L.E.A.N. Economy or Tight Budget
You can afford to buy and eat healthy foods during tough times. Our desire to feed our family healthy foods is sometimes challenged by budgetary concerns over the cost of healthier foods. Here are some great tips on how you can streeeeeetch your dollar and do some smart shopping!
Portion Control: Yes, portion control, not only can proper portions help you minimize overeating, it can save you money on uneaten food. One recent recent report said that we can waste up to 30% of our food because we cook too much and many times throw away what is left on our plates. But for those who tend to clear their over portioned plates…the savings may also include your health.
Fruits & Vegetables: Of course fresh is preferable, however, when not in season or on sale, many times fresh can be expensive. So consider frozen which has some good benefits. Flash-frozen fruits and vegetables retain many of their nutrients that are many times lost with fresh produce when it spends too much time on the shelf or in the truck on the way to your store. The other benefit is that frozen will not spoil.
Private Label or Store Brands: These are not you mother’s private label products of the past, in many cases store brands are equal or better in quality than many of the national brands; in many cases, the national brands produce the store brands. And, for those who prefer organics, you’ll now find many organic store brands.
Buy Local: There is a resurgence of farmers markets around the country, and most carry locally grown produce that is in season. Check around for a farmers market or produce stand in your area, you might find some great produce and prices.
Bulk Up: That’s right, Costco, Sams & BJ’s offer some great values…provided you don’t get carried away. For fresh meat, poultry, and fish buying in bulk, individually wrapping portions, and placing them in your freezer is a great way to save. Also, many natural food stores offer some products such as oatmeal in bulk that are a better value than the same thing in a package.
Play the Game: First off, it always make sense to shop the ads and clip those coupons; but, that sometimes can be a time-consuming process. One way to make this easier and get the best of both worlds is the Grocery Game (www.grocerygame.com) where for a few dollars you can save a ton. They do the work for you by matching up a stores weekly specials with the coupons available in your Sunday newspaper, and the savings can be remarkable. Don’t veer away from healthy just for the savings, if what you know is right to eat is not on sale, take the savings from non-food items and apply the difference to healthier foods. Here are some more sites that can help save you money:
Shop Online: But wait a minute, doesn’t that cost money? Well yes, generally around $10, however, you may come out ahead by skipping the impulse purchases and by being able to shop the specials online when you may miss them in-store. In most cases you may also use your coupons without having to shuffle through them while you are shopping and you’ll save on gas.
Value Protein: Protein does not always take the shape of meat, poultry or fish. Less costly alternatives are available in nuts, beans, tofu, peanut butter (watch out for peanut butters with hydrogenated oils in most national brands) and eggs. The old reliable PB&J sandwich is a great way for kids to get protein, just substitute the “J” for the pure fruit alternative.
Become a Savvy Shopper
Have you ever wondered what some of those words on the nutrition facts label and the ingredients lists really mean? Manufacturers are getting more and more clever in choosing words to put on their labels and the confused shopper is left to “trust” the manufacturer. We have decided that it is time you know what you are putting into you and your child’s body. Here are some definitions to help you make better choices in the supermarket:
Ascorbic acid: This is just another name for vitamin C. It is a citrus fruit derivative and acts as a preservative, helping prevent oxidation. When you add lemon or lime to avocado to prevent it from turning brown, you are adding ascorbic acid.
Acacia and guar gum: These are binding agents and help thicken food and are harvested from the tree or shrub with the same name.
Food additives/colors: Chemically created substances that are added to foods to enhance flavor or appearance.
- These “excitotoxins” are known to alter the chemistry of the brain and include artificial sweeteners like aspartame, MSG, food colorings and preservatives.
- Have no nutritional value. Linked to neurological diseases like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. A child’s growing brain if four times more sensitive to excitotoxins. Can cause severe headaches and mood swings in both children and adults
GRAS: Generally recommended as safe. This means that the product is generally recognized by the scientific community as safe to add to foods but that it might not have been specifically tested for adverse effects.
High fructose corn syrup (HFCS): An inexpensive sweetener added to many processed food items, especially “low-fat” foods. Because of it is not a “natural” product it does not break down quickly, therefore extending the shelf life for a multitude of products. A chemical process developed in the 1970’s that converts the semi-sweet cornstarch (corn) sugars to much-sweeter fructose.
- Unlike natural sugars, HFCS does not trigger the release of the hormone leptin, part of the body’s natural system that creates the feeling of fullness and satisfaction. Those who have HFCS regularly in their diet are more likely to overeat.
- HFCS is believed to increase blood fats more than the same amount of table sugar, causing a rise in bad cholesterol which has been linked to heart disease
Hydrogenated oils (or partially hydrogenated oils): An unhealthy fat that results from food manufacturers pumping hydrogen gas into vegetable oil, a process called “hydrogenation.” This process chemically changes these unsaturated fats and provides some economical advantages for food manufacturers. First, hydrogenation helps oil withstand higher heat (like deep-frying in many fast food restaurants) and second, it gives products a longer shelf-life because these chemically altered fats don’t spoil as fast as natural oils.
- Our bodies do not recognize these chemically altered fats like natural fats, so when these unnatural fats are absorbed into our body’s cell membranes, they become more rigid and they interfere with the cell membranes’ growth and function.
- Hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated oils are known to raise cholesterol, decrease immunity, increase heart disease, increase many cancers, increase the chance of developing diabetes, and increase abdominal fat, which in turn increases the risk of many other diseases.
L. bulgaricus, S. thermophilus, L. acidophilus, Bifidus, L. casei, and L. reuteri: These are all beneficial bacteria and are often added to yogurt. Beneficial bacteria help the body in the digestion process.
Lecithin: Made from a component of soybeans or egg yolks and is used to help foods stay moist.
Minimally processed: Raw material is not fundamentally altered.
- Meat, poultry, and eggs: legally can contain no artificial ingredients or added colors. They can only be minimally processed.
All other foods: “Natural” has no legal meaning. The FDA has no definition of the term “natural.” This means that companies can put a “natural” label on almost any product.
Organic: Organic production is based on a system of farming that maintains and replenishes soil fertility without the use of toxic and persistent pesticides and fertilizers. Organically produced foods also must be produced without the use of antibiotics, synthetic hormones, genetic engineering and other excluded practices, sewage sludge, or irradiation. Cloning animals or using their products would be considered inconsistent with organic practices. Organic foods are minimally processed without artificial ingredients, preservatives, or irradiation to maintain the integrity of the food. (Source: http://www.ota.com/definition/quickoverview.html)
Trans-fats: The fat that results from a vegetable oil that has gone through the process of “hydrogenation.” These fats are called “trans-fats” because the process of hydrogenation transports atoms from one side of the fat molecule to the other.
- If an ingredients label has the words “hydrogenated oils” or “partially hydrogenated oils” listed the product contains trans-fats.
- If trans-fats are less than .5% of a serving, the food manufacturer can legally say “No trans fats” on the packaging.
You spend hours sorting through confusing advertising messages and reading lengthy nutrition labels to provide your family with the highest possible level of nutrition. In addition to looking for fiber and fat content, have you ever considered whether the food you are purchasing contains GMOs?
GMOs, or Genetically Modified Organisms, are created when an organisms genome has been altered by the techniques of genetic engineering so that its DNA contains one or more genes not normally found there. The new method of genetic engineering is a scientific technology that unnaturally forces genetic information across the protective species barrier.
What does this mean to you, and why should you be concerned? There are many reasons you should be concerned, one of which is that these products have been laboratory created and limited amounts of testing about the products exist. For more information GMOs, visit www.centerforfoodsafety.org.
To help you shop smart for your family, the Center for Food Safety has created a downloadable document detailing what specific brands and products use GMOs. Click here to view and download this sheet and gain an additional tool to help you feed your family smart.
Here are some great substitutions to make your family healthier:
|Sour Cream||Plain Yogurt (equal amount)||Topping on a baked potato or soup, Enhancing Mexican Food|
|Mayonnaise||Plain Yogurt (equal amount)
Avocado, Hummus, or Pesto
|Tuna, egg or chicken salad, Sandwich spread|
|Bottled Salad Dressing||A combination of: Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Apple cider or balsamic vinegar, Choice of herbs/spices like oregano, basil, thyme, rosemary and tarragon||Salad dressing|
|Rice||Quinoa, Kashi or Couscous||A side dish|
|Oil||Applesauce (equal amount), Broth||Baked goods, Sautéing|
|¾ cup honey and reduce liquid in recipe by ¼ cup|
|Buttermilk (1 cup)||1 cup milk mixed with 1 tbsp white or apple cider vinegar, or lemon juice (let stand 5 minutes), 3/4 cup of plain yogurt and 1/4 cup of milk, 1 cup plain yogurt (for baking)|
|Wine||Apple juice or cider, ¼ cup vinegar, ¼ cup water & 1 tbsp sugar||Cooking, Marinating|
Finally, when shopping, keep in mind that eating healthy leads to better health; better health leads to savings with fewer sick days and trips to the doctor!