This  blog is in response to a request from a consumer who asked for tips on how to manage to prepare healthy meals on a regular basis.  The best way to start is to Stock a Healthy Kitchen.

It’s easy to get frustrated choosing what to make for a healthy meal, especially dinner, after a busy day at work.  The best way to ensure that you can prepare a healthy nourishing meal that is not loaded with calories, fats, salt and added sweeteners is to stock a healthy kitchen.  A stocked pantry will make it easier to prepare and serve a healthy meal with the least amount of effort. Quick meals can be just as nutritious as those that require lengthy preparation time. Basically, it’s all dependent on what foods or staples you have and how much time you have for preparation.

Getting your pantry, refrigerator and freezer stocked with healthy items DOES NOT have to break your budget.  Start slowly and add ingredients, utensils as you increase your recipes and cooking skills.  Spring time is the perfect time to think about cleaning out, and restocking.  Here are some suggestions that can make your meal preparation a pleasure rather than a stressful situation.  

 

Keep in dry storage (pantry)  

Canned goods and bottled items

  • Canned beans –cannellini, great northern, and chick peas black, red and kidney beans. 
  • Low sodium  chicken, beef or vegetable broths
  • Tomatoes,   diced, puree, whole and sauce,
  •  Light or white tuna and salmon, water packed
  • Fruits canned in juice
  •  White wine ( Non alcohol variety is available )

Vegetables /fruits and nuts

  • Potatoes , russets  and red
  • Onions , yellow and red
  • Jalapeno peppers
  • Dried fruits  all varieties
  • Nuts- almonds,  walnuts, pecans 

Oils and condiments

  • Canola or Vegetable oil for cooking
  • Spray oils canola or olive 
  • Extra virgin olive oil for cooking and salad dressings
  • Reduced –fat mayonnaise
  • Vinegars- balsamic, red–wine, rice –wine, apple cider and white.
  • Sauces,  barbecue, or marinades
  • Lite Soy sauce,  hoisin sauce 
  • Ketchup

Flavorings

  • Iodized salt
  • Kosher salt,  sea salt
  • Black peppercorns
  • Onions  fresh and dried
  • Garlic powder
  • Dried herbs,- bay leaves, sage , thyme leaves, oregano, Italian seasoning blend 
  •  Spices  ( whole or ground )  chili powder , cinnamon,  cumin, ground ginger, dry mustard, paprika, crushed red pepper
  •  Sugar , white and brown
  • Honey

  Breads, grains and legumes

  • Breads, whole grain and enriched
  •  Whole grain crackers
  • Flour, all purpose enriched and whole  wheat flour
  • Rolled oats, regular and quick cooking ( but not instant )
  • Pasta in a variety of shapes and sizes- preferably whole wheat  
  • Brown rice,  regular and quick cooking,
  • Sugar, white and brown
  • Plain dry  bread crumbs
  • Whole grain cereals

 Keep in your freezer

  •  Whole grain bagels, pita bread
  • Boneless chicken breasts
  • Fish fillets
  • Frozen vegetables,- all varieties without added butters or sauces
  •  Frozen berries and fruits
  •  100% fruit juices, concentrate
  • Lean beef
  •  Ground turkey
  • Turkey sausage, breakfast links and/or  Italian for quick pasta dishes   
  • Pizza crust
  • Frozen basil or garlic
  •  Frozen low –fat yogurt or ice cream for quick dessert
  • Fresh ginger  ( freeze unused portions and take out  as needed)

 Keep in your refrigerator

  • Eggs
  • Low-fat cheddar cheese or feta cheese
  • Good quality parmesan or romano cheese
  • Citrus juice,  orange or grapefruit
  •  Low –fat cottage cheese
  • Dijon mustard
  • Fresh fruits in season
  • Lemons and limes  
  •  Parsley , fresh basil, scallions
  • Fresh garlic
  • Milk, low-fat
  • Salad dressings, light or low-fat
  • Salsa
  • Vegetables,-  carrots, celery, lettuce, green or red  pepper, tomatoes
  •  Low fat yogurt
  • Water packed tofu
  •  Turkey bacon
  • Unsalted butter
  • Trans fat free margarine

 These basic items will get you started on your way to healthy cooking.  To begin, check the sales on your frozen vegetables, canned goods and dry goods and stock up.   Check your discount stores for sales on the dried fruits, herbs, spices and oils.  Often at the discount store you can get the dried herbs and, spices for under a dollar.    Don’t’ forget to use coupons on items that are on sale. This is how you can stock up on the lower cost side.  So as you prepare your healthy kitchen continue to use the other tips of menu planning, and sticking to grocery list except to add one or two items from the stock list to build your base.

The beauty of having a healthy stocked kitchen is that today, I found a new recipe for beef and asparagus stir fry which looks tasty with a nice Asian flavor.   On my weekly menu I had a beef dish planned, but I was busy this morning and did not add the dish to the slow cooker.    We all have days when things do not go as planned.  Not to stress about it because the new recipe I found will be just as great.   I have all the ingredients.  I will use the beef already planned, just slice it thin. All the others ingredients or flavorings, I do not have to run out for, I have them in the dry pantry.  I have in the freezer asparagus (purchased on sale two weeks ago and then froze).   So when I get home I can relax, enjoy preparing a healthy meal in 40 minutes (that’s how long it takes brown rice to cook.) and enjoy tasting a new dish

By  Rebecca Brotzman

What are “enhanced” waters enhanced with?

First came the bottled water craze, which has become a booming industry over the last thirty years.  Now products are coming out that seem to take the convenience of bottled water to the next level of health:  vitamins and water?  Isn’t that better than just bottled water?!  Sadly, in an attempt to be healthier, people are being fooled into wasting money and hurting the environment.

Manufacturers market products to appear healthier than they are.  Even just plain bottled water is not any better for you than tap water, and often is just tap water.  “Enhanced” waters almost always contain added sugar or artificial sweeteners, with minimal amounts of the vitamins and other “healthy” additives they are promoting on the label. 

The most important thing to do is to read the ingredients and nutrition facts carefully.  It is also essential to recognize what serving size the label is referring to and how many servings you are actually consuming.

Let’s go through some of the most common “enhanced” waters and see what they are really enhanced with:

Vitamin Waters:

Most often sold in 20 ounce bottles (which are really two and half servings), most people would drink the entire bottle without a second thought.  The nutrition facts listed on the label are for one serving (8 ounces), so all nutrition information has to be multiplied by 2.5 if you drink the whole bottle.  So, for a 20 ounce bottle that lists 50 calories and 13 grams of sugar, you’ll actually be consuming 125 calories per bottle, and 33 grams of sugar (8 teaspoons) per bottle. 

If you drink the entire bottle, you will get between 25-250% of the recommended dietary allowance for 6 or 7 vitamins, with most of them being 50% or less (usually only vitamin C is over 50%).  You would be much better off health-wise, budget-wise, and environmental-wise, if you take a multivitamin and wash it down with tap water.

New versions of these products are being unveiled that show manufacturers are responding to a change in consumer awareness.  These versions have fewer calories and less sugar.  One example has only 10 calories per serving and 30 calories per 20 ounce bottle. 


Fitness Waters:

“Fitness Water” is just water with sucrose syrup, sucralose (Splenda), and a few vitamins (in one example: C, E, and four of the B vitamins).  The good thing about this drink is that it’s usually only 30 calories for a whole 24 oz container.  For one popular brand, a 24 ounce bottle will give you 75% of the RDA for 3 of the B vitamins, but 30% or less for vitamins C, E, and B-12.  Once again, you are paying for expensive tap water and a few vitamins.  A bottle of multivitamins containing 100% if the RDA for a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals would cost about the same as 2 or 3 bottles of this beverage.


Sports Drinks:

“Sports drinks” are potentially useful only after a high intensity workout lasting longer than an hour.  This beverage is really only intended for serious athletes who need to replenish electrolytes due to sweat loss.  Otherwise, they are just unnecessary calories and sodium.  Electrolytes are molecules in your body fluids that perform many important functions.  If someone perspires hard enough and long enough, they need to replenish them.  Sports drinks usually contain sodium and potassium because these are the electrolytes lost in the highest amounts through sweating.  They also contain sugar to provide athletes with a fuel source during sustained exercise.  Only during long endurance events are these sources needed.  Drinking plain water before, during, and after a workout is all most people need to do to stay hydrated.  Drinking a “sports drink” while you are NOT working out is completely unnecessary.  It will not hydrate you any better than water, and will give you empty calories and salt.  These drinks often come in 32 ounce containers, which contain four servings.  At 50 calories a serving, this works out to 200 calories if you drink the whole bottle.  You will also get 14 teaspoons of sugar, 440 mg sodium (20% of the recommended daily limit!), 120 mg potassium, and 372 mg of chloride. 

 

 Electrolyte Waters:

Water with added electrolytes is another kind of “enhanced” water found on the market.  The amount of added electrolytes is tiny. (One popular brand had 10mg potassium, 10 mg calcium, 15 mg magnesium per liter).  These are too few electrolytes to replenish a dehydrated athlete, and make little difference for a non-athlete.   Interestingly, some bottled waters contain more than this amount of electrolytes, and yet do not market themselves as “enhanced” water.  Electrolyte waters are closer to regular bottled water than to anything else.  Like water, they have no calories or artificial sweeteners, but they are not any better than tap water.   In fact, they are worse than tap water in terms of your wallet and the environment.

 
In Summary:

Becoming a savvy label reader is the most important way to not be fooled by marketing ploys.  Here are some tips to keep in mind:

1)      Labels don’t always use a standard 8 ounce serving.  Check serving size, then servings per container.

2)      Make sure you multiply the information on the nutrition label to match the servings you would realistically drink.

3)      Always read the ingredients.  Remember, ingredients are listed in order of what makes up most of the product to least of the product.

4)      Think of your wallet and your impact on the environment before you purchase a hyped-up version of what is readily available through the tap.

 

 

 

 

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.  

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