A Blogazine, based out of Park Slope, Brooklyn, that features fun and interesting articles. Topics include: parenting, society, real estate, career, style, spirituality and more. Written contributions are always welcome!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Eating Healthy for Less

By Chrysta Lea Baker

With our very busy lives, it’s so easy to choose a quick and unhealthy way to eat. Handing the kids a frozen waffle before running out to school or having a pizza delivered for dinner are perfectly fine options on occasion, but over the long term these conveniences can become habits with dire consequences. While fast foods and quick meals are cheaper and easier, they can lead to some really negative results.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are more than 1.6 billion overweight adults in the world with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 25% or more. The United States is one of the fattest countries in the world with 74.1% of American adults falling into the overweight or obese categories. This is due to the fact that most Americans have poor eating habits along with a more sedentary lifestyle. We eat more fatty or processed foods and less fresh vegetables and whole grains, which has led to a national epidemic of overweight people.

A 2007 study by CalorieLab found that the fattest state in the U.S. was Mississippi with 30.6% of its residents falling into the overweight category and the slimmest being Colorado with 17.6%. New York state ranked 37th out of 50 on the list at 22.4%, but WHO projects that the overall number of overweight adults in the world will dramatically increase by 40% in the next 10 years. This means that even in the slimmer states the percentage of overweight individuals will grow larger and larger over the coming decade.

So, it’s more important than ever to come up with healthier ways to eat and feed our families with. As always, we need to commit ourselves to eating less, moving more, and indulging our cravings just a little less frequently if we want to move down that list of overweight states rather than up it. But how can we eat healthier without breaking the bank and taking up too much of our busy time? Consider some of these healthy eating tips that cost less and are better for you and your family’s overall health.
  • Buy organic foods that are grown locally at the farmer’s market rather than the conventional supermarket or trendy health food store. Buying your fruits and vegetables at a local Farmer's Market like the Park Slope Farmer’s Market is not only healthier and less expensive, it also supports your local farmers, fishermen, and food sellers. However, remember to shop for organic food wisely. When it comes to organic food, splurge for the good stuff where it counts most, feeding your family meat and dairy without hormones is worth the extra money. Most fruits and vegetable with thicker skins, such as oranges, and corn don’t really get as effected by the pesticides sprayed on them, so focus on buying the organic produce with thinner skins such as grapes and tomatoes. Note: An exception to this rule is bananas. Even though they have a thick skin, their outer skin is very porous.
  • Join a food co-op and save up to 40% on your groceries in exchange for just a few hours of work once a month or so. At the Park Slope Food Coop, you can find locally, organically and conventionally grown produce; free-range and kosher poultry; as well as standard supermarket items. There is even an on-site childcare facility where you can keep your kids while you’re working your shift or shopping.
  • Consider starting a neighborhood food exchange where each person provides a different item each week to the members of the group. One person might be good at baking bread, another at making healthy granola bars, another at homemade salsa, or someone else might have a little garden that can provide fresh tomatoes, peppers, or herbs to be made into something tasty by someone else in the group.
  • Clip coupons and look out for sales. Looking out for sales is always wise. However, most people I know say they don’t have the discipline or time to clip coupons. Coupons can be very useful if you are organized and plan ahead. Some people who use coupons think they save money, but may spend more than non-coupon users because coupons are usually for brand name, higher priced items. To avoid that trap, use coupons to buy only items you use often, things you would like to try, and when the item is already on sale.
  • Substitute higher-end item for lower-priced food without downgrading the nutrition or taste. For instance, use steak sauce with seasoned, low-fat ground beef instead of steak, Tillipia instead of lobster, buy generic juice and mix with carbonated water instead of soda, buy button mushrooms instead of Shitake mushrooms.
  • Buy your grains, beans, nuts, oils, and dried fruits in bulk at Pumpkin’s Organic Market. Buying in bulk is much less expensive than buying prepackaged goods and these items are generally healthier for you to eat or snack on throughout the week. While you won’t buy all of your groceries there, you will find a large selection of organic and vegetarian selections that you might not find elsewhere.
  • Make your own soups, breads, cereals, granola, crackers, or organic cookies with the bulk items you bought and have them around the house in pre-measured servings for a quick meal on the go. Place meals or snack in sealable bags or plastic containers with labels on them identifying their contents and take them to work or send the kids off to school with a quick and healthy snack or meal.
  • Buying bulk for big box items in stores like Costco, Sam's Club, BJ's can be a great way to save money, however, unlike buying bulk in health food stores, you should really be wary and study the nutritional labels before you shop. You can get more then you bargained for like hormones, chemicals and high fructose in many bulk items from stores like these. However, it is worth buying things like olive oil, wheat pasta, honey and tomato sauce in bulk if you have space to store it in. Even with the membership fee, the savings are big.