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Eating Healthier for Less: Nutritional Tips


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Today's tough economic challenges make it a good time to re-examine the way we and our family members eat, as more of us try to stretch the budget by dining on the cheap on foods like hot dogs, bologna sandwiches, and macaroni and cheese.

But eating healthy doesn't have to cost more.

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science nutritionists Lynn Janas, PhD, and Hope Bilyk, MS, RD say that a few small changes in the way we shop, cook and eat will help us stay healthier and spend less.

Let's start with eating. Janas, who holds a PhD in nutrition, wants us to envision what a healthy meal looks like not on some difficult-to-conjure food pyramid but on the dinner plate we sit down to. Half the plate should be filled with vegetables all that fiber will help fill us up. One-quarter should contain protein lean meat, fish, eggs or beans. One quarter should include whole grains like bread, pasta and rice.

Eating healthy begins with improving the quality of food on the plate, according to Bilyk, a registered dietitian, who said we should start small and keep it simple: substitute a slice of whole grain bread for the usual white bread; occasionally use brown rice for white rice; instead of a sugary breakfast cereal, eat oatmeal, muesli or some other whole grain.

"We can add more nutrition to our meals by making small changes, taking small steps," Bilyk said.

Eating on the run can also be nutritious, if you grab a piece of fruit instead of a cookie. Unsalted popcorn, a whole grain, is a good snack choice, as are a handful of nuts, instead of chips.

Despite the government's attempt to nudge more Americans to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, we don't consume enough of them. Researchers at Ohio State University recently reported that 80 percent of U.S. children from 12-18 years of age were not eating the recommended portions of fruit on a given day and approximately 90 percent were not eating enough vegetables.

The explanation might be out of sight, out of mind, said Janas, who wants fruit kept on the table or counter, within easy reach.

"People will eat appropriately if they have a selection of healthy foods," she said. "Let's get it out there and make it visible. We want to get more vegetables and fruits into everybody."

All vegetables have different nutrients and that is why we need to eat a variety of them, according to the nutritionists, both assistant professors in the Department of Nutrition at Rosalind Franklin's College of Health Professions. A healthy plate should be colorful.

"Put a rainbow on your plate," advised Bilyk, who advises us to select dark green and dark orange vegetables. "Color signals potential health benefits," she said.

Eating healthier can also help stretch the food dollar. Beans and lentils are cheap and can be used as extenders for more expensive protein dishes like red meat. Look for boneless, skinless chicken breasts on sale. Whole chickens and chicken thighs are an economical choice.

Aim to eat fish twice a week. Canned salmon or tuna in moderate portions are relatively cheap and nutritious. Try meatless meals. Use eggs, but cut out some of the yolks. Make minestrone, frittatas, omelets. Use enriched pasta with tomato sauce and small amounts of ground beef. Make homemade pizza, limiting the cheese and processed meats. Buy fruits and vegetables in season. Buy cheaper store brands. Shop sales and lower-cost produce stores.

Both nutritionists also recommend the "Go, Slow, Whoa" system of thinking before eating. "Go" heavy on the healthy foods that should fill your plate. Make it "slow" on meats, processed foods, pizza and low-fat cheese and "whoa," or hold the line, on regular-fat cheese, ice cream, baked goods, chips, candy and sugar-sweetened drinks.

Eating healthier can help see Americans through the economic rough times now and beyond. A healthy diet and regular physical activity can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and prevent the obesity that drains more than $117 billion a year in direct and indirect costs, for medical treatment to lost wages, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Janas and Bilyk point to the nation's four leading killers many forms of heart disease, cancer, cardiovascular disease/stroke and diabetes are nutrition related and largely preventable. Heart disease alone is projected to cost $305 billion in 2009, including health care services, medications, and lost productivity.

By focusing on what we eat, Americans can enjoy better health. They can live longer and save more money.

"You truly are what you eat," Janas said. "Every cell in your body is regenerating and at some point will be affected by what you eat."

About Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science

Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science (RFUMS) is a national leader in interprofessional medical and healthcare education, comprising the Chicago Medical School, College of Health Professions, Dr. William M. Scholl College of Podiatric Medicine and the School of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies.

There are more than 15,000 RFUMS degreed graduates in the United States and worldwide.

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(Medical News Today, Source: Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science, August 29, 2009)


The information contained in these articles may or may not be in agreement with my own opinions. They are not being posted with the intention of being medical advice of any kind.

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