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We know how difficult it could be to shop for specialty food items and “go organic,” all in the name of health and beauty. But it’s worth it! That’s why we held a live chat to answer your biggest questions about eating healthily on a budget. Here is a recap of 15 questions from the chat.
1. I wonder how I can keep the family in organic and gluten free food without spending quite as much? -Sadie H.
Kristin: The key is that you really don't need to go organic on everything. The Environmental Working group publishes their dirty dozen and clean 15 list yearly. This list provides the foods that you'll want to buy organically as well as 15 you definitely should not. Instead of focusing on a 100% organic diet, why not focus only on the things that are most meaningful to you (organic yogurt). Make a list of organic deal breakers and stick to it. Fruits that have a very thick skin (pineapple, avocado, watermelon) are usually a waste of money to purchase organically. For cheaper gluten free foods, choose quinoa, cornmeal, grits and brown rice.
2. How can you plan your meals for the week/month when your kids mow through groceries within days of them entering the cupboards? - Peachy1
Kristin: I would first assess what your children are eating and work with their physician to determine how many calories they should be eating. While you don't want your kids counting calories, you also don’t want them eating without limit....that catches up later and puts them at risk for obesity. Focus on high protein and complex carbs. Eggs are a great choice. The next step, join a warehouse.
You can get bags of fruits and veggies, beans, oatmeal, cereal and pasta. In the frozen section, you can get 24 packs of turkey, garden or salmon burgers. In the dairy section, you can get 12 packs of Greek yogurt, string cheese, cow, almond and soy milk and who knows, you may have some cash left over for yourself!
3. My biggest problem is I am not hungry in the mornings, rarely eat lunch, have dinner (sensible with boneless skinless chicken breast, steamed veggies and whole grain rice) then a small snack later on (like a Fiber One brownie with a small smear of peanut butter). Why am I not losing weight? -Robbie
Kristin: Your body works hard for you day and night. That takes calories and when you don't replenish the tank with food, your body decreases your metabolism. Of course you’re not hungry in the morning, you’re not used to normal meals!
Good news is, it's not too late to rev up your metabolism. It starts with breakfast, no longer than one hour after waking (successful weight losers never skip breakfast), followed by small meals and snacks. You really should not be going more than 3-4 four hours without some fuel. Make the fuel healthy too, focusing on only 100% whole grain products, and minimal amounts of added sugars, syrups, saturated fat and sodium.
4. What kind of herbs are good for you? - Joan M.
Kristin: You can get dried herbs for 99 cents a jar and still get great health benefits. Herbs (and roots) are filled with compounds that help you to fight a host of diseases! Here are my all-time favorites:
Cinnamon: Some studies link cinnamon consumption to better control blood sugar. One study found that cinnamon helped individuals with Type 2 Diabetes by increasing the cells ability to use glucose.
Turmeric: The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin. One study found that curcumin helped to increases cells' resistance to infection by disease-causing microbes. Clinical trials are checking its safety and effectiveness for colon cancer, psoriasis and Alzheimer's disease
Ginger: Ginger has been commonly used to combat upset stomach and now a recent study also links it to helping combating muscle pain caused by exercise
Chili pepper: Capsaicin, which is the compound that provides heat to the pepper may play a role in helping to reduce blood pressure as well as it has been shown to help blood vessels relax in rats. Another study, also done in rats showed that it may play a role in helping to fight against fat as well.
Rosemary: One study found that adding rosemary to meat actually helped in reducing the total amount of HCAs when meat is grilled or fries. HCA’s are those cancer-causing compounds that consumers are warned about when grilling meat.
5. I have a budget of $200 a month and it goes quickly. I have some health issues and need some leeway for fitting in some savings into my budget in order to obtain the nutritional value. - Sheron M.
Kristin: Good for you for taking control of your health! I hope the 7 day plan is the first step! The great news is, you can get plenty of healthy foods that will help in managing your diabetes and losing weight. One of my favorites is canned salmon. It's low in carbohydrate, high in protein and chock-full of omega 3-fatty acids.
If it's canned in the U.S., it will also be wild--an added benefit. Take canned salmon and mix with some whole wheat bread crumbs (save money by making them yourself), egg white, onion (buy onions bagged) and some dried herbs (99 cents at discount stores). Cook in a pan with a small amount of olive oil and enjoy with some brown rice or whole grain pasta.
6. What are some non-cholesterol foods and meals? - Buddie W.
Kristin: Cholesterol is only found in animal products so if it came from something that had a mom and has a face, it has cholesterol. To avoid cholesterol completely, you would have to forgo typical high cholesterol sources such as shellfish, red meat, dark meat chicken, eggs and high-fat dairy products such as butter and sour cream. Fish and white meat chicken and turkey breast are better choices.
While they still have cholesterol, the amounts are minimal. If you're serious about going cholesterol free, then you should go a vegetarian or even vegan route. The world of plants is amazing and you'd be surprised once you make the switch how easy it really is. One recipe to get your started is black beans and brown rice. Together they make a complete protein (they give you the same quality protein that you’d find in meat), will fill you up and will provide you zero cholesterol. Add a bit of healthy olive oil and some herbs of your choice to spruce it up. I would suggest that once you are ready to get creative, buy a few great vegan cookbooks. My favorite is “The Kind Diet” by Alicia Silverstone. Also check out some of the many vegan dishes on our budget diet as well.
7. Frozen vegetables are cheaper, but do they have the same nutritional value as fresh vegetables? - Nadia
Kristin: Actually, they can sometimes have even better nutrient value than their fresh counterparts! Frozen fruits and veggies are frozen at peak ripeness, which helps them to retain their best nutrient value. Fresh fruits and veggies lose their nutrient value the longer they’re off the vine (or out of the ground). So for example, if you want high nutrient blueberries in the middle of winter, and you live on the East coast, it's best to get them frozen.
If you buy them fresh, you'll lose nutrients over the course of the days it takes for them berries to reach your grocery store. Worse yet, you'll pay a lot more for the fresh. Frozen is great any time of year, just make sure that the only ingredient in the bag is the fruit or veggie you want to consume. Avoid added sauces or sugars.
8. Can I eat beans and rice? - Jim W.
Kristin: Not only can you, you should! When beans and rice are combined, they create what is called a "complete protein." A complete protein is one that has all the amino acids your body needs to function at it's best. It's also high in fiber, meaning you'll stay fuller, longer. Make sure the rice is brown and choose beans that you love. My personal favorite is red kidney beans. Watch portions too--you CAN get too much of a good thing, even with super healthy foods!
9. I was diagnosed with C-Difficile Colitis. I have been following a low residue, low fat, low sodium, lactose free diet. Do you have any input on what's best for me to eat on a budget? - Joe M.
Kristin: Canned vegetables without seeds are a great option for you since it's easier to digest than fresh (just drain them in a colander if salt is added). You can also have well-cooked grits and puffed rice cereal in milk for breakfast and for vegetables, what about sweet potatoes without skin? These are all cheaper items that are higher in nutrition than other food items allowed on a low-residue diet. Discuss these options with your physician or dietitian first before making any dietary changes.
10. Got any advice on making nutritious meals for picky eaters? - Darla S.
Kristin: It's all about hiding! Mix frozen spinach (you can get a huge bag for a couple of dollars) into jarred sugar free tomato sauce and mix with ground turkey breast for a healthier (and cheaper) take on sloppy joes. Other foods you can hide in your child's meals include fresh carrots (puree them into anything), lentils and bananas. Stay super cheap with a peanut butter sandwich for lunch and eggs for breakfast!
11. Being diabetic if recipe calls for honey what can i sub it with? Trying smoothies any help is appreciated!! -Mely
Kristin: If there's fruit in the smoothie, you might not need additional sweets. If you want to put a twinge of agave nectar in it, you can do that (just make sure it's a twinge.). If there's even some vegetables that have naturally-occurring sweetness, you might not need additional sweetness at all.
12. How bad is diet soda? I've read articles that say it can actually make you gain weight...is this true? - Jennifer
Kristin: Research shows an association between diet cola drinking and inability to lose weight. Some of it has to do with the brain and the gut not communicating when you get a lot of sweet without calories behind it. The more artificial sweeteners you use, the more dependent you become on satisfying your sweet cravings, and eventually you'll reach for the real stuff.
13. Canned foods are usually pretty cheap, but how do I know I'm not getting other toxic side effects from the can? – Paige L.
Kristin: First, make sure the cans you are purchasing are free of dents and bumps. This can increase the risk for botulism, a rare but serious illness caused by Clostridium botulinum bacteria. Also purchase canned products that are labeled "BPA free" can lining. BPA is an industrial chemical found in many products that may harm your health. Click here to see brands with BPA free linings.
14. Which fruits and vegetables will give me the most nutrients for the least money? - Penelope
Kristin: One of the best veggies you can eat that costs pennies on the dollar is sweet potatoes. They are an excellent source of vitamins A and C and may play a role in fighting inflammation in the body. Additionally, sweet potatoes are lower on the glycemic index than white potatoes, which means you won't experience as much of a sugar high and crash. For fruit, I would go apples. They are in season right now and have been found to have lower your overall risk for stroke.
15. Is it cheaper to buy canned vegetables over fresh, but what about the salt content? - Courtney
Kristin: Yes it usually is, but you may pay with your health with the high salt content in some canned products. Look for products that do not have salt as an ingredient. If you simply cannot afford the extra cost for canned no salt products, you can pour the contents of the can into a colander and rinse with water. This technique will decrease a significant amount of salt.
Also, if there is a comparably priced frozen product, I'd go frozen instead. If the vegetable you’re interested in consuming is in season, you, and your wallet may be better off by buying it fresh locally. To find out what is in season in your area of the world, click here.
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