4 Ways To Eat Healthy On A Budget

Since the New Year I’ve been talking to a lot of people about making healthier choices with their food.  A lot of the time I hear complaints about how expensive healthy food is.  I get that most people have to stick to a budget.  Here are 4 suggestions for how to choose healthier options without breaking the bank.

1.  Plan ahead and work from recipes

No impulse shopping.  Spend some time BEFORE going to the supermarket, planning your meals and snacks for the week.  Work from recipes and make a list.  Stick to the list and avoid purchasing items that aren’t on it.

Be realistic about how much food your family will eat.  Don’t overcook.  If you’re cooking for 3, don’t make a meal with 6 servings unless you are going to eat it twice.  It’s fairly simple to divide recipes in half or two-thirds to adjust the recipe sizes for your family.

Plan to use up the leftovers quickly:  either use them right away for packed lunches or have leftover night once a week.  Any food that spoils or that you have to throw away is food you shouldn’t have purchased in the first place.

2.  Shop alone.

DON’T take small kids to the grocery store routinely.  It is much harder to stick to a list and avoid impulse buys or treat buys when you have impulsive people with you!

When your kids are bigger, it’s great to start teaching them about meal planning and grocery shopping.  You can even split the list and get shopping done in double-time, but be sure to check their cart before you hit the checkout.  Don’t let them sneak extra items into the cart!

Grocery shopping on a budget is a very important skill to teach your children.  Discipline in the snack aisle is tough when you’re a kid 🙂  Sometimes when you’re a grownup too!

3.  Buy store-brand.

Brand-name grocery items are NOT necessarily worth the upcharge for the name.  Gradually start comparison-shopping and ask yourself if the brands you’ve always used are really worth the name-brand price.

Pick just one or two brands to start, and see if there is a less expensive store brand available.  Read labels to make sure there aren’t artificial ingredients in the store brand item.  Check for partially-hydrogenated oils, added sugars and artificial sweeteners, and high-fructose corn syrup.  These ingredients are often added because they are cheap and extend shelf life.  They are NOT worth the discounted price, it’s best to avoid them.

4.  Avoid money traps.

Make sure the measures you take to save money actually DO save you money.  Take clipping coupons, for example.  I used to do it, until I realized how much time it was costing me.  How much is your time worth?  Also, you don’t save money by paying 50 cents less for a jar of jelly you wouldn’t have bought in the first place if you hadn’t had a coupon.

Be careful of buying in bulk.  Make sure the per-ounce price (which should be listed on the shelf tag) is actually lower in the bulk-size package.  Sometimes it isn’t.  Also, make sure your family will actually USE all that food before it spoils or goes bad.  See #1 above:  any food you have to throw away because it spoiled is food you shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

One place where it is good to buy in bulk is when the supermarket has sales on meats and fish.  Keeping your freezer full actually decreases your energy cost because it takes less electricity to keep a full freezer cold than it does a half-full one.

Wrap each piece individually and freeze with the date written on it.  Use the oldest frozen items first.  Thaw frozen items in the refrigerator, not in the microwave or on the counter.  Give it two or three days in the fridge to thaw completely.  Put it in a Ziploc bag to keep it from leaking as it thaws.  Yes, I speak from experience!

Making small changes in how you plan your meals and do your shopping can help find space in your budget for more fresh items.  Try it for a month or two and track your food expenses.  Then start considering where you can gradually start adding healthier choices in your menus.

QUESTION:  Do you spend too much money on food?  What is the one thing you think you should do to improve this?


Acne: Three Nutrition Links

We have a special request today, to discuss acne and some of the ways to impact it naturally.  LOVE this topic!  Let’s go!

So first a quick trip to pubmed.com for a literature search.  There is TONS of literature about acne but almost all of it is about drug therapy.  (Or which chemical peels are the most effective, but that’s another topic, LOL!)  But I did find several interesting and recent articles about nutritional therapy for acne.

1.  Don’t eat like an American.

Seriously.  Burris, Reitkirk and Woolf reported just this month in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that acne was worse in patients reporting diets that had a higher glycemic index, more added sugar, more total sugar, more dairy servings consumed, more saturated fat, more trans fat, and fewer fish servings.  In other words, the Standard American Diet is bad for your skin.  Eat more plants and fish, and less sugar, processed foods and other animal-based foods and you will have nicer skin with less acne!

2.  Maintain a healthy weight.

Particularly for women, obesity is associated with more acne.  Women who are obese have a higher risk of polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).  PCOS increases male hormone activity in the body which makes hair grow in places women don’t want it to grow, and makes skin oils thicker and stickier.  Male hormones cause problems! (Duh, I know, not a news flash.)

PCOS also is associated with a truly malignant form of acne called hidradenitis suppurativa.  Cystic acne in the underarms and the groin is NOT something you want to mess with.  Some women have to have skin-removal surgery to control it.  If you are obese and tend to get boils under the arms and in the groin, get serious about getting to a healthy weight!  Don’t wait for it to get worse.

3.  Supplements.

There are a number of supplements that are helpful in managing acne.  A nice article published in July in Cutaneous and Ocular Toxicology reviewed serum levels of vitamin A, vitamin E and zinc in acne patients.  Higher levels of these vitamins and mineral were associated with less acne problems.  While this was not a study designed to determine a CAUSATIVE relationship, it is suggestive that deficiencies in vitamin A, vitamin E and zinc can make acne worse.  Making sure you get plenty of these vitamins (by eating red/yellow/orange and green leafy veggies, nuts/seeds/cold-pressed oils, and whole grains especially oatmeal) can improve acne.  Supplementing zinc is helpful especially if you eat mostly plants (like me) because the richest dietary sources of zinc are animal-based.

Probiotics are also getting more and more respect in the management of acne.  We are beginning to understand more about the role of the helpful bacteria in the intestine and their importance with keeping the rest of the body working right.  Eating yogurt and other fermented foods (like kimchi and sauerkraut) or taking a probiotic supplement may very well help clear up your skin.

QUESTION:  Do you notice your diet affects your skin?


An Epidemic Of Thyroid Disease

Lately I’ve been getting a lot of questions about thyroid function.  I’ll bet everybody reading this post knows someone with a thyroid gland that doesn’t work right.  Lots of people have been coming in and telling me about symptoms that may point to thyroid disease, so I’ve been testing for it a lot.  I thought I’d talk a bit about the thyroid and what happens “when thyroids go bad.”  LOL!

The thyroid gland is a two-inch-long butterfly-shaped gland that is found in the neck, on either side of the windpipe at about the level of the Adam’s apple.  It’s a soft gland in a soft place, and unless it’s enlarged or lumpy it’s hard to feel.

The thyroid gland is the organ that controls the metabolism.  Its hormones control energy production and usage in the body.  Thyroid function also affects the brain, the digestion, the heart, the skin and hair, and many other organs in the body.

When the thyroid gland is not working right, it is almost always underactive.  This is called HYPOTHYROIDISM.  Thyroid hormone production is low and the metabolism is slow.  The person may feel tired, gain weight, become depressed, develop constipation, and see dry, brittle hair and dry skin.  The heart may be affected and the cholesterol may go out of balance.

The most common cause of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (or Hashimoto’s disease).  This is an autoimmune disorder where the person’s own immune system attacks the thyroid gland (almost like a rejection reaction after a transplant).  No one really knows what causes Hashimoto’s disease.  It does run in families but a gene hasn’t been identified.

How do we diagnose underactive thyroid?  Blood tests are the most important tests although an ultrasound can help if the gland is enlarged or lumpy.

What do we do if the thyroid is underactive?  Most of the time, if the thyroid is underactive, medication must be taken.  Untreated hypothyroidism can be dangerous in the long term.  The most commonly prescribed medication is Synthroid (levothyroxine).  There are other medications that are prescribed less commonly.

I have found two supplements to be very helpful in patients with thyroid disease.  First of all, iodine is a very important mineral in thyroid function.  Iodine deficiency causes a goiter in children and adults and in developing babies and young children can actually cause mental retardation.  Thank goodness in the USA we very rarely see this problem.  However there’s very little information available on how common iodine deficiency is in the USA.  Nowadays we’ve done a good job of getting people to get rid of the salt shaker, but iodized salt is an important source of iodine!

The recommended daily intake of iodine is 150 mcg.  If you take a multivitamin please check and make sure it contains this amount of iodine.  This is a MINIMUM however.  If a patient has thyroid disease, I recommend he or she take twice that (300 mcg daily).  Iodine is best absorbed in an organic (i.e. plant based) form.  Kelp and seaweed supplements are great.  Before you ask, Shaklee does NOT have a kelp or seaweed product.  However the multivitamins have the recommended 150 mcg of iodine to meet minimum requirements.

If you choose to take a kelp or seaweed supplement please be sure to research the company’s quality testing protocols as sometimes seaweed is contaminated with arsenic (naturally found in seawater and concentrated in the plant life).  There are reports of people developing arsenic poisoning from taking large doses of kelp supplements.

One other important mineral for those with thyroid disease is selenium.  Selenium is particularly helpful in Hashimoto’s disease.  Like iodine, selenium is best absorbed in an organic form.  I recommend that folks with Hashimoto’s disease take 200 mcg of selenomethionine (selenium bound to the amino acid methionine) every day.  Again, Shaklee doesn’t have a selenomethionine supplement, but there are many options available online.

I hope this information is helpful for anyone suffering with thyroid disease.  Be well!

QUESTION:  Do YOU have any of the symptoms of thyroid disease I listed above?


Winter Survival Tips

No, I’m not going to write about building a shelter with a pocketknife, LOL!  With all the snow we’re having, I wanted to review some of the steps to take to make sure you’re prepared if you lose power for a while in the winter.

We’re in the throes of winter weather here in Cleveland.  I have about a foot of snow on my deck and although today will be sunny we are supposed to get some more snow tomorrow night (Sunday night).  Then the temps are going to drop WAYY low.  Tuesday’s high will be below zero, brrr!  Maybe the kids going back to school will be delayed a few days…

Here are a few things to think about to prepare in case you lose power in this storm.

1.  Shelter

You have to stay warm.  Before the storm, make sure you have plenty of warm clothes, blankets and sleeping bags.  Stock up on firewood if you have a stove or fireplace to use it.  If the power goes out, close off unneeded rooms.  Make sure the stove or fireplace is well-ventilated.  Don’t go outside if you don’t have to, and if you DO have to go out dress warmly in layers.  Wear a hat, scarf, mittens and cover your face.

2.  Food

Before the storm, make sure you have plenty of nonperishable foods (canned stuff or other food that doesn’t need to be refrigerated) and bottled water.  A full refrigerator will stay cold for 4-6 hours.  Opening the fridge door will make the food spoil faster.  A full freezer will stay frozen for about 48 hours (half-full only 24 hours).  Use up perishable foods in the fridge if it looks like the power will be out for longer than 6 hours.  Check the USDA’s website for more information about food safety in a power outage.

3. Medicine and Medical Treatments

If you take medicine that needs to be refrigerated, replace it if the power has been out for more than 6 hours.  Of course, continue to take it until it can be replaced.  If you have medicine that requires power to take it (like asthma medicine in a nebulizer) then you may have to relocate to a hotel or similar place until power is restored.

Hopefully we will all make it through this storm and the rest of the winter without power outages or any cold-weather-related illnesses or injuries.

Here’s a pic of my deck with its foot of snow :-p

Snow!QUESTION:  Did I miss anything that you do when getting ready for a winter storm?