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!

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June is here, which means that farmers’ markets will soon be opening.  There are more farmers’ markets in Boston than you probably think.   Here is a link to all TWENTY farmers’ markets that will be operating in Boston this summer, including locations, days, times, and what forms of payment they take.  Scroll down to find the Suffolk County (Boston) listing.      

 Due to some great work by various partners in the past two years, ALL Boston farmers markets now take WIC and Senior Coupons.  Additionally, about half also now have electronic bank transfer (EBT) machines to accept food stamps. 

Farmers markets’ provide fresh local produce to neighborhoods that have limited access to this healthy option.  Everyone should have the opportunity to affordable food, and Farmers’ markets help make local organic produce available.  

 Here are a few reasons for selecting locally grown produce and for patronizing farmers’ markets. 

  • The soil and production methods used on smaller farms tend to increase the nutritional quality of the crops

Small farmers are more likely to use organic and sustainable methods of growing.  Studies have shown that roots in organic soil grow deeper than in soil fertilized conventionally.  Deeper roots mean the crops take up and incorporate nutrients more efficiently, which increases their nutritional content.  These methods are also better for the environment because famers use fewer chemicals and practice crop rotation.

  • The produce is allowed to ripen before being picked, which increases its vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content 

Produce allowed to ripen before harvesting has higher amounts of nutrients than the same kind of produce ripened in storage.  The longer a plant is attached to the soil, the more nutrients it can absorb.  The soil and sun also help the plant create more antioxidants.  Local produce is picked when it’s ripe because it doesn’t have to endure long transportation and storage time.

  • The produce  is usually sold with in 24 hours of being picked, which means that it hasn’t had time to lose a lot of those nutrients

Produce starts losing nutrients the moment it is picked.  Did you know that conventional produce travels an average of 1,500 miles to its retail destination?  The journey usually takes between 2-7 days, and then the time spent on the shelf at the store begins.  Local produce at farmers’ markets travels an average of only 50 miles.  The food sold there goes directly from soil to consumers’ hands within a day or two.   So you’ll be able to buy corn on the cob picked that very morning in many Boston neighborhoods later this summer! 

  • Farmers’ markets usually offer more uncommon and interesting selections than conventional markets, so you’re more likely to try a variety of fruits and vegetables. 

More variety means a greater spectrum of new produce for you to try, but also increases your intake of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.   Produce sold at supermarkets has been chosen for endurance of long transportation and storage.  Local farmers can grow more of a variety thanks to handpicking and the limited shipment involved.  Farmers’ markets in different areas may also exhibit various products appealing to ethnic groups that live in each neighborhood.  This gives an exciting opportunity to discover plants used in other cuisines.  Ask how the farmer how to prepare the new produce if you’re not sure!                                                                       

So as we approach the season, mark your calendar so you can experience the joy of attending a farmer’s market.  Being at the market is also a fun social interaction time with neighbors, friends, family, and the farmers.  All of these factors work together to increase of appreciation and enjoyment of healthy, nutritious, locally grown food!

Special thanks to Rebecca Brotzman for her contribution to this blog!

 As we just celebrated Mother’s Day, and  the kids made dinner,  It also  reinforced  with  me that many joyful and memorable experiences do not have  to break our budget to be accomplished and that cooking at home with children not only  create family fun, but also teach our children healthy eating habits. 

Cooking together can be a delicious learning experience where kids can explore new foods, learn about healthy eating, and develop math and reading skills as they measure and read directions. These simple guidelines are designed to help you make cooking safe and fun, and to entice your children into trying something new! 

Tips for cooking activities can benefit the whole family. 

  1. Learning to cook helps children to learn about healthy choices. Young people today are growing up with fast food and many choices for unhealthy foods at their fingertips, which is one part of the reason why childhood obesity is on the rise! Teaching your kids to cook healthy foods will help instill skills to last them a lifetime.  The cooking skills learned as child can be especially helpful when kids are older, and can make healthier   food choices to and on their own.
  2. Create family time and bonding. Take time to cook with your kids, and they will have memories that they, in turn, can pass on to their families. It may take a longer time to get the meal or snack done, but the moments with your children will be priceless. (Just remember to have patience and don’t worry about what gets spilled on the floor).  Cooking together, children contribute to the family and they can feel the importance of helping. They are also working together as a team, whether it is with a parent or with a sibling to get the job done.

3.  Children will be more apt to eat what they make.    

Perhaps it is the enthusiasm  creating something themselves, but they will be more likely to eat whatever they had a hand in making.   Cooking new foods is one way to expand your child’s taste buds.

 Remember the basic goals of healthy cooking at home are to reduce the unhealthy fats,  and lower the salt, and sugar in many of the dishes we prepare.  Here are healthy recipes that incorporate these principles and have been tried and accepted well by children.  Just click away.   

So as we watch our food budget and continue to discuss preparing meals at home, don’t forget that the kids can become great chefs too! 

Tip for this week:

 All the major grocery stores in the Boston have yogurt on sale this week.  Here is a delicious recipe for yogurt parfait that children can make with just yogurt, fruit and whole grain cereal.   Serve this for dessert or as a quick breakfast.

 

breakfast_parfait

With the economy still suffering, we continue our search for low-cost but nutritious ways to feed ourselves and our families. One of the cheapest and most nutritious foods that we often overlook is the dried bean. 

Dried beans come in a wide range of colors, shape and subtly different flavors.  They are staples in many cultures’ foods and are increasingly used in creative ways in American recipes.  Some of the most popular types are garbanzo beans (also known as chick peas), black beans, red or white kidney beans, pinto beans, and soybeans.

The benefits of dried beans include:

·         While canned beans are relatively cheap, dried beans are even less expensive, and they do not contain the sodium often found in canned products. 

·         Dried beans are often sold in bulk, even in small grocery stores, and have a very long shelf life if stored correctly.  

·         Dried beans are a great source of fiber, folate, protein and antioxidants.  One cup of cooked beans contains almost half the recommended fiber for a whole day! 

The following are some useful tips for storing, preparing, and cooking dried beans.

Storing:

Dried beans should be stored at room temperature in air-tight containers.  Do not keep dry beans in the refrigerator.  If stored incorrectly, the beans may absorb water and spoil before you have a chance to use them.  You can reclose the package they came in with a twist-tie, but this method will not keep them as fresh.

Preparing:

Dried beans expand in volume when cooked.  Before you begin, figure out the quantity you’ll need to get the right amount of cooked beans for your favorite recipe:

·         1/3 cup dry beans equals 1 cup cooked beans

·         1/2 cup dry beans equals 1 1/2 cups cooked beans

·         2/3 cup dry beans equals 2 cup cooked beans

·         1 cup dry beans equals 3 cups cooked beans

·         2 cups (1 pound) dry beans equals 6 cups cooked beans

The first step in preparing dry beans is to sort through the batch, looking for small pebbles and other impurities.  (Dry beans can’t be rinsed to get rid of these items during processing because they would absorb water and begin to spoil.) After sorting, the next two steps to preparing beans involve soaking and cooking.  

While you don’t have to soak beans before cooking, it’s a good idea for two reasons.  It shortens the cooking time and it begins the breakdown of starches that cause gas.  Make sure you discard the soak water in order to remove the gas-forming byproducts and any impurities.  Make sure beans are completely covered with room-temperature water (2 to 3 times their dry volume).  Do not use hot water because it could cause the beans to sour.  Using cold water will slow rehydration and increase cooking time.  Allow beans to soak for 8 -10 hours to soften, but no longer because the beans may begin to ferment.  This affects their flavor and could cause gastro-intestinal upset. 

Beans can also be “quick-soaked”, which rehydrates them in about an hour.  Bring the beans and soak water to a boil for two minutes.  Remove the beans from the heat and cover the pot.  Let the beans for rest for 1 hour.  At the end of the hour, discard the soak water and cook the beans.

Cooking:

The best cookware for beans is a heavy metal pot or saucepan. Stainless steel, cast aluminum, or cast iron are all excellent.  Bring the beans to a boil, and cover  and lower the heat and simmer for 60 to 90 minutes, or until the beans are tender. (Check your package of beans, as cooking times vary for different varieties. But also check the beans occasionally, because sometimes the beans will cook more quickly than the package says.)  Simmer instead of boil, because boiling can cause the beans to break apart and the skins to separate. Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.

After cooking, add the beans to your favorite recipe!  Beans taste better if cooked a day ahead, but they should be refrigerated to avoid becoming sour. When cooked, they can be frozen. Store cooked beans for up to four days in your refrigerator.

Recipes:

Here is a fun and delicious salad to try with your family.  With the weather getting warmer, you can bring it to the first barbeque of the season!  The recipe is courtesy of the California Dry Bean Board. 

“Chick-Chick” Salad

3/4       cup water
1/2       teaspoon salt
1/2       teaspoon curry powder
2/3       cup couscous
1          cup cubed cooked chicken breast (about 1/2 pound, boneless, skinless)
1-1/2   cups cooked* garbanzo beans (chick peas), drained
1/2       cup chopped red cabbage
1/4       cup sliced green onions
1/4       cup thinly sliced celery
1          teaspoon grated orange rind
1/4       cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
2          teaspoons olive oil
1/4       teaspoon pepper

*1/2 cup dry makes 1-1/2 cups cooked.
In a medium saucepan, bring water, salt and curry powder to a boil; stir in couscous. Remove from heat; let stand, covered, 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Add chicken, garbanzos, cabbage, onions and celery.

Combine orange rind and next 3 ingredients in a small bowl; stir with a wire whisk until blended. Add to couscous mixture; toss well. Serve immediately or chill. Makes 4 cups. Serves 4.

Nutritional Information per Serving:
Calories 309, Protein 20 g, Carbohydrates 45 g, Fat 5 g, Calories from fat 16%, Cholesterol 26 g, Fiber 5 g, Folate 134 mcg, Sodium 331 mg

You can find many more recipes on their website:  http://www.calbeans.com/recipes.html

As part of our March Nutrition Month focus on ‘rethinking your drink’, let’s look at juice.

Health professional all agree that getting plenty of fruits and vegetables is key to lowering your risk for heart disease, diabetes and some forms of cancer.  So what is the best way to take in fruits and vegetables?    While both whole produce and juices count towards the achieving the recommended nine daily servings of fruits and vegetables, there are important differences in how your body processes the whole and juice versions.   

What IS juice?

Juice is the liquid version of fruits or vegetables, produced through a squeezing or pulverizing process.  But beware of products with labels like “fruit drinks” or “juice drinks” that may contain little to no actual fruit or vegetable juice.    Only buy products that say “100% juice” and that don’t have sugar as an ingredient.

Let’s check some of the Pros and Cons of juices:

 Pros: In a few cases, the juiced form makes important nutrients more accessible than the whole fruit:

·         The nutrient lycopene, which is a protective factor against prostate cancer, in tomato juice is actually better absorbed from tomato juice than fresh tomatoes. 

·         Commercially squeezed orange juice contains more antioxidants and other   added beneficial nutrients such as calcium that is not found in an orange.

 Cons:  In general, the cons of juices outweigh the pros.

·          Because they’re more concentrated, juices contain increased calorie and sugar content while losing the fiber found in whole fruits.  Each of these has the effect of raising levels of blood sugar which can contribute to development or complications of diabetes.   The difference in calories and sugar between whole fruit and fruit juice is astounding.  For example, a 16-ounce bottle of orange juice contains about 240 calories and 14 teaspoons of sugar!  A medium size orange, on the other hand, contains just 60 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar.   Similarly, a 16-ounce bottle of apple juice contains about 220 calories and 13 teaspoons of sugar, while a medium size apple has just 55 calories and 4 teaspoons of sugar. 

·         In addition to having fewer calories, the fiber in whole fruit of the orange or apple fills you up and also helps to keep your blood sugar levels from spiking and then crashing.  This is because the fiber slows down your body’s absorption of the sugar in the fruit.   Check out the sugar content of juice compared with fruit.

ü  To make sure you’re getting the best deal for your buck, read the label and look for 100% juice, BUT don’t stop there.

Carefully read the label and select nutrient –dense juices, those with the highest percentage of nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin C, folate and that are fortified with calcium.  It’s also important to read the ingredient label to know exactly which juices are in the product you’re buying.  The label lists ingredients in order of abundance, from most to least.  A bottle of “100% Apple and Pomegranate Juice” turns out to have apple juice listed first, so you’re probably getting very little pomegranate juice, with its good nutrients.

ü  Beware of “juice drinks”, “fruit drinks” or “juice cocktails”.

These beverages often contain little or even no fruit juice.  You’ll be getting the same or even more calories and sugar as in 100% fruit juice without any of its vitamins, minerals, or antioxidants.  “Juice drinks” are often made to look like fruit juice.  The pictures of fruit and the words “all natural” are confusing to customers.  But if you read the label carefully, you can see how much juice the drink actually contains – usually 0-10% juice, with no significant amounts of any vitamins.  It is really more like sugar water.  Calories without nutrients are called “empty calories”.  For about 240 calories and 13 teaspoons of sugar per 16 ounce bottle, that is a lot of calories being wasted (more like waisted…).  For more information on reading the label, go to Healthy Messages.

ü  Watch your juice portions.

Recommended juice portions are   4 to 6 ounces per day, with the goal to meet the balance of fruits and vegetable needs through fresh, frozen or canned produce.   It’s easy to go over this recommended intake from the common size of bottles found for individual sale. They are usually 12 to 16 ounces, which is two or more times the recommended daily intake.  If you do make these purchases, share your drink or save some for the next day.

For more tips on healthy juice, click here.

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.

 

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.