Eating Healthy on a Budget

January 5, 2017 at 10:51 am | Posted in Nutrition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By Josann Nichols
MGH Dietetic Intern

You don’t have to break the bank to have a healthy diet. Below you’ll find tips and tricks to eat well on a tight budget.

  1. Get produce in season. Buying produce in season and from local farmers is often less expensive. More corn on the market means competition, which drives prices down. For example: 4 ears of corn in season costs about $1 from local sources compared to $18 on Amazon during the winter. Produce you buy in season is also picked at peak ripeness, which packs in more flavor and nutrients.
  1. Try frozen fruits and vegetables. Frozen produce is a cheaper alternative to many fresh fruits and vegetables. They’re also picked at peak ripeness, meaning they have the same nutritional quality as fresh produce. You can also store it longer, leading to less food waste which saves money over time.
  1. Stock up on canned fruits and vegetables. Canned fruits and vegetables are a very cheap option and can be stored longer than either fresh or frozen produce. Make sure to buy fruit canned in its own juices to avoid added sugar. To reduce sugar and salt, rinse before eating.
  1. Don’t give up on meats. There are many cheaper cuts of meat available such as brisket, skirt, flank and top rump. Typically, these cuts are cheaper because they are a bit tougher but don’t be discouraged! Cooking meat like pot roast in fluid for a long period of time can make it so tender it falls off the bone! Another money saving tip: check with your local grocery store for sales on older meats. These should be used within a few days or immediately frozen.
  1. Substitute other protein sources for meat more often. Plant-based protein sources are inexpensive, contain fiber and higher-quality fat than meat and will last longer in the kitchen. Beans and lentils for example are usually purchased canned and/or dried. Use them as a substitute for meat in stews, salads, casseroles and side dishes to help your dollar go a little farther. Peanut butter, seeds and eggs are also excellent sources of protein. Add an egg to your breakfast for only $0.25!
  1. Try canned fish. A healthy diet includes seafood, which can often be pricey. Tuna is one cheap alternative, but if mercury is a concern try sardines. Not only are sardines rich in protein, they’re another source of anti-inflammatory fats. Again, watch out for added salt!
  1. Go whole grain. Fiber is your friend! It helps manage blood sugar levels and keep your digestive system healthy. Whole grains have more fiber than white flour products and can be affordable. Instead of expensive specialty grains, try switching to old-fashioned oats, whole wheat bread and brown rice.
  1. Buy in bulk. This can include frozen, canned or dried whole foods. The larger the quantity the cheaper the price per unit, so even though you pay more up front you end up saving money over time.
  1. Choose generic brands. These typically have significant price cuts. Check the ingredient list, though, to make sure you aren’t losing any quality of the product.
  1. Take advantage of sales and coupons. Stores frequently have deals on fresh, canned and dried foods.
  2. Don’t feel pressured to buy organic. Organic farmers do not use chemicals on their crops, but that doesn’t mean non-organic produce is full of chemicals. Many non-organic farmers use little to no chemicals on their produce and simply can’t afford to get the organic certification. Research has also shown that conventionally grown organic and non-organic produce does not differ in nutritional content. So you can be just as healthy eating non-organic foods while saving big bucks at the checkout line.
  1. Follow the Balanced Plate Model. Protein-rich foods tend to make the largest dent on your wallet, compared to starchy foods and vegetables. By maximizing plant-based foods and limiting your meat portions, you’ll improve the quality of your meals and make your dollar stretch farther.

Just follow the tips above to mix and match your protein, starch and vegetables to maximize your dollar and eat healthy!

Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

Blood Sugar: What Does It Mean for Your Health?

November 23, 2016 at 9:01 am | Posted in Health, Nutrition | Leave a comment
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By Felicia Steward, Dietetic Intern

Blood Sugar Defined

Blood sugar is the measurement of the amount of glucose, or sugar, in your bloodstream. This is important because it tells us how much energy our cells and tissues are receiving from the food we eat. Some foods affect blood sugar more than others. Any food that is mostly carbohydrates will affect blood sugar levels. These include dairy (milk and yogurt), all fruits and fruit juices, starches (pasta, bread, rice, and tortillas), and starchy vegetables (corn, peas, beans, potato, and butternut squash). Eating more carbohydrates at a meal can raise blood sugar, so it’s important to think about portion size along with when we eat and what food items we choose to eat together.

Why Care About the Amount of Sugar in My Bloodstream?

 Glucose provides our body with energy, and is needed for the brain to properly function and process information. Therefore, it is important that we choose foods containing small amounts of carbohydrates whenever we have a meal or a snack throughout the day so there’s enough glucose to support our tissues and cells.

When someone with diabetes eats large portions of carbohydrate-rich foods, too much sugar is released into the blood stream and, because there’s either not enough insulin or they have insulin resistance, their body is unable to use this sugar for energy effectively.  It builds up in the blood stream, causing damage to the body.  Over an unhealthy extended period of time, the body will eventually store much of the excess sugar as fat, which can lead to weight gain. Therefore, it is important to be aware of how the food we eat influences the amount of sugar in our bloodstream and how it affects our weight.

How is Blood Sugar Managed?

helthy-plate

 A healthy eating pattern that includes balance and portion control is an important part of managing the amount of sugar in the bloodstream.  Pairing whole grain, carbohydrate-rich foods with protein and fiber helps maintain healthy blood sugar levels. Eating a meal or snack that contains foods that increase blood sugar with those that do not affect blood sugar means the glucose is absorbed slowly into the blood and prevents blood sugar from spiking too high. Paying attention to portion size will also ensure that we are providing our body with exactly what it needs each time we eat. What the body doesn’t use for energy right away can be stored as fat and cause weight gain.

Balanced Lunch Examples:

  • PB&J on whole wheat bread + 1 cup carrot and celery sticks dipped in plain yogurt
  •  2 cups tossed salad + 3 oz. grilled chicken + oil/vinegar dressing + 1 banana
  •  3 oz. salmon + 1 cup brown rice + 1.5-2 cups cooked green beans
  •  2 oz. tuna salad (with light/mayo), lettuce, and tomato on whole wheat bread + 1 small apple + 8 oz. of skim milk
 Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, CDE

 

 

Who Knew Carbohydrates Could Be So Simple – or Complex?

December 10, 2015 at 10:10 am | Posted in Nutrition, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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By Shannon Evins
Dietetic Intern

With various medications, glucose tests, and protocols to follow, diabetes can seem an overwhelming subject to master. Doctors, nurses, dietitians, and other health professionals start throwing numbers and words like carbohydrates and glucose at you and telling you what you should and should not eat. By now, most people know that carbohydrates are at the center of what affects blood sugar. To get to the root of the problem and simplify the concept, it is important to understand the different kinds of carbohydrates. They can be split into two main groups: simple or complex.

Simple carbohydrates are the things you normally think of when someone mentions high blood sugar – candy, cakes, cookies, pies, pastries, etc. They are called simple because they are easy for your body to digest and so spike your blood sugar quickly. It is best to avoid or watch the portion size of simple carbohydrates. Here are some other simple carbohydrates that people often overlook although they have the same effect as table sugar on your body: brown sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, corn syrup, jams/jellies, fruit juice, and soda.

Complex carbohydrates, on the other hand, take longer to break down which means a slower release of energy and less of a spike in your blood sugar. They also often have a higher content of fiber and nutrients, so everyone, not just people with diabetes, should focus on eating complex carbohydrates. Common complex carbohydrates include whole-grain items (whole-wheat bread, whole-grain cereal, brown rice, whole-wheat pasta, etc.), corn, beans, lentils, peas, potatoes, winter squashes or pumpkin, and whole fruits.

To better understand the concept of simple versus complex carbohydrates, let’s go back to the days of arts and crafts and imagine carbohydrates this way: say you have some beads and string and want to make a necklace. You have to add the beads one-by-one to the string in order to make the necklace. Each bead represents a sugar molecule. Simple carbohydrates are the equivalent of just two beads on that string. It would take you no time at all to add those beads to the string. Complex carbohydrates, however, have several more beads on the string, meaning it would take longer to put together. Similarly, your body is doing this for digestion but in reverse – each bead is being removed from the string, meaning each sugar molecule is being broken down and digested. It takes only a short amount of time for your body to digest two molecules versus several.

Overall, carbohydrates are very important for bodily functions because they are the main fuel source for your body. Just remember that it is best to eat them as part of a balanced meal with a fat or protein source and vegetables in order to stabilize blood sugar. Simple (or complex) enough?

(Post content reviewed by MGH Department of Nutrition and Food Services)


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