Well, we have gotten the pens, pencils and back to school clothes ready to go!   Let’s also make sure we are set health wise!

  • Every year we hear “Must start off the day with healthy breakfast”, sounds great, but what’s a hurried parent to what do we’re rushed to catch the school bus, as well as get ourselves ready and out the door. 

Here some general tips :

Prepare as much in advance so that you’re not getting things ready in the morning. Set out cereal bowls and high fiber cereal the night before so in the mornings just pour the low-fat milk.

 Have handy easy to go fruits, such as bananas, peaches nectarines that can be easy eaten as you go.   

On the weekends, prepare these easy grab and go breakfast treats to save time during the week.

 toasted cerealOh Parents don’t forget to grab some for your breakfast too!

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During the day, kids need to stay hydrated, water is the best way.  To save  money and cut down on amount of plastic going into the environment , purchase the aluminum water bottles and fill them with water to swap out those sugary drinks.  These cool bottles come in a variety of colors and designs so I’m sure you can find one that will appears to your kid too!  

  • Check your school lunch menu.  With all the nutritional concerns about childhood obesity schools have really stepped up and are making lots of improvements.   So talk to your kids about giving school lunch a positive try.   

  Don’t forget to complete the forms to have your child receive lunch in school.

 If you do have to prepare lunches here‘s a couple of sites with great ideas for packing healthy lunches that will provide nourishment to your kids but not break your budget. 

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_eating_kids

http://www.eatright.org/cps/rde/xchg/ada/hs.xsl/home_22366_ENU_HTML.htm

 

 Be careful of those convenient highly processed lunch items.  They are high in fat and salt with limited fiber. These products are just advertisements with little nutrition to support healthy kids learning.

  • Another health essential that we don’t want to forget is hand sanitizers.  What an easy way to cut down on sick days!   Stock up on the little packable ones or the individual packets.   Be sure to talk to your kids about covering their mouths when coughing, and using the sanitizers multiple times during the day if they don’t have an opportunity to wash their hands with soap and water.

After school activities and snacks are just as important as the school day.  At some schools, kids sometimes eat lunch long before noon, which means they’re ready for an energy booster by 3 pm.  It’s easy for them to reach for the wrong foods if healthy options aren’t quick and easy for them to grab. One way is to provide tempting grab-and-go snacks that contain protein, iron, calcium and fiber to help power them through an afternoon.  Check out these healthy snacks ideas that are enjoyed by kids. 

 A cheesy chicken quesadilla (recipes follow) is a kid-friendly staple that serves as a perfect mini-meal. The chicken and cheese provide protein, while the seasonings add plenty of flavors. Using whole-wheat tortillas adds fiber and fills kids so they don’t they have to eat the whole thing — a quarter might be just enough for a little afternoon pick-me-up. 

Chicken quesadillas

 Home-made energy bars are great for any time of day.  In this recipe your can substitute with any other dried fruit that your child will enjoy.  The walnuts and oats provide protein and fiber, and the honey gives an extra kick of sweetness.  

chocoberrybarsFor a snack on the go, sweet & salty crunchy munch combines Chex cereal, popcorn, goldfish and bagel chips. Throw some in a plastic snack bag for your child to eat almost any time. If you think your children need a little more protein, you can add some unsalted peanuts and cashews.

crunchy muchIf you have any question on healthy food on a budget just post your questions

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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

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.