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!

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.

By Phoebe Fleming from Project Bread

As we approach the closing of schools, we may overlook lunch – an important meal that children should be eating even though they are not in school.  The solution is The Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) which provides free, healthy meals to children and teens up to age 18.    The free meals are available at specific Boston locations during the summer months. The SFSP is a safe, fun way for children to get nutritious meals when school is not in session, and it’s easy to participate since no sign up or identification is required.

 Why is there a summer meals program?

During the school year, many families can stretch their food budget by applying for free or reduced price school meals for their children.   The School Lunch Program is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and administered by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

When school is not in session, families often find it difficult to pay the additional meal costs.  During the summer months, without the opportunity to meet this need, children may be at risk for hunger and malnutrition, which could put them at a disadvantage when they return to school in September.  By providing free, nutritious meals and opportunities to continue physical and social development throughout the summer, the SFSP ensures that children return to school ready to learn.

What are the meals like?

Most sites serve lunch and some may offer other meals such as breakfast, snack, or supper. All food served as part of the SFSP must meet federal nutritional guidelines. Meals may be hot, cold, or a combination of both and include milk, fruit and/or vegetables, grains, and a meat or meat alternate (egg, yogurt, nuts, etc.).

Where?

SFSP sites are located in schools, parks, pools, neighborhood centers, faith based organizations, social service agencies, and other local sites in Boston and throughout Massachusetts. In addition to healthy meals, sites often feature supervised recreational or educational activities for kids such as sports, arts and crafts, books, and games.

 How to Get Involved

For more information about the Summer Food Service Program, CALL Project Bread’s Food Source Hotline at 1-800-645-8333 or visit www.meals4kids.org   from July 1st through August 31st.

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

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

Eating more fruits and vegetables is a goal for many people, yet adding them into our daily meals sometimes creates a challenge.  Fresh and local fruits and vegetables are the best choices, and in another two months the options to choose local vegetables and some fruits will be available through farmers markets.   Until then, selecting in- season produce and frozen fruits and vegetables are good alternatives to locally grown produce.    Check out this Guide  to Buying Fruits and Vegetables  

Better Choices with Canned or Frozen Produce

Canned or frozen produce is handy when planning meals in advance and for bulk purchasing. While they may keep longer than fresh produce, some varieties may be loaded with sugar, salt or additives. The better choice when buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables is to select those varieties packaged with just the item itself. Frozen vegetables are often processed with nothing added and canned vegetables varieties can be found salt-free and sugar-free. Frozen fruits are sometimes processed with sugar, but check the label and you will find varieties are available where the item is quick frozen without sugar.

Go Organic for the Popular Items

While organic foods are pesticide-free and all natural they are usually more expensive. Instead of busting a budget for all organic produce, a great choice is to choose organic fresh fruits and vegetables the family eats daily or often. Do the members of your family enjoy eating pears? This would be a great item to purchase organically grown.  Just knowing one item that the family eats on a regular basis is free of pesticides can be reassuring for parents and may get some adults to eat more fruits too.  As I mentioned, in June Farmers’ Markets will be opening, and there you will be able to get local organically grown food at reasonable prices.  The good news is many of the markets will be having Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) machines so food stamps recipients can purchase produce.

 To meet the challenge of incorporating fruits and vegetables into our everyday diets, here are a few tips:

Offer fruits or vegetables for Healthy Snacks

After school can be a time for active snacking, so offering fruits or vegetables for children is great. This also goes well for adults wanting a snack during the day or in the evening. Having a bowl of cut-up apples, oranges or bananas sprinkled with lemon juice for flavor and to prevent browning makes a great snack while doing homework. Mini carrots or carrot sticks are the easy and usual choice. Also try adding radishes, zucchini sticks and cucumber sticks for something easy and inexpensive to prepare.   Have low –fat dressing for dipping.

 If it is necessary to keep shelf stable fruits and vegetables on hand, always read the labels. Applesauce may be a quick and delicious apple snack, but some varieties have high fructose corn syrup or colorings.

Fortify   prepared mixes

Quick mixes for fruit muffins and pancakes like blueberry or banana usually contain highly processed colored and flavored bits of imitation fruits. Making the recipe at home from scratch with the real thing is a better choice. Plain recipes such as muffins and pancakes can be easily fortified with frozen or fresh blueberries, chopped peaches or mashed banana.  Here  is a basic muffin mix to get started. Vegetables are easily incorporated into quick breads. Frozen cut corn or freshly chopped bell peppers can be stirred into cornbread mixes for added color and flavor and can give an added nutrient boost as well.  

 When in a hurry, frozen vegetables can also be added to packaged rice and noodle mixes to increase the volume, fiber and flavor without adding salt or added fat.   For a nice change, try adding added diced tomatoes (The no-salt version), and shredded fresh carrots, zucchini or yellow squash to your favorite pasta sauce.  For more ideas that are quick ways to increase fruits and vegetables into your daily diet and keep the cost down, Check out Fruits and Veggies: More Matters.

This week’s grocery tips:

Here is a recipe using these produce items to celebrate Mother’s Day

Berries and cantaloupes are inexpensive choices this week.  Cut the fruits and add canned pineapples and pears (packed in their own juice) for a quick and easy fruit salad.  The fruit salad can be offered for dessert or add some low-fat yogurt and whole grain cereal for a quick breakfast.  Check out this Crustless Tasso Ham, Asparagus, and Leek Quiche recipe!