By Judith H. Dern
Healthnotes Newswire (March 19, 2009)—Prices for many items have soared in the past year, making an impact on practically everyone’s household budget. High costs for basics, from services to household items, make eating well on today’s stretched incomes a challenge. But with attention to how you shop, and by preparing more meals from scratch at home, it’s still possible to enjoy a healthy diet and maintain a healthy bank balance. You may find you’re eating better than ever!
Know before you go
Determine your family’s weekly food budget in advance, and plan meals and snacks ahead so you avoid the impulse to add more expense than necessary when you’re in the store. For help in planning both health- and budget-mindful meals and snacks:
• Map out a week’s worth of meals. Figure in leftovers, pantry items, and school or work lunches, and consider preparing an additional casserole or soup to freeze. Alternate between easy dishes and time-consuming recipes so kitchen prep isn’t overwhelming.
• Use the Food Pyramid. The FDA’s MyPyramid.gov website is a great guide for planning meals. They generally recommend that people concentrate on healthful foods such as whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and low-fat or fat-free calcium-rich dairy products.
• Go lean on protein. Eat more fish, beans, peas, and nuts and seeds. Eat only good oils and fats, like olive oil, and keep them to a minimum.
• Practice portion control. Be aware of how much meat you’re eating: a 4-ounce daily serving of lean meat provides enough protein for most adults. Canned salmon, tuna, and chicken are all terrific protein alternatives to pair with salads or grains, plus another way to control portion sizes.
• Discover some delicious veggie dishes. Add one or two meat-free meals each week featuring good-for-you whole grains and inexpensive dried or canned beans and lentils.
• Stay focused on your favorites. Use coupons if they offer lower prices on items you already buy regularly.
Seize the opportunity
Rather than thinking in terms of limitations and restrictions, consider your budget and your healthy eating goals as framework within which you can redefine your old eating habits. It’s a time to explore overlooked options, try daring ingredient substitutions, and look for creative food combinations that satisfy comfort cravings and support a healthy body and bank account.
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Judith H. Dern lives and cooks in Seattle where she makes a mean version of inexpensive pad thai.
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