January 2009


Here’s some information that was requested from Barbara on Energy and nutrition bars: Are they a good value for the money?  What should we know?

With such busy lives, many people – including, young athletes – feel that a quick energy bar can provide them with the ‘boost’ we need to get through the day.  Others use energy bars as a meal replacement.   So it’s not surprising that nutrition, protein, and energy drinks and food bars have grown in -size in the marketplace. In fact many grocery stores have whole sections devoted to offering the convenience of “energy on the go”.

For today’s blog, let’s focus on the energy bars and discuss the energy drinks next time.  Energy and nutrition bars often make claims that may be too good to be true. Some say they’ll increase energy, others offer extra nutrition, and some even claim to boost your athletic performance.  So how can you cut through the hype and past the flashy packaging on these energy products, to find out if they are offering us much more than a big dose of sugar?

Here are some facts to keep in mind when it comes to food bars

üEnergy bars can contain excessive sugar and calories. An occasional energy bar may be okay for athletes who burn lots of calories in high-intensity activities, like competitive cycling or running.  But for many adults or teens the extra sugar and calories just contribute to weight gain, and possible tooth decay.

üEnergy bars don’t make good meal replacements.  Skipping meals is not a healthy habit.  You don’t typically see someone eat an energy bar for lunch or dinner and then have that satisfied feeling. Nothing beats a real well balanced meal for both that full feeling and the nutritional satisfaction your body needs.

üRead the label to be sure that the energy bars will meet your needs for a snack or energy boost.   Lisa Drayeer, a dietitian from Cyperdiet.com has a nice summary of the different energy bars and possible uses at http://www.freediettips.com/diet_energy_bar_review.htm

Here is the summary of her Energy Bar Guidelines:

Watch calories and fat – up to 300 calories and 10 grams of fat is reasonable for a meal replacement, but cut that in half for a snack.

Choose a bar with at least 30 grams of carbohydrates if you plan to engage in long periods of exercise. (Same for protein, if you’re working those muscles)

Look for vitamins and minerals that you wouldn’t get from foods (like calcium and iron)

Limit saturated fat to 3 grams or less per bar.

Go for bars with 3 grams of fiber, for weight control.

üEnergy bars are expensive. Though energy bars are readily available, they don’t come cheap. At about $1.50 (or more!) a bar, you can get a better snack energy boost by eating a half a whole-wheat bagel with low-fat cream cheese.  Other on-the-go foods that provide plenty of nutritional bang for the buck include trail mix, fresh or dried fruits, and whole-grain breads and cereals. 

I enjoy the convenience of a high fiber energy bar but prefer to make my own. Here is my favorite recipe for making an energy bar that will keep you satisfied at half the cost.  http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/apricot_cereal_bar.html.    You can vary the dried fruit ingredients to suit your taste.  I have used the dried fruits bits that are only a dollar a box at the drug stores in the area.  That’s a real cost savings.

Try the bars and let me know what you think.

 

Posted By

Steven Belec, Director
Mayor’s Health Line,
Boston Public Health Commission

 

1.      You Can Apply for SNAP – SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the NEW name for the federal Food Stamps program. Many families are eligible and it’s easy to start an application! The Mayor’s Health Line can help you begin the process right over the phone. Call 617-534-5050 or 1-800-847-0710.

2.      The First Step is Simple – The initial step of the application is easy and can be completed over the phone. Seniors even have an easier application. Interviews are required for all applicants, but this can also be done over the phone.

3.      You Can Find Out If You Are Eligible – Before applying, you can go to a website to use an online calculator tool and see if you may be eligible for benefits. Find it here: http://www.gettingfoodstamps.org/Screener2/index.cfm

4.      If Eligible, You May Receive Food Stamps Within 1 Week – If you qualify for emergency food stamps, the DTA (Department of Transitional Assistance)  must provide them no later than 7 days after they receive your application. For regular food stamps, it is no later than 30 days after DTA receives your application.

5.      SNAP Benefits Are Given on a Card – This plastic card, called an EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) card can be used at grocery stores in the same machine that ATM or credit cards are swiped. This provides privacy and will prevent others from knowing that SNAP benefits are being used for payment. This card is automatically reloaded with funds each month the person is eligible for benefits.

6.      Many Seniors Have NO Asset Limits – Recently, the SNAP program eliminated the asset ceiling for many low-income households. Seniors whose income is below the eligibility guidelines will not have to provide information about assets.

7.      No Work Requirements if Caring For a Child – A person who is responsible for the care of a dependent child under age 6 or of someone who is incapacitated is exempt from work requirements. The person does not have to be living in the same household as the dependent. Further, a person who is residing in a home with someone else under age 18 is exempt from the Food Stamp Work Program. The applicant does not have to be related to or responsible for the household member under 18.

8.      You Can Get Food Stamps While Working – People who have any sort of regular income, including Social Security or a pension can get food stamps.

The Mayor’s Health Line can help you with a new application for Food Stamps and SNAP benefits right over the phone. They can also assist you if you have questions or are caught in the middle of the process.

Call the Mayor’s Health Line at 617-534-5050 or 1-800-847-0710.

As the New Year begins, we often make resolutions to eat healthier and that usually means losing some weight and exercising.  To take advantage of the season, advertisers are bombarding us with ads for diets, food systems, exercise equipment and other items to help keep these resolutions: however they can often leave you disappointed.  Besides, in these times every penny counts, so we don’t have the extra to purchase the advertised items.  So what to do?

 

Here are NINE tips for ‘09 taken from health experts and successful individuals who have developed healthy habits and kept weight off over time.   These can help you stay on track with meeting your New Year’s resolutions while still eating healthy and saving money.  

 

  1. Watch your portions – Easier said then done!  A simpler method than calorie counting or measuring out every bite is to re-balance your plate. The “healthy plate” concept helps people control portion size and increase the balance of healthier lower calorie foods.  For more details check out these nutrition notes.

Another tip for a “healthy plate” is to use a 9” diameter plate instead of the current standard 12” size.  Your plate will look fuller, even with smaller portions.                                     

                                      

  1. Pile on the vegetables and whole fruits - As you can see on the healthy plate, half the plate is vegetables and whole fruits, which are nutrient-rich, low in fat and calories, high in fiber, and loaded with health-promoting compounds.  The key is variety, so try eating by colors Don’t forget that during this time of year, frozen vegetables are an economical buy. Frozen and canned fruits in the own juices are also excellent buys.
     
  2. Go for the whole grains – Grains are carbohydrates which we need for energy. Whole grains contain more vitamins, minerals, protein, and fiber that than white highly processed grain foods.  The properties of whole grains also have stabilizing influences on blood sugar levels.  To keep it interesting check out ideas at Whole Grain Council 
     
  3. Eat healthy fats – by selecting low-fat dairy and lean meats, poultry and fish.  Check your labels to avoid transfat in many other foods.   Use oils such as olive or canola that contain heart healthy monounsaturated fats.   Checking the weekly flyers and using coupons is a great way to save on the low-fat dairy items and the healthy oils
     
  4. Go little nuts- Nuts such as walnuts and almond are rich in omega-3 and other antioxidants which are heart-healthy. Unlike snacks made from refined grains and sugars, nuts have fat and fiber to satisfy hunger and steady blood sugars.   Here are tips for portion control and more on the benefits of adding nuts to your food list. 
     
  5. Go meatless once or twice a week and enjoy legumes and beansadding beans and legumes to your food selection instead of meat are not only economical substitutions. They also are excellent sources of low-fat protein, vitamins, minerals and fiber.  Use beans or legumes in stew, pasta  and other dishes.
     
  6. Slow down! – These days it may seem challenging to juggle work, family and other responsibilities, but eating on the run and under stress can cause heart burn and less absorption of nutrients.   Most importantly, eating too fast makes it more difficult to achieve or maintain a healthy weight.  Fast eaters usually complete a meal in ten minutes while slow eaters take 2-3 times longer and consume 70 to100 calories less! Take time to enjoy the healthy plate of food. 
     
  7. Increase your physical activity – this does not have to cost you any money.  Try taking the stairs as a great way to add some physical activity into your daily routine. Think about this way you can “weight” for an elevator or take the stairs and burn some calories.    
     
  8. Drink up… your H20 – Water is a low- or no cost-way to stay hydrated and improve your health without adding calories.  Check out why. 

So sticking to your New Year’s resolution for healthy eating and physical activity can be done without breaking the budget.   Tell me your successes at Ask Kathy.

 

Weekly Food Forecast – Low fat yogurt is always a healthy choice and is on sale at all the major grocery stores this week. Low fat yogurt provides calcium and protein to make a satisfying snack or part of a quick healthy breakfast.   Check your coupons to match with the sale.  

I used to save coupons when the kids were small and my budget was really tight. I did pretty well then and somehow over the years I had gotten out the practice.  Now I’m back to using coupons again and I have to admit that some things have changed but the basics for clipping and saving with coupons have not.

I first like to think of coupons as money to keep myself motivated to bring them to the store!   If I am going to purchase a product and there is a coupon for a small amount off, then that‘s money saved.  It may seem like too much work for small savings but if you maximize your coupon use over time, the savings do add up. Here are some strategies to get you organized and on your way to saving and achieving that great thrill when you see you grocery bill get reduced by using coupons.

Clipping coupons:

Timing - Try to choose the same day and time to clip your grocery or store coupons each week.  This will help you establish a routine.  I like to do mine at the beginning of the week, either on Sundays or Mondays.

Method when it comes to clipping your free grocery coupons, here are several methods to choose from…

* Clip them all out.  This is a quick way to clip the grocery coupons and is also an easy job you can assign to an older child.  Later, you can sort out which coupons you need to keep and which coupons you can share with a friend.

* Clip out only the coupons you know you will use.  This might take a little more time as you will need to look at (and think about) each individual coupon as you cut them out, but will save time later when filing them away and when going through them for use each week.

* Don’t clip out any of the coupons, but save them in their whole page form. This method takes longer in the end, but it will do when you’re really pressed for time.  I once had a month’s worth of coupon flyers to go through before leaving for the grocery store, not very fun!

* Find savings on the internet. The Sunday flyers are always a good place to start for clipping, but you can also look to the internet.  For online coupons, sign up using an email address and there may be small surveys on products to complete. Once that’s set, you will receive great coupons for products that are specific to what you selected. Here is the link: Print Coupons. 

Storing Coupons: This where the organization really comes in handy. Decide how you want to organize your coupons so that you can see what you have on a regular basis. Here are some ideas:

* Small index boxes or shoe boxes. You can usually find these at discount stores.
* A binder with clear plastic inserts is a great way to see your coupons. Add dividers either to sort by different products or by expiration date.
* I like to use a photo album. It’s smaller than a standard binder and I can carry it more easily in my bag,

Saving with coupons:  Maximize your coupon potential.

* Scan store sale flyers to find matching items. One of the best ways to save money with coupons is to match them with items that are already on sale. The key is use coupons on products that you typically purchase.
* Only purchase new products with the coupon when it is lower priced than comparable store brand.  
* Check with the store for their coupons. Grocery stores generally do not list everything they have on sale in their weekly sale flyers, so while matching your grocery coupons to the store flyers is a huge help, there will also be some additional sales you may have coupons for. Simply bring your coupon organizer with you to the store each week, and this way you can take advantage of the specials without forgetting to bring your coupons. If you can match it with a manufacturer’s coupon, then the savings really feel good.

Last tip:  When the end of the month is drawing near, I like to take a quick look through my coupons for any that might be expiring soon. Manufacturers set many of their coupons to expire on either the first or last day of the month, so keep an eye out for both dates and take any that you need to the store that week before they expire!

Share your coupon tips with us!

 Weekly Food Forecast –

This week, stores are running specials on canned soups.  This is an opportunity to save by using coupons offered in this week’s Sunday flyers with the matched sale.  Stock up for quick, easy meals, pairing the soup with whole grain bread and a salad.  Try and select the low-sodium varieties whenever possible or increase the water and add vegetables to regular soups to help keep the sodium (salt) level down.

I saved on soups when I purchased four on sale and used a $2.00 off coupon, so I actually only paid for two.  Now I have a quick lunch to bring to work that only cost me about 3.00 (that’s adding in crackers and a piece of fruit for dessert).                        

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