Let’s start with our Soda Free Summer campaign. The goal of the campaign is to reduce consumption of soda and sugary drinks among children and adults in Boston.   As the summer temperature rises so does the consumption of these drinks. The average person eats almost 100 pounds of sugar a year, and the largest source of added sugar in the U.S. diet is sugary beverages. This campaign is to raise awareness that these drinks typically have lots of calories and no nutritional benefits.  

Consumption of soda and sugary beverages has been shown to increase risk for obesity and other chronic health problems such as heart disease and type 2 diabetes. These issues are very much a reality for Boston residents, as 52% of adults in Boston are overweight or obese, and almost half of Boston high school students are overweight or at risk of being overweight.   


Just how much sugar are we drinking?

A 12 ounce can of non –diet soda contains 10 teaspoons of sugar.

A 20 ounce bottle of non-diet soda contains 17 teaspoons of sugar.

To put this in perspective, drinking one 12-ounce can of soda per day can result in a weight gain of 15 extra pounds per year. Drinking one 20-ounce bottle of soda can lead to 25 extra pounds in a year.

Any reduction in consumption is a step in the right direction. Replacing soda with healthier options such as water, water with fruit slices, unsweetened tea, low fat dairy, or seltzer will have positive health benefits. The greatest benefit will be seen by those who reduce their consumption the most, or eliminate soda entirely. To support selecting a healthier option, CLICK here for the quick and easy Raspberry Sprizter. For other helpful information on selecting healthy beverages, CLICK here
 The Soda – Free Summer campaign is a fun way to encourage individuals and youth organizations to take the pledge to be soda free for the summer.     When taking the pledge, individuals have two options:

  1. I pledge to not drink soda this summer
  2. I pledge to reduce the amount of soda I drink this summer


Take the Soda-Free Summer Challenge and re-energize your life!

www.bphc.org/sodafreesummer  or www.Facebook.com/HealthyBoston

The second exciting thing about summer is that local produce is now available at Boston‘s farmers’ markets.  The array of produce is fresh-picked so it has not lost any nutritional value in the time it takes to travel long distances that may happen at grocery stores.  The variety of produce makes this the perfect opportunity to try new vegetables such as garlic scapes, which are the early tops of garlic as it’s growing. It’s great chopped as garnish or to add a mild garlic flavor to dishes.   Right now scallions, summer squash, cucumbers a variety of lettuces and salad mix are available.  As the summer progresses, I personally can’t wait for fresh tomatoes.Most of markets around the city have the capacity to accept EBT for individuals using food stamps.  If you would like more information of Boston‘s farmers’ markets dates and times as well as the Boston Bounty Bucks  program  CLICK  here.

 So let’s get out and have fun in Boston this summer, drinking healthy beverages to quench our thirst, and eating local produce to energize ourselves.



Our blog theme healthy food on a budget fits this year’s theme because the month of March is the perfect opportunity to begin to plan for ways that one could start to think of getting good nutrition and reducing food cost through gardening or access to local foods this coming season.

 One area to consider getting healthy foods is to grow your own food.   What a fun way to know where your food actually comes from by starting a garden in your backyard or at a community garden plot. I have to admit this takes a bit effort and more information gathering than just digging up an area and planting seeds. You must make sure your soil is safe and free of lead or other contaminants that are often found in urban gardening. Here are several links to check out for gardening and making sure that you are off to a safe and healthy start.

The Boston Natural Areas Network (BNAN) can provide lots of information regarding gardening in Boston: http://www.bostonnatural.org/  Also BNAN is having a Garden’s Gathering on Saturday, March 20, 2010 11AM – 5 PM at Northeastern University.  This is FREE event will have lots of local garden resources and information.

 The Food Project is another great resource regarding soil testing, creating raised bed gardens and other tips:    http://thefoodproject.org/local-food

Another place to start if you want to support local food and produce is to consider joining Community Support Agricultural (CSA).  Over the last 20 years, Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) has become a popular way for consumers to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer. Here are the basics of how a CSA operates:   

A farmer offers a certain number of “shares” to the public. Typically the share consists of a box of vegetables, but other farm products may be included. Interested consumers purchase a share (aka a “membership” or a “subscription”) and in return receive a box (bag, basket) of seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.  This arrangement creates several rewards for both the farmer and the consumer.     

Advantages for farmers:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         

  • Get to spend time marketing the foods they grow  early in the year, before their long days in the field begin
  • Receive payment early in the season, which helps with the farm’s cash flow and capacity to do business 
  • Have an opportunity to get to know the people who eat the food they grow

Advantages for consumers:                                                                                                                             

  • Eat ultra-fresh  either organic or grown with minimum pesticides food, with all the flavor and vitamin benefits of foods grown locally
  • Get exposed to new vegetables and new ways of cooking
  • Find that kids typically enjoy  foods from “their” farm – even veggies they’ve never been known to eat  
  • Develop a relationship with the farmer who grows their food and learn more about how food is grown

While the cost of joining a CSA at first is challenging, most CSA have payment plans to allow families / individuals to adjust to the cost.   For example, one CSA would cost a family $400 however the actual cost is just $26 per week for 15 weeks of fresh organic local grown fruits and vegetables, this is a lot less than what a consumer would pay for the same amount of organic produce in the grocery store.  

Joining a CSA is  a simple enough idea, but its impact has been profound because not only are you getting local fresh produce but  you support local farmers and working toward building a sustainable agriculture industry , which is what we all want for the future.  If you are interested CSA’s serving the Boston areas click here:  Massachusetts_CSA_DirectoryBoston

 If these options are not what you are ready for at this point, you can still support nutritious foods from the ground up by going to the local Farmers’ Markets when they begin in June.  This is a great way to purchase local produce without growing it yourself or joining a CSA.  Many of the markets take Electronic Debt Transfers (EBT) to support using Food Stamps. Boston also has the advantage of Bounty Bucks to increase the value of using your food stamps at Framers’ Markets. To learn more about Farmers’ Markets   and Bounty Bucks   click:  http://thefoodproject.org/boston-bounty-bucks.

 So take the time this month, to check out ways that you can plan for the coming growing season and take advantage in any way that fits for you to have healthy foods that support nutrition from the Ground Up.

February is heart month: When it comes to preventing heart disease, hypertension and stroke,  we have all heard that one way to increase your heart’s health is through diet, selecting foods that are low in cholesterol and saturated fat.      However as new studies come out, we are finding that preventing heart disease is about more than just watching our cholesterol and saturated fats. It’s about our total dietary make-up and physical activity.   

 But how do we make heart healthy changes on tight budget, when we’re   pressed for time and have to feed the family in a pleasing way?  Here are a few easy steps toward putting heart healthy meals on your plate and activity in your life.  

Switch to more of the polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats
Polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats are the two unsaturated fats. They’re found mainly in many fish, nuts, seeds and oils from plants. Some examples of foods that contain these fats include salmon, trout, herring, avocados, olives, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower.  Both polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats may help lower your blood cholesterol level when you use them in place of saturated and Trans fats. Keep total fat intake between 25 and 35 percent of calories. (1)

Budget friendly recipes that are high in   mono and poly unsaturated fats often contain canola or olive oils, walnuts and don’t forget peanuts.  Here’s a quick and easy budget friendly recipe that contains sweet potatoes and peanuts   http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/sweet_potato_peanut_bisque.html

Get the “Good Carbs” by making half your plate whole fruits and vegetables to reduce your cardiovascular risk.     We have all heard that a variety of fruits and vegetables provide vitamins and nutrients in the body. Although it is seldom talked about, potassium is a crucial element for a strong, healthy body. Potassium is a key electrolyte in the body. The balance between sodium and potassium helps regulate blood pressure and heartbeat and helps to ensure the proper functioning of cells.  A variety of fruits and vegetables helps maintain that balance because they are low in sodium and high in potassium.   A nice variety for this time of year is vegetables that grow underground and can still flourish during cold winter months.  These vegetables include cabbage, turnips, beets, peas, kale, carrots, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, onions, radishes, Swiss chard, collards, celery root and squash.    Winter is the perfect time to create hearty soups made with these delicious winter vegetables.  Homemade soups are an excellent way to spread the winter food budget as they can be made ahead and frozen.    

Click here for  winter vegeatbles recipe

In addition to these winter vegetables, beans can be a perfect addition to the budget friendly soup. Beans are another  a great source of protein, fiber, potassium, foliate, vitamin E, iron, calcium, zinc, manganese, and copper-all with the added bonus of being inexpensive!

Don’t forget the fruits, in the wintertime check what’s in season,  including citrus fruits, pears and apples.  Canned fruits and frozen fruits offer variety in a lower cost ways.  Always be sure they are packed with no added sugars or in their own juice.

Be picky and increase dietary fiber through use of whole grains, in more sources than breads.

When it comes to whole grains, we first think of whole grains breads and cereals, which are great but can put a strain on the food budget.   So think outside the traditional products for whole grain.  In the cold winters, a warm breakfast can start your day with oats that are fairly low cost.  Here’s a link to quick and easy ways to try oatmeal    http://www.mrbreakfast.com/article.asp?articleid=27 .    

 Other whole grains include barley, whole grain and wild rice and wheat berries. Here’s   a great side dish to try   http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/recipes/mixed-up-grains/index.html    My family loves this side dish with added pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries (a dollar a box at your local drug store) 

Watch the sodium content in foods.    With the recent New York City announcement to work with  the food industries  to reduce the sodium intake in food supply,  it raises the awareness that we must monitor our selections.  It is especially important that we read the nutrition fact label.  A quick way to read the label is to   use the % Daily Values (%DVs) which helps you determine if a serving of food is high or low in a nutrient. This guide tells you that 5%DV or less is low for all nutrients, those you want to limit (e.g., fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sodium), or for those that you want to consume in greater amounts such as fiber, calcium, and vitamins and minerals.   20%DV or more is high for all nutrients, so think twice when you especially see sodium levels greater than 20% DV.  

Make Physical Activity Fun   We all know the benefits of physical activity on heart disease and other chronic conditions.  The best way to get moving on a daily basis is to make sure you’re having fun!     Start by making a list of the activities you enjoy…walking in the park, rollerblading, salsa  dancing…the options are only limited by your imagination.  Then, make fitting them into your schedule a priority!  I enjoy the least expensive form of physical activity, walking, even in the cold. A hat,   scarf and gloves and I’m ready to go!  I try and break up the 60 minutes per day by walking for short times through the day.   For other low cost ways to be active  check out http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=2155 

 With simple changes, we can make healthier choices regarding our meals and activities without breaking the food budget.  It just takes a little planning and thinking of new ways to introduce foods and activities in a FUN way.


1. American Heart Association                                                                                                                                                       

2.  Vegetables section and recipe contributed by Kirstin Anderson, Simmons Dietetic Intern

So as we think about healthy food for 2010, here are some thoughts to get you going on all of the top three resolutions and still keep you on budget.







Healthy eating means to ditch the extreme diets.   People almost always fail when trying to follow extreme diet plans, because diets are difficult for many of us to stick with over time.  So instead of eliminating certain foods or paying for diet plans, try writing down what you eat for several days, and evaluate where you can cut back 100 calories per day.   Much of the health data indicates that cutting back by 100 calories per day can lead to sustainable weight loss of pound a month.   

When thinking about cutting calories, don’t forget to think about your drinks.  Cutting out sugary drinks such as soda and other sweetened beverages, can be a quick way to save   150 -200 calories.  Try drinking tap water or other non- sugary drinks.   To get started here’s a free website to help you track your calories and other tips for healthy eating www.Sparkpeople.com

Healthy eating and losing weight also means not skipping meals.      Individuals who successfully lose weight and keep it off are those who consistently report eating breakfast.   A morning meal rich in fiber such as whole grains and small amounts protein slows the passage of food through the digestive system and provides you with a more satisfying feeling.   This feeling of fullness helps curb appetite to keep you satisfied for 3-4 hours until you’re ready for a healthy snack or lunch.

For the same price as you pay for a sugary donut or muffin and coffee to go, a healthy bowl of oatmeal or muesli with fruit  can satisfy, provide fewer calories,  and maintain  blood sugar levels  to start your day off toward maintaining  your goal.   Check out these power breakfast ideas to fuel your day.   http://www.eatingwell.com/blogs/hilary_meyer/2009_07_15/power_breakfasts_to_fuel_your_day

Fill your plate with colorful vegetables throughout the day.  There are many more vegetables to try other than lettuce and tomatoes! Bright-colored and dark green leafy vegetables are especially loaded with vitamins and antioxidants. They are also high in fiber, which as mentioned makes them very filling. In addition, they are low in calories – good to help trim the waistline. When you fill up your stomach with veggies, you will be less likely to feel the urge to binge on other high-fat or processed foods.

To save on food costs, look for fresh produce that is in-season. Right now, citrus fruits, such as oranges, grapefruits, and clementines are reasonably priced.  Collard greens, kale and turnips, squashes, and sweet potatoes are all lower priced.   Watch your grocery flyers for sales on frozen vegetables without sauce and stock up.   Here’s a link to check out winter fruits and vegetables.  http://www.foodfit.com/healthy/healthywinterfoods.asp

 Try getting organized and begin with planning your meals.  This step will save you money and time.   If you plan out what you are having for meals, you can utilize foods for more than one meal to reduce waste, for example chicken from dinner meal can be added to a tortilla wrap with fresh veggies for an easy to prepare lunch.  This will save you from spending extra on take out lunches.  

 For new ideas on planning your meals, check out many of the popular women magazines in grocery stores, they often promote weekly or month menus that are cost effective on the budget.  Here is on-line link to support menu planning.   http://www.mealsmatter.org/MealPlanning/MealPlanner/index.aspx

So as a New Year begins, let’s look toward healthier ideas that will save money, time, and will be high in nutrients but low in calories to keep us well in 2010.

  Happy New Year everyone!

Healthy eating and physical activity are two of the most important lifestyle changes that can be taken all year long to prevent or reduce complications of diabetes.   National data show that 1 in 4 people do not know they have diabetes because they don’t know their risk and have never been tested.    The first step is to complete a Risk Assessment.

To find out Are You at Risk?   Click here http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/diabetes-risk-test/ 

In keeping with our theme of healthy foods on a budget and this month’s topic,  and increasing awareness of diabetes,   here are simple and inexpensive   Steps You Can Take to Prevent Diabetes:

Calories count to cut your risk for diabetes;  be aware that  fruit drinks,  which are  often mistakenly viewed as healthier alternatives to soda, are calorie packed with little or no nutrients.   Reducing the consumption of soda, juices, iced teas, and other sugar-sweetened drinks and switching to low –fat milk, water, or flavored seltzer water is  an easy switch that  can be helpful to you and your whole family to not gain more weight and reduce their risk for diabetes.










Incorporate DAILY physical activity to reduce your risk and, achieving 30 minutes a day is was easier if you broke it down to three 10 minute exercise breaks.  Ten minutes of walking in the morning, a brisk 10 minute walk at lunch time and ten minutes of fast paced walking in the evening.  This amount of physical activity added up to     3 ½ hours a week.  Exercise improves insulin use and lowers blood glucose levels, which is important for preventing diabetes.











Take a vitamin D and calcium supplement every day!  Researchers have found that low intake of both calcium and vitamin D is linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes. Supplementing with calcium and vitamin D was most protective for people with risk for developing diabetes, and experts advise getting 1,200 milligrams of calcium and 1,000 or more international units of vitamin D.  These supplements are reasonably priced and can be taken any time during the day.







Get enough “shuteye”;  Did you know that lack of sleep can trigger insulin resistance for diabetes even in healthy people?  Reports from University researchers have linked poor sleep to increased risk for type 2 diabetes.    By going to bed one hour earlier, and aiming  for 7-8 hours of sleep,  you can felt more alert, have  more energy to be more physically active, and able to handle stress better, all of which help to reduce your  risk for diabetes.


For more information about other LIFESTYLE CHANGES, visit: owww.diabetes.org; or

www.health.gov/PAGuidelines.    To learn more The Boston Public Health Commission invites you to learn about risk factors, symptoms, common myths, and prevention tips at our next free community workshop. Diabetes: Defeating the “Sugar” Crisis will be held from 6:00 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, November 18 at the Shelburne Community Center, 2730 Washington Street, Roxbury, MA 02119. Light dinner and childcare will be provided. To RSVP, please call 617-534-5690

pumpkins 2As Halloween approaches this Saturday, we are faced with a bit of a challenge!  The kids are out of school, so they are home all day waiting to go trick or treating.   Or maybe you are thinking of hosting a party to entertain young kids and the young at heart.  If you’re not careful, it could be a day of unhealthy eating because so much is promoted to us to eat ghostly treats.     

 By focusing on the FUN of the holiday and not just the food, we CAN serve healthy treats that won’t create the sugar over load, and kids will not even know what they are missing.

Start with fun, healthy meals

As always, start your day with a hearty breakfast.    

  • Try pancakes  or waffles topped with seasonal  fruits  such as  apples or pears: simply sauté the sliced  fruit  in  light vegetable  oil  (only 2 tablespoons needed)  until soft  and  flavor with cinnamon or nutmeg .  No sugar needed.   
  • Pancakes with pumpkin are also another seasonal treat.   Most recipes call for ¼ cup of plain canned pumpkin added to your recipe.     
  • You can also try Gobbling good rice pudding http://www.whymilk.com/recipe/gobblin_good_rice_pudding

During the day, serve sandwiches cut into fun shapes. Use cookie cutters for bats on dark pumpernickel bread or make great pumpkins cut out of whole wheat bread.  I use tuna mixed with plain yogurt, but you can also try turkey or low fat cheese for the filling. And don’t forget the veggies!  Mummy fingers made of   baked sweet potato fries adds to the scary meal. Eye balls made of low fat string or mozzarella balls topped with a slice of black olive or carrots slices with green olives look like bugs.  Or try this recipe for spooky slaw. http://www.365halloween.com/spooky-slaw-recipe

One of our Facebook contest winners, Dave, suggested having low-fat brownies made with canned pumpkin. For this simple recipe, take one box of chocolate cake mix and add one can of plain pumpkin. Mix together with no other added ingredients.  Pour into brownie pan or 2a 4-muffin tin and bake as directed.  Each muffin or small brownie is about 100 calories with small amount of fat and 2 grams of fiber.    

Throughout the day, don’t forget to hydrate children well with water as first choice. However, if kids want extra, try vampire punch or witches’ brew. Mix 4 ounces of 100% grape or cranberry /raspberry juice with 6 ounces of club soda or flavored seltzer. No sugar added, but tons of FUN!  And make sure to stay away from the soda!

Add a dose of fun activity

Be sure to plan activities throughout the day, for just as much fun as trick or treating. Another Facebook winner, Emily, suggested planning an outdoor scavenger hunt. Place clues throughout the space so that kids are moving.  Add in that they can hop or skip between clues. This gives kids physical activity and FUN. The prize can be a chest of healthy non candy treats. See below for alternatives to candy treats.

Pumpkin carving is another fun activity that our final Facebook winner, Tania, suggested.  Make sure to include roasting the pumpkin seeds into this activity. Here’s a simple recipe.  http://www.fitsugar.com/5772766     

Thanks to our winners for these healthy Halloween suggestions.

trick or treatAnd finally, on to trick-or-treating

Finally the time to trick or treat is here.    As  parents, we don’t have to hand out candy bars – instead  pass  out  small, pre-packaged bags of pretzels , animal crackers or  granola bars and feel good about giving kids a nutritional treat.    Yes, I know we don’t want to be the house that doesn’t give a good treat but consider this.  When kids get too much candy, most parents say “enough candy” and toss it out after a few days.    You may be offering kids something different that could be added to a lunch bag or offered as a snack.

Play dough and other non food items that kids like to play with beyond d the holiday are other options. 

So I encourage parents to opt out of the candy treats and take charge of Halloween FUN by creating memories that are centered on the joy of the holiday not how much candy they receive.  

Last tip:  Click on the link for Healthy Halloween Treats to see additional ideas for trick-or-treaters.

Healthy Halloween Treats

The federally-funded Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program, better known in the community as WIC, is making history!  This month, the WIC Program has expanded the foods it offers to include a variety of healthy foods from every food group.  This is the first major change for the WIC Program in its 35 years of serving the community! 

 WIC Logo






The WIC Program serves nearly 9 million low-income women, infants, and children, providing them with a number of services including breastfeeding support, nutrition counseling, and checks to purchase healthy foods.  Since the WIC Program serves such a large number of families, the potential impact WIC can have on family food choices as well as the general health of the country is great.  


Foods that were chosen for WIC families were based on recommendations found in the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.  The foods offered along with the messages that they send are beneficial for all Americans, not just WIC families.  After all, each of us could use more fiber, additional vitamins and minerals and less saturated fat in our diets.

veggie basket












Foods that are now being offered through WIC include fruits, vegetables, whole wheat bread, brown rice, tortillas, baby foods, and a whole lot more!   WIC’s key messages:


–          Offer a variety of healthy and appealing foods to your family  

–          Lower the fat: offer fat free or 1% lowfat milk to loved ones over the age of 2

–          Eat more fruits and vegetables—you have always known it is the right thing to do!

–          Make half your grains whole—switch to brown rice and whole wheat bread

–          Drink less juice and sweetened beverages

–          Breastfeed—babies were meant to be breastfed


These are messages any family or individual can benefit from.  Which message or messages will you bring home to your family?  We’d love to hear from you!


Share on Facebook. and thanks to Kara  for contributing to the blog this week.