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Cheap (and Healthy!) Eats
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During these tough economic times, now is the time to recession-proof your health. Don't let healthy eating habits fall by the wayside because you're stressed about the big financial picture. In fact, you'll save money and keep your weight loss on track by shopping for nutritious fresh food at your market and cooking at home.
Here are some tips to stretch those grocery dollars from The Biggest Loser's nutritionist, Cheryl Forberg, RD (plus her all-time favorite inexpensive recipe)!
1. Buy in Bulk
Bulk items are usually cheaper. That's because there's no expensive packaging included. Those savings are passed directly on to you. You also have the freedom to choose how much or how little to buy each time. Best buys include whole grains, dried beans and legumes, nuts and seeds, and cereals. Some health food stores sell spices in bulk as well.
2. Go Seasonal
Out-of-season fruits and vegetables are sometimes imported, expensive and often tasteless. Plan menus and choose recipe around what's currently in season. You'll enjoy better flavor AND lower prices, especially at this time of year.
3. Shop Locally
Local grocers carry plenty of regional produce. Farmer's markets are a great source for healthy bargains too. For the best deals, shop often and look for end-of-the-day specials.
4. Grow Your Own
Slash your spending even further by supplementing your produce purchases with homegrown items. If you don't have space for a garden, you can at least grow your own herbs. Plant your favorites in small pots near the kitchen. Take a snip or two as needed.
5. Make It from Scratch
Yes it takes more time, but preparing a dish at home rather than picking up a pre-made version can save up to 50% or more. It also ensures your dish is healthier because you dictate the amount of oil or salt it contains. And best of all, this guarantees no hidden preservatives.
6. Shop the Outer Aisles
In most markets you'll find the healthiest ingredients on the perimeter of the store -- fresh fruits and vegetables, lean proteins including fish and chicken, and fat free and low fat dairy products. The inner aisles contain most of the processed foods including soda, candy, chips and snack foods. Aside from the fact that they contain empty calories, they also take a big (and unnecessary) bite from your food budget.
7. Load Up on Legumes
Beans and legumes offer a myriad of health benefits as diverse as their varieties. Black beans, garbanzos, pintos - they're all excellent sources of fiber. They're also rich in folic acid, calcium, iron, potassium, zinc, and antioxidants. The complex carbohydrates they contain provide steady energy that lasts well beyond mealtime. A stellar source of protein, legumes may be the biggest money saver of all as they cost a fraction of the price of most animal proteins.
The downside of eating beans is occasional digestive problems, especially if we don't eat them regularly. As complex carbohydrates, beans contain a variety of complex sugars such as stachyose and raffinose. These sugars require special enzymes to break them down. If the enzymes are absent in the digestive tract, the sugars begin to ferment, creating gas and intestinal distress.
When preparing dried beans, it helps to soak the beans overnight. This initiates the process of dissolving the complex sugars and thus minimizes their uncomfortable side effects. Before cooking the beans, they should be drained, rinsed, and covered with fresh water.
Supplemental enzymes that ease digestive problems are available on the market, and they can be taken just before eating your first bite of beans. Most of these enzymes cannot be added to the beans as they are cooking, because the high heat inactivates them.
Favorite Lentil Recipe! Lentils are my favorite legume. They've been considered a poor man's provision for over 8000 years. Some of the world's greatest religions follow a vegetarian diet, and lentils are a great substitute for meat. One-half cup serving of cooked lentils contains 8 grams of dietary fiber and a whopping 9 grams of protein. Lentils are also one of the richest natural sources of folate. There is also evidence that lentils in the diet may contribute to improved control of blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglycerides due to their high fiber content. One of the oldest foods known, lentils are used extensively in most parts of the world. They do not require pre-soaking, and they cook quickly. Here is one of my all-time favorite way to enjoy them!
Heat olive oil in a 2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until softened and translucent, about 3 minutes. Add garlic and spices and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute; do not brown garlic.
Add broth, tomato sauce, vinegar, mustard, agave nectar, and lentils, stir well, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, but intact, about 30 minutes. Lentil cooking times vary. If necessary, add an additional 1/4 cup water and simmer for 5 minutes longer if lentils are not tender. Season with salt and pepper.
Yield: 2 quarts; 8 (1/2-cup) servings
Cheryl Forberg has been the nutritionist for The Biggest Loser since its first season and is the author of Positively Ageless (Rodale 2008).
The Biggest Loser Family Cookbook: Budget-Friendly Meals Your Whole Family Will Love (Rodale, Nov. 11). Order your copy today!
To read Cheryl's latest blog entry, click here!