Nutrition, Uncategorized

Eating Healthy on a Budget

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

Fitness Myths

We finish up our series on health and wellness myths with some common myths about exercise and fitness.Green hand weights

  • Weight training leads to big musclesStrength training helps promote weight loss, protects against injury and increases bone density, which can lower the risk of developing osteoporosis. Yet some people avoid strength training because they’re afraid that lifting weights will cause them to “bulk up.” A healthy fitness routine includes both aerobic exercises (activities that raise your heart and breathing rate) and a strength training program to build strong muscles. Getting the big, bulky muscles like a body builder isn’t easy and takes a good amount of dedication, time and effort to achieve.
  • No pain no gain—It’s normal to feel muscle fatigue and some soreness a day (or maybe two) after exercise, especially when starting a new routine, but you shouldn’t be feeling pain while exercising. Pain is the body’s way of saying something is wrong and could be signaling you have an injury. Continuing to exercise “through the pain” can make it worse and even cause new ones to develop. The best course of action is to stop what you’re doing and rest. If pain continues, it’s probably a good idea to check with your doctor.
  • Certain exercises will burn fat in specific areas—There are plenty of infomercials and advertisements claiming you can target the fat in a particular area of the body by using a certain piece of equipment or doing a certain set of exercises. The reality is we have no control over when and where our bodies use up fat stores. A well-balanced fitness routine that includes aerobic activity and strength training is better at burning calories and fat throughout the body.
  • Exercising the same group of muscles every day will make them stronger—Variety is the spice of life—the same is true of exercise. Doing the same routine over and over again can actually cause you to plateau since our muscles become very good at doing exercises they’re used to. In order to build strength, muscles need to remain challenged. Mixing up your routine will keep your body guessing and you’ll be better able to continue making gains. Just make sure you give your muscles enough time to rest to prevent injury. Rotate your exercises so you’re focusing on only one group of muscles a day.
  • If you can’t dedicate a block of time to exercising, it’s not worth it—The general recommendation for a healthy lifestyle is doing at least 30 minutes of exercise three days a week, but our daily commitments can make it difficult to find the time to go to the gym to work out. The good news is, no one ever said your daily exercise has to be done all at once. Try breaking up your daily exercise into three 10 minute sessions spread out through your day, take the stairs instead of the elevator or go for a quick walk at lunch. A little activity is better than none at all.
(Information reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park)

Truths and Myths About Diabetes

By Eileen B. Wyner, NP
Bulfinch Medical Group

The Internet is a wonderful thing. We have all hopped on and traveled the information highway, but like all road trips, it’s easy to make a few wrong turns. There is so much information available and it can be overwhelming to decide what is really true or might be true. I thought I would look at 5 common topics about Diabetes that my patients have brought to me over the years and sort out what is myth and what is truth.

True, False, Question MarkI don’t want to start taking insulin. My uncle went blind /started dialysis/lost his leg after he started insulin— Blindness, dialysis, and amputation are serious complications of poorly controlled Diabetes. Years of hyperglycemia may lead to retinopathy, renal failure, and lower extremity wounds resulting in amputation. Starting to use insulin doesn’t cause these complications to happen. In fact, starting insulin may help to prevent these types of complications.

I don’t want to be on insulin. I don’t need it—We all need insulin. It’s a hormone that is produced by the pancreas and it allows the body to convert food into energy for activity. If you don’t have Diabetes your pancreas makes and utilizes insulin automatically. If you do have Diabetes your pancreas isn’t working as efficiently as it should. It may not be making and releasing enough insulin into the system as effectively as the body requires. If you have Type 1 Diabetes, your pancreas isn’t making any insulin and you need to inject insulin to survive.

I have to start insulin because my Diabetes is really bad and I didn’t try hard enough to take care of it— Insulin is just one of many medicines used for treating Diabetes. If your health care provider determines that you need to start taking insulin, it doesn’t necessarily mean that your Diabetes is getting worse. Diabetes is a chronic and progressive disease that we do not yet have a cure for, and ultimately a large percentage of people with Type 2 Diabetes need to self inject insulin over time. Far from being “the beginning of the end” for most people, starting insulin is the beginning of better health. You will have better blood-sugar control, which translates into feeling better, and possibly halting or reversing complications.

I don’t want to start insulin because I will gain weight and I am already overweight—Now, there is some truth to this one. Some people with Type 2 Diabetes may gain weight after starting insulin therapy. It’s important to know, however, that the insulin itself does not increase your weight. Your body begins to process blood glucose more efficiently when the insulin starts to work and the result can be weight gain. This is one reason unexplained weight loss can be an early symptom of Diabetes. It is important to realize that any weight gain usually levels out as your blood sugar gets under better control, and not everyone gains weight when they begin taking insulin.

I am afraid of the artificial sweeteners because they are bad for you—There is no definitive research to show that there are any health dangers to using acesulfame potassium (Sunett), aspartame (Nutrasweet, Equal), saccharin (Sweet’N Low), or sucralose (Splenda) according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). All these agents have been approved for use.

The truth is, whenever you have a question about your health, check with your health care provider so you know what myth is and what truth is.