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!

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

After two months of clipping coupons, lessons learned.

Two months ago I wrote about the advantages of planning meals, clipping coupons and other tips for saving on groceries.

Today, I ‘m sharing my story of how’s it been going and lessons learned.

 First:  I still strongly believe in investing the time to organize, plan a menu and clip the coupons from multiple sources. 

ü  Menu   planning has been invaluable.   I can come home and know what I am going to have for dinner!  On days that I know I will be late, I can start the meal in the slower cooker and then whoever is home first can complete the meal with the vegetable or salad.  There have been a couple of times that I have drifted from the menu and I felt the pinch because we would order take -out, costing me more in the end.

ü  Planning out the menu does not have to mean I’m stuck in bind and have to have exactly what‘s planned.  We all have days that we change our minds and feel like something different.  However, the menu does give the basics, with flexibility to change up and do something a little different.  Check out. http://www.recipezaar.com/     This web site lets you type in the ingredients you have and then gives you a variety of recipes, so you can be creative with your meals.

ü  Finally, menu planning reduces waste.  I can have lunches from previous meals or use extra (leftovers sounds so old) in other meals to create a whole new taste.

Clipping coupons – We could talk for days on the pros and cons, but here are a few tips I have found.

ü  One clever strategy for grocery-store coupons from The Simple Dollar: Sit on your coupons for a month, and then spend them. Coupons are often the leading edge of product promotion, which features some savings. By waiting a month, you can apply your coupons to the same product which has now been discounted for even more savings. 

ü  Manufacturers’ coupons, which come in Sunday newspapers, are usually good for a month or two.  Coupons from specific grocery stores are usually weekly specials.  The two types of coupons are compatible. If you match up a store coupon and a manufacturer coupon, you can get some great deals.

ü  Check out other resources in addition to the weekend papers.  Go on line and sign up for coupon discounts.  I did open a whole new email account just for the coupons: this way you don’t flood your regular email account with all the advertizing.  Here are a few good websites for coupons that other bloggers have sent in:

http://www.mygrocerydeal.com

www.smartsource.com

ü  Don’t forget to check your receipts for savings.  Often the backs of grocery store and drug store receipts have discounts for savings on your next purchase.

As much as people go back and forth on the value of saving coupons, I found that if you stick with it, they do save you money. 

Here’s my greatest tip I’ve learned.   On the times that it all works well and you see the numbers on the bill drop at the grocery or drug store, BANK the savings.   There have been times I was so excited about the savings that I treated myself  to something ‘special’, such as flowers.  I would usually spend more than I saved from the coupons!  The new strategy I am trying is to go back to keeping a log of my savings, trying to contain my excitement, and looking at the total saved at the end of the month.  That way I can make a better decision about what I want to spend my savings on.

Let me know how you have done with strategies for saving at the grocery store.

 

 

 A blogger asked the question,

How can you shop and cook for one on a budget? 

Here are some cost effective tips for the single person:

Avoid recipes that have rare ingredients you won’t use often. It is, of course, easy to cut a recipe in half or in quarters to serve just yourself. But if the recipe calls for a bunch of an expensive ingredient that you can’t buy less of, you may waste it. If, for example, a recipe calls for several different fresh herbs, just buy one that you love and use more of it.  Here are some healthy recipes for one or two http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/collections/healthy_cooking_two_recipes.html

 

Shop in bulk bins section. This allows you to buy a tiny scoop of nuts or a little bit of a few different grains. You get fresher ingredients that you can use up on a single meal, and you save money.

 

Consider the egg. Eggs are a good protein source for a single meal. A fried/scrambled egg over some sautéed vegetables such as spinach   on top of whole grain noodles or toast makes a quick dinner.  Boil one or two eggs ahead of time and they make great sandwiches or quick grab and go breakfast item.

Purchase some fresh vegetables or whole fruits but frozen can be cheaper. Purchase them in the bag, rather than the single box.  This way you can take out what you need, retie, put back in the freezer and have no waste.

Buy a little bird such as Cornish hen or a chicken breast.  Try roasting in a pie plate or a small pan with a potato, carrot, turnip, or other vegetable cut up underneath. It’s like a downsized roasted chicken.

Use greens in more than one way. Greens are the first thing to go in the refrigerator, and yet you can’t really buy half a bunch. So if you have a bag of spinach makes a salad and also you can add it to your main dish.  Try laying some in a foil packet add one piece of fish and bake or stir it into soup.

Make soup or pasta. Not a groundbreaking idea. But both are great warmed up (or even cold, in the case of pasta), so no harm in having extra that can be frozen in small portions.   On a day you’re not up for cooking, just defrost and you have quick meal.

For pasta, try to buy the whole grain type –  that way you are getting fiber and more nutrients for your buck.  If adding sauce, purchase the small 4 oz tomato sauce cans so you will have less waste.

If you purchase canned soup, try the low-sodium varieties to keep salt consumption in control.  Soups can be a good base for a  hardy meal.  Add more frozen vegetables, or cut up leftover meat or cooked pasta to the soup. 

Check for the individually frozen fish or meats, which allow you to one and put the others, back in the freezer.  Pair with frozen vegetable and sweet potato and you have a meal that could all be cook in the microwave.

Don’t forget beans, they are a quick no –meat meal packed with protein and fiber.  You can use kidney beans with chili powder and tomato sauce for easy chili to warm you up on cold evenings. Or look for vegetarian chili already in the can. Try lentil soups and rice and bean combination found in the in the instant rice section.

If you open a can of beans and don’t not use them all, try adding the beans to a wrap sandwich.  For example, black beans make a great addition to a grilled chicken wrap.  

Try the whole grain instant rice packets these often come in individual sizes that microwave in a short time, some as quick as 90 seconds.   If you do prepare rice, use the extras in soups, or even make a great dessert, rice pudding. http://www.recipezaar.com/Rice-Pudding-For-One-12687

Plan your menus. Just because you’re eating for one or two, don’t think you shouldn’t plan ahead.   Planning what you will have for meals every three days or weekly (depending on your storage capacity) will save you time and money.  Think of meal combination in which you “cook once and serve twice.”  

 

Sample menu options:  

Monday – Prepare Cornish hen for dinner.  

Tuesday use some leftovers for sandwich for lunch

Wednesday have something different such as vegetarian chili…

…and on Thursday add the remaining chicken to pasta with vegetables or to a can of vegetable soup.  

Friday, try individual homemade pizza (see comment from Gabby)