftovers to prepare additional healthy meals.

Instead of buying a small package of two chicken breasts, buy a package of 8-10 chicken breasts and bake them all at the same time. Use two or three for dinner, use two more for chicken sandwiches the next day for lunch, and another one or two the following day for a chicken casserole.  If there are any left, freeze and use for other meals. One package could give you dinner for a week or longer, depending on the size of your family and types of meals you prepare.

  1. Organize Your Pantry and Fridge
Eating healthy on a budget
Image by olesiabilkei

This may seem like a silly tip, but when you pantry and fridge are organized, you can see what you have and use items in a timely manner. It also prevents you from buying duplicate items that you do not need.  Food waste is a major factor in overspending on groceries.

You may have fruit and vegetables in the crisper drawer that are still good but you forgot you had them; or meat in the back of the freezer that could create a nice meal. Keeping your kitchen organized will help you stay within your budget.

Another tip closely related to this, is to always check your pantry and fridge for items on your grocery list before you go shopping.

  1. Frozen Fruits and Vegetables Are Acceptable Alternatives

There is nothing wrong with quick frozen produce. It is extremely convenient, saves money and also helps eliminate waste – because it doesn’t go bad as quickly as fresh produce – and it is great when you are in a hurry. Just be sure that you are buying frozen produce that has NOTHING added – including sugar and salt – pure fruits and veggies.

You can buy these year round – seasons do not affect the price and you can use partial packages and save the rest for latter.  So, when the items that your family enjoys are on sale – or specials – stock up.

Freezers should be set at 0° or colder. Eating frozen foods past suggested deadlines is not dangerous as long as the temperature has been stable, but flavors and textures will begin to deteriorate.

  1. Try Off-Brands

You do not have to buy brand names to eat healthy.  Learn to read labels and buy foods with no additives, salt, or sugar.  Buy a small amount and test them for taste, texture, etc. If they work for you and meet the “clean” criteria, there is no reason not to stick with the new lesser-known brand.

There are specific “organic” brands, but there are also generic brands offering the same nutritious ingredients. The main key is to ALWAYS read labels!

Food manufacturers play games with labels – and have no qualms about misleading the public. It is up to you to make sure you are eating the kinds of foods you want – that are good for your family’s health.

You and your family can start eating healthy on a budget today. It takes a little planning, but it can be done – and well worth the effort.

I challenge you to take care of yourself and your family by changing the way you think about food and healthy eating. 

Choose Gluten-free Quinoa

Gluten intolerance can be a serious problem and requires a change in diet for stricken individuals in order to live healthy lives.

To make this health issue easier to understand – gluten is a protein ‘glue’ composite found in most grains. Gluten gives dough elasticity and creates problems in the digestive tract of some people.

Image by TLFurrer
Image by TLFurrer

The official name for gluten intolerance is Celiac Disease. If you have this condition and eat foods that contain gluten, the lining of the small intestine becomes inflamed and eventually damaged. The inflamation makes it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients, which leads to malnutrition and weight loss.

Because of the seriousness of this condition, it is important to transition to a gluten-free diet, which can be challenging since grains of all kinds are used in many, many products found at the supermarket. Fortunately, today, there are many gluten-free products available and among those is one very shiny star – gluten-free quinoa.

When you understand the composition of quinoa, it is easy to understand why it is a good alternative for wheat and other grains.

Quinoa is a seed, which makes its structure completely different than grain and it contains no gluten.

There is also no reason to be concerned about cross-contamination from air-borne wheat or other grains. The world’s quinoa supply is primarily grown in Bolivia at an elevation of over 12,000 feet, where gluten-bearing grains cannot be grown. There is absolutely no danger of cross-contamination.

Why Quinoa Is a Good Gluten-free Choice

  • Quinoa contains all nine essential amino acids, making it a complete protein
  • It seems to be easier for the body to digest than most other plant-based proteins. It has a similar protein structure to milk, which the bodies utilizes well. Milk intolerance is typically from the lactose content – not from the protein structure.
  • Quinoa protein is excellent fuel for the body to keep it going strong.
  • It is a good source of Omega 3 and Omega 6, the essential fatty acids our bodies and brains needs to function correctly.
  • It is also a rich source of Vitamin E, antioxidants, folate, and B vitamins.
  • It is high in manganese and magnesium – two minerals that are important for a healthy immune system and used to synthesize fatty acids and cholesterol.
  • It has increased levels of iron and copper, which are critical for a healthy blood supply.
  • Finally, quinoa contains phosphorus, zinc, and a little calcium.

Challenges of a Gluten-free Diet

A big challenge is limiting the intake of carbohydrates because of the heavy use of rice as a replacement for wheat products. This is where quinoa can be of value.

A cup of cooked white rice has 44 net grams of carbs (carbs minus dietary fiber.) A cup of cooked brown rice has 41 net grams of carbs. When you compare this to a cup of cooked quinoa at about 34 net grams of carbs, eating quinoa makes good sense; plus, you are getting the benefit of the additional nutrients (especially the protein) found in quinoa that rice does not contain.

In Summary

There are many reasons to make quinoa your “go-to” food on your gluten-free diet beginning with boosting your nutrition by increasing the protein, healthy fats, and maintaining a healthy blood supply – plus reducing your carbohydrate intake

Making the transition to a gluten-free diet can be easy when you choose quinoa as a staple in your diet.

Steps to Start a Healthy and Nutritious Diet

Healthy and Nutritious Diet

If you have never learned to eat healthy and have no understanding of proper nutrition, making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle can seem difficult, but it really doesn’t have to be.

All you need to learn are a few basic pieces of information. The reality is that with a little knowledge anyone can start on the road to good health.

Healthy eating is essential if you want your body to continuing functioning properly over the long-haul; if you want to have lots of energy and vitality; and if you want to live a healthy, disease-free life.

The biggest challenge for most people when they first start the process of changing their diet for the better is breaking unhealthy habits that have been in place for a long, long time. But, if you are committed to living the best, healthiest life possible, you cannot compromise on your diet. You must choose a healthy, nutritious way of eating and stay with it for the long term.

The first and most important step in the process (once you are fully committed) is to clean out your refrigerator, pantry, and cupboards.  You must clear your home of bad foods.

Get Rid of All Bad Foods in Your Home

Packaged food with additives
Unhealthy Food
Image by Honey Bunny

Get rid of anything (and everything) that is processed. This means all packaged foods, including snacks, chips, cookies and soda (especially energy drinks). Processed, packaged foods typically contain very few nutrients that the body needs AND are filled with additives.

If you don’t have junk food, processed snacks, pre-packaged dinners, and soda in your kitchen you will not be continually tempted to eat them.

In place of all those “bad foods” you should stock your kitchen with healthy snacks, such as, fresh fruit and veggies, cheese, unsweetened non-fat Greek yogurt, and if you must have carbs – try 100% whole grain products, like crackers and rice cakes. (Read the labels and avoid those that contain additives.)

If you know you will struggle with a sweet tooth, try eating a spoonful of peanut or almond butter, or a handful of nuts.

If you still struggle and are unreasonably tempted by bad snacks, opt for Atkins Nutrition Bars that come in a variety of flavors, including, Brownies. They taste good and have zero sugar.  If you can avoid going this route, I would encourage you to do so, but it is a good choice if you MUST have something sweet.

Learn to Cook Healthy Meals

Healthy meals are made up of lean proteins, and healthy carb sides, including whole- grain starches and vegetables. Fruit and/or nuts are good choices for dessert.

Overall, a healthy eating plan includes the recommended daily allowances from all the food groups. Please note when you look at the chart that SUGAR IS NOT a FOOD GROUP, in fact it is not listed at all.

It is important to take the time to learn which foods are healthy and how they work in the body. I am sure that you already know that fruits and vegetables are at the top of the healthy food list.  You have probably also heard that low-fat and skim dairy products are better for you that whole milk products. But, you may have no idea why any of those foods are healthy.  The secret is the nutrients they contain – you should not only know what they are, but also how they contribute to your health.

Once you have a clear understanding and appreciation of how specific nutrients work in the body, you will be more likely to make healthy choices at meal and snack times. Knowledge is power – so take the time to educate yourself!

Start Cooking at Home

The only sure way you can control the ingredients in your meals and the cooking methods used to prepare them is to cook at home.  Don’t leave the health of your family in someone else’s hands.

Once you are clear on the healthy foods that you should be eating, take the time to learn healthy cooking methods to ensure that you are preparing and serving your family the meals they deserve.

Eat at Regular Times

When you first start on the journey of eating a new and healthier diet, it is wise to eat on a regular meal schedule. The majority of people who eat unhealthy foods most of the time are always in a hurry and frequently eat in a rush or at odd times of day.

Yes, people lead very busy lives, and eating junk and fast food on the go is typical – so, to break the pattern, you must plan ahead.  To avoid grabbing whatever fast food is handy, get a small cooler and take your lunch with you. A fresh tuna salad, or roast chicken sandwich on 100% whole-wheat bread is much healthier for you than a Big MAC. If you have the convenience of a lunch room, try packing a nice salad.

Plan Ahead

The weekend is a good time to plan for the week, and prep food that can be used easily throughout the week.

Plan ahead for healthy dinners as well, by cooking ahead of time and using the freezer to its fullest advantage. Check out my cookbook, Cook Ahead – Freezer to Table, which can be purchased through Amazon.com.  It is filled with healthy recipes that can be prepared ahead of time, frozen, and pulled from the freezer for quick, healthy meals any time.

There are healthy frozen meals available at the market as well, and can be a good alternative for those who really cannot cook. These include, Healthy Choice and AMY’S Organic Meals, among others. Be careful with your choices, not all frozen meals are healthy – read the labels carefully.

Shop the Periphery of the Market

The periphery of any super market has all the healthy foods, and  the inside aisles carry all the processed and unhealthy ones. Think about it, the produce section, the fresh meats, and the dairy products are all on the periphery. Next time you are at the market take a stroll and look around the periphery to see what is there. In fact, do most of your shopping there.

Final Thoughts

Begin with small steps. Some people can make the change to a healthy diet cold-turkey and be highly successful at it. If you do not believe that is possible, take it one small step at a time.  Even if you merely substitute one soda a day with a glass of water, or one candy bar with an apple, it counts. If you normally eat fast food each day for lunch, try eating a healthy meal instead at least every other day.

When you begin with tiny steps, it will not feel as drastic. This will also give you plenty of time to learn about healthy foods and healthy cooking methods, which I promise you will learn to love over time, if you stay the course.

AND . . . the best part of all is that you and your family will look better, feel better, stay more in control of your weight, and live longer, healthier lives.

Five Top Fat-Burning Foods

Fat-Burning Foods

Fueling your body properly is one of the key factors in eating healthy. There is a lot of on-going research regarding fat-burning foods that can help you burn calories and manage your weight.  If you understand the research, and use the ingredients correctly, you will be able to enjoy all of the possible health benefits. Let’s take a look at five top fat-burning ingredients.

Iced Green Tea
Image by Beum Gallery

GREEN TEA

Green tea has grown in popularity and moved from the category of an exotic beverage to a household name – right up there with orange pekoe tea. The extract of green tea provides you with EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate), caffeine and antioxidants that all do wonders for your body when combined properly.

The caffeine combined with the EGCG helps to boost your metabolism and process carbs.  At the same time, antioxidants in the ingredients help flush toxins out of your body and build a more efficient immune system. Matcha Green Tea is by far the best choice.

RASPBERRY KETONES

These were made popular by Dr. Oz, the TV medical guru.

These ketones are the primary compound that creates the aroma of red raspberries.  It is a protein used by your body to help regulate your metabolism. According to recent studies, it is helps your body dissolve fat molecules quicker. Plus, the idea of indulging in a diet that includes the beautiful aroma of raspberries is an added plus.

WHITE KIDNEY BEANS

Also known as “the magic bean” and there are good reasons why.  In addition to being a good source of vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber and anti-oxidants, they also help control blood sugar and aid in weight loss.

One of the main problems with eating carbohydrates is that they can send your blood sugar soaring; plus, when you have excess blood sugar or glucose your body, it is converted int fat. To slow down this process there are carbohydrate inhibitors that work by stopping the release of alpha-amylase (the enzyme that converts carbs into glucose).  White kidney beans supply you with that inhibitor.

A placebo-controlled study of 60 people showed that those who were taking the inhibitor lost an average of 6.45 pounds in 30 days compared to the 1 pound over 30 days in the placebo takers.

WHOLE GRAINS

The body uses twice as many calories to break down whole grain foods versus their processed white counterparts, which is a primary reason to switch. Choices include:  whole grain pasta, rice, breads and cereals.

100% whole grains are natural and healthy, however, it is the overall diet that matters – just switching to whole grains is not enough. These fat burning molecules can only be successful when the overall diet is managed well. For example cutting back on your sugar consumption is critically important.

HOT PEPPERS

Capsaicin is the compound in peppers that gives them their heat, and it also heats up the body, which increases the number of calories that are burned.

How to Use the Top Five Fat Burning Ingredients

1.    Green Tea Iced Tea

This one is easy – simply substitute green tea instead of your regular Earl Grey.

To make a tasty tea, combine fruits into the process of creating the tea. The easiest way to infuse your tea with fruit is simply add the fruit.  You can also squeeze a lemon or orange wedge into the green tea for a light citrus flavor; or, add lightly mashed strawberries, blackberries, blueberries or raspberries and stir them into the tea.

More favorites are made with melon cubes (watermelon or cantaloupe) – or use peach or nectarine wedges. They all add tasty fruit flavors to iced green tea. Experiment and find the combinations of fruits that you enjoy.

2.    Raspberry Ketones

Raspberry ketones can be purchased in liquid form and added to juices and protein shakes. You can also purchase it in capsule form. Click here to look at some of your options: Raspberry Ketones.

3.    White Kidney Beans

My first choice for these magic beans is to use them in chili.  The beauty of this method is that it requires minimal effort and produces maximum flavor. Use ground turkey instead of ground beef to make the chili even healthier.

Chili is also an excellent choice for anyone who is managing their diet for weight control.  It stores well in the fridge or the freezer and offers ready-made individual meals whenever you need them. By adding other healthy ingredients, such as, cayenne pepper, tomatoes, onions, garlic, and even carrots, you can make this hearty meal even healthier.

4.    Whole Grains

There are many ways to use whole grains in cooking. The most obvious one is to use them in place of all white flour products. For example: use 100% whole-wheat pasta in all your pasta dishes; use brown rice instead of white in stir fry, side dishes and salads; and choose whole-wheat products instead of white breads, bagels, muffins and tortillas.

5.    Hot Peppers

There is a wide variety of peppers from mild to hot – and many of them are available in multiple forms:  raw, cooked, dried, and powdered (cayenne). Peppers can be added to eggs, stews, salads, meats, fish, poultry, sauces, stews and soups.

5 Obstacles to Successful Dieting

Obstacles to Successful Dieting

Dieting is never easy! And . . . staying with a diet over the long-term seems almost impossible at times. In spite of that, many people succeed and so can you – if you are aware of five key things that can throw you off track and create havoc with your will power and ability to stay the course.

When you understand the dangers, you are more likely to recognize what is happening if any of the five obstacles to successful dieting arise. And – you can get the issues under control before they do any real damage.

You know – I know – everybody knows – that the key to success with any diet is your ability to stay motivated. When that is strong enough and you stay focused, you can be aware of how you are feeling, anticipate, plan, and be ready to deal with obstacles as they appear.

In this series we will discuss the “BIG FIVE” issues that can lead to complete dieting disaster. We will also discuss how to avoid them and/or how to do damage control if they actually take hold.

We will start with the first one today and cover the other four in subsequent posts.

#1 – EMOTIONAL EATING

Emotional Eating can be a firestorm for anyone who is dieting. It can be devastating to the best intentions because it is one of the most difficult obstacles to control once it strikes.

We all eat emotionally to some degree. I am sure you have heard of comfort food – foods we crave when we are struggling with life – feeling angry, hurt, disappointed, sad, frustrated, depressed, etc. Somewhere in our lifetime we developed the habit of eating those comfort foods to make ourselves feel better when we are stressed or emotionally distraught.

Unfortunately, comfort foods are typically high-calorie foods – filled with fat. Some common comfort foods in the U.S. are thick, juicy cheeseburgers, lasagna, meatloaf, mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, fried chicken, ice cream, and chocolate.

It is obvious that such foods are disastrous for any diet. They not only have a high-fat content, they are usually also high in carbohydrates, which causes blood sugar levels to spiral out of control. That, in turn, leads to overeating, which is very difficult to stop once it starts.

Practically everyone struggles with emotional eating once in a while; but, some people are more susceptible than others.

People who struggle with depression, who become easily overwhelmed with life, or who work in a highly stressful environment are more likely to get caught in the tentacles of emotional eating. Click this link to take the Emotional Eating Test if you think it may be an issue for you.

The devastation of this issue can be stopped if the individual has a solid support network in place; but, without it emotional eating can be practically impossible to control.

If you know that emotional eating is your personal quicksand, you must enlist friends, family, coworkers, or any other network of people to be your support group to help you get through your emotional issues.

It is also critical to build your awareness about when you are truly hungry – and – when your desire to eat is driven by the need to fill up an emotional void. When you recognize that you are eating because of how you are feeling emotionally, you must be able to reach out to someone in your support network who can talk you through the “crisis” point until the emotional hunger goes away.

When you learn to recognize the difference between real hunger and emotional hunger, it will become easier to control your emotional eating. In fact, that is the only way you will be able to stop the emotional eating binges before they start – which is exactly what you want to accomplish.

Learn to listen to your body. Real hunger is physical. It is a signal from your stomach that your body needs food for energy. When you have eaten enough there is another signal telling you that you can stop – you feel full and satisfied.

Emotional hunger is mental – not physical. It is usually connected to an upsetting emotion, comes on suddenly, often triggers a craving for a specific food, and you have to have it right now.  Unfortunately, the emotional benefit is short-lived, so you continue to stuff yourself trying to fill up the void.

There is a lot of information available about emotional eating. If you think you may be struggling with this issue, it would be wise to get help in overcoming the problem. It will be a great step toward feeling better, looking better and living a happier, healthier life.

Join us again on Tuesday for the next obstacle.

To a thinner, healthier you!

Nancy