Eat Healthy, Eat Cheap

by Sherry Ballou Hanson


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Can you really do both? Experts tell us to eat fruits and veggies, include whole grain products, every day and be sure to eat breakfast. This takes time and money, right? Right, but no more so than eating a diet full of convenience foods that are high in fat, low in nutrients and pack on the pounds.

Rome was not built in a day, and you can't overhaul your diet and eating habits overnight, but here are some facts that may surprise you. The end result could be a healthier you, weight loss and a net savings at the grocery store.

Fruits and Vegetables - Americans are notorious for neglecting fruits and vegetables, but you need these foods to get all the vitamins and minerals your body needs. Walk in any grocery store and you immediately see the shining displays of colorful veggies and polished apples. Too expensive, you say? Not at all. Use the tips below to guide you in finding fruits and veggies to fit your budget and help maintain good health.

  • Buy seasonal fruits.
  • Purchase bags of apples rather than single items.
  • Hit the bargain shelf; the food is just as nutritious and costs much less.
  • Take advantage of store specials, coupons, 2-for-one savings, etc.
  • Buy in bulk and trade with another family for other items.

Whole Grains - Whole grain cereals and breads supply many necessary nutrients, but those cereals and breads usually cost more than plain old white bread, which is stripped of many nutrients, and over-processed, sugar-covered cereals. During the milling process for white bread and popular sugared cereals, the germ and bran are removed and you lose most of the nutrients. Some are added back in as supplements, but not all. You get an inferior product with chemical additives you may not want. Here are some suggestions:

  • Go to a health food store where you can buy cereals by the pound.
  • Take advantage of weekly specials at the health food store.
  • Look for whole grain breads on the bargain shelf.
  • Check the bakery for day-old breads; the price goes down a lot.
  • Buy bread during special sales and freeze it.
  • Use store or brand name coupons for cereals.
  • To "up" the nutrition factor, sprinkle nuts, germ or bran on cereal.

Dairy Products - There are a lot of ways to include dairy products in your diet without going broke, and if you don't, what ends up broke may be a bone! Calcium and Vitamin D are important to build and maintain strong bones, and you get these nutrients most readily in milk, cheese, yogurt and other dairy products.

You don't need to buy those individual servings of yogurt, nor do you need pre-packaged slices of cheese, or even cheese sliced in the deli. The store brand of milk is always cheapest, but you may want to check whether the cows that produce the milk are fed hormones if it is a concern. Check into these possibilities on your next trip to the store:

  • Yogurt in big tubs costs less than individual servings.
  • Try the store brand of yogurt on your morning cereal.
  • Buy cheese in bulk and slice or cut your own portions.
  • Milk is milk, so buy the store brand.
  • Take advantage of store specials on cheese.
  • Don't buy individually wrapped cheese; you pay for the wrapping.

Read Labels - There is no excuse today for not knowing how much fat, sodium and sugar are in a packaged food item. Be sure you are buying something that contributes to your health and does not sabotage your efforts. But be realistic; don't try to cut out all sweets overnight. Read the cookie label and see how many calories (and fat grams) are in a "serving." A cookie a day won't hurt you and won't cost much either, but half a bag is a no-no. Eat a bag of cookies every day and you have wasted money, shot your dietary efforts and added bulk to your body.

  • Determine what a "serving" is, according to the food label.
  • Eliminate any foods that ramp up your fat intake.
  • Look for Light or "lite," low-fat, fat-free, lean and extra lean labels; these foods have a guaranteed lower fat content.
  • Check total calorie count; it isn't only fat that ups the count!

Sherry Hanson has published hundreds of articles, essays and poems. She teaches others how to get published. Her first book, a collection of poetry titled A Cab to Stonehenge was published in 2006.

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