Budget Friendly Healthy Foods

Think you can’t afford to eat healthfully? It may be easier and less expensive than you imagine. According to Amy Jamieson-Petonic, MEd, RD, director of wellness coaching at the Cleveland Clinic, it’s a myth that kale costs more than cookies. A 2012 USDA study found that junk foods cost more per portion than the good guys like legumes, whole grains and vegetables. The secret to getting the most nutritional bang for your buck: embracing a back-to-basics eating style, says Environmental Working Group (EWG) nutritionist Dawn Undurraga, MS, RD. To help you navigate the aisles, EWG crunched some numbers to determine which foods offer the most nutrition for your dollar and the least exposure to environmental toxins like BPA, pesticides and mercury. Here, your guide to the best buys in the supermarket, and how to add them to your diet.

bananas
Go Bananas!
What it costs:
24 cents per small banana (1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Though they may be the cheapest fruit in the produce section, bananas are no nutritional slouch. Among their greatest benefits are their fiber and potassium content, says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, CSSD, LD, wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic’s Lifestyle 180 program. Potassium blunts the effects of a high-sodium diet and can even help lower blood pressure. Eat bananas between meals to curb afternoon munchies. “As with anything that’s high in fiber, bananas will help you feel full for longer,” says Kirkpatrick.

How to use it: Buy bananas when they’re still slightly green, so they’ll last you the entire week. If you don’t eat them in time and they start to turn brown, peel them and store them in the freezer to use later in smoothies, muffins or bread, like our Nutty Banana Muffins recipe. One of Kirkpatrick’s favorite ways to eat bananas: dark-chocolate-dipped frozen banana pops. Or try this easy banana “gelato” recipe for a sweet, creamy treat.

pears
A Pear to Remember
What it costs:
33 cents per medium-size pear (1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Research shows that apples and pears may lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Another study found that eating plenty of white-fleshed fruits and vegetables could protect against stroke. Plus, just one pear packs in 20 percent of your daily fiber needs. Think of fiber as your stay-slim secret weapon: The more fiber in your food, the less you’ll need to eat to feel full.

How to use it: If you’re not in love with the pear’s grainy texture, bake it with a sprinkle of cinnamon, walnuts, no-sugar-added apple juice and cloves for a wonderful treat. Or try our recipe for Roasted Pears With Maple Crunch. You can also use roasted pears in a salad with dried cranberries and blue cheese or shaved Parmesan.

watermelon
Get Sweet on Watermelon
What it costs:
26 cents per 1 cup

Why it’s good for you: You might think of this sweet summer treat as a luxury, but watermelon is an excellent source of lycopene, says Jamieson-Petonic. Lycopene is a type of carotenoid (a pigment that gives fruits and veggies their orange, red or yellow hue) found in red produce that may guard against some cancers, as well as help improve the skin’s natural defenses against the sun. Plus, it’s one of the few foods that contain citrulline, a chemical that helps relax your arteries and lower blood pressure.

How to use it: Though watermelon is high in sugar, eating it with other foods helps keep it from wreaking havoc on your blood sugar levels, notes Jamieson-Petonic. Watermelon’s nutrients are best absorbed with a little fat or oil. Instead of saving it for dessert, turn watermelon into an entrée. Toss cubed watermelon into a salad bowl with diced avocado, cucumber, chopped mint and feta. Drizzle lightly with lime juice and olive oil.

prune
A Prune by Any Other Name
What it costs:
19 cents per serving (1/4 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Though we may think of prunes as nature’s little movers and shakers, that isn’t their only claim to fame. A daily dose of dried plums may help reverse bone loss and prevent osteoporosis, but wait, there’s even more. Prunes have a phytonutrient content rivaling that of blueberries, and at just half the cost.

How to use it: Dress up brown rice or couscous with chopped prunes, lemon zest, sautéed onions, garlic and rosemary. Or try this delicious recipe: Arugula, Radicchio, Orange, and Dried Plum Salad. Then try this when you’re baking brownies: Replace ¼ cup butter with 1/4 cup pureed prunes. The chocolate’s deep color and rich flavor will mask both the color and taste of the prunes. You’ll get extra fiber and nutrients instead of all of the cholesterol and saturated fat from butter.

broccoli
Bulk Up on Broccoli
What it costs:
36 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: It’s hard to beat the health benefits of broccoli. One serving of these tree-like veggies delivers more than a day’s worth of vitamins C and K. Vitamin C helps the body repair wounds and maintain healthy cartilage and bone. It also wards off free radicals that cause aging inside your cells. Vitamin K strengthens bones and fights inflammation. Plus, eating several servings of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli each week may help reduce your risk of cancer.

How to use it: Reap the benefits of broccoli with a dip made from Greek yogurt and fresh dill (try our Turkish Cucumber Yogurt Dip). According to Undurraga, getting kids to eat broccoli may be as easy as roasting it, which adds a sweet taste dimension through the process of caramelization. Simply toss bite-size florets of broccoli with olive oil, salt and pepper (and fresh garlic if desired) and roast at 425 degrees for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with lemon juice or grated Parmesan before serving.

collard
Give Collard Greens the Green Light
What it costs:
27 cents per serving (1 cup raw)

Why it’s good for you: “Leafy greens have the biggest association with cancer prevention. The darker the green, the better it’s going to be for you,” says Kirkpatrick. Collard greens are high in calcium and folate, which helps prevent DNA changes that can lead to cancer. Plus, leafy greens have been linked to fewer vision problems with age, as well as a lower risk of diabetes.

How to use it: One of the easiest ways to get your greens? Toss them into a morning smoothie. Try collards instead of kale in our Lifestyle 180 Green Smoothie. Another option: Finely chop up a few leaves of collards (minus the ribs if you’re in a hurry; they take longer to cook), sauté until tender, and stir in an egg or combine with pasta sauce.

romaine
Spruce Up Your Salad With Romaine Lettuce
What it costs:
27 cents per serving (1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Fancy salad greens can be pretty pricey if you don’t find them on sale. But that doesn’t mean your salad’s foundation has to be lacking in nutrients. Swap out iceberg lettuce for romaine, which is loaded with almost a day’s worth of vitamin A, in the form of beta-carotene. Beta-carotene may help protect against breast cancer, vision problems and sun damage to the skin.

How to use it: You can meet your daily leafy green quota with just ¼ cup of romaine per day. Double up on lettuce when making sandwiches or salmon burgers. Use the inner portions of the romaine head as crudités when putting out veggies and dip. Or, if you’re feeling adventurous, try grilling the romaine hearts. Remove the outer leaves, slice the head lengthwise into quarters, and brush with olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill until slightly charred. Sprinkle with vinaigrette.

carrots
Care for Some Carrots
What it costs:
29 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: Besides beta-carotene, carrots are also brimming with a relatively unknown but highly potent plant chemical called alpha-carotene. Research suggests that regularly consuming large amounts of this carotenoid, by way of orange and dark green vegetables, may reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.

How to use it: Keep peeled carrot sticks and hummus ready to go in your fridge for impromptu appetizers or snacks. Incorporate root vegetables like carrots into your meals by making a big batch of soup that you can freeze and reheat. Or pair our Butternut Squash, Carrot and Ginger Soup recipe with a rotisserie chicken and side salad for a quick weekday meal.

potatoes
This Spud’s for You
What it costs:
11 cents per serving (baked with skin, 1 cup)

Why it’s good for you: Poor potatoes sometimes get a bad rap when it comes to nutrition, but the real villain isn’t the potato itself but how it’s usually prepared (as French fries or baked with butter, bacon and sour cream). Per serving, potatoes are the cheapest source of potassium in the produce aisle. This mineral is crucial for heart health and muscle function. Plus, it can help keep blood pressure down.

How to use it: Don’t discard the most nutritious part of the spud: the skin. Boil Yukon Golds or other thin-skinned taters and make smashed potatoes. You don’t need butter to get that creamy, rich taste. Instead, use vegetable or chicken broth and milk, along with minced garlic, salt, pepper and your favorite chopped herbs.

onions
Add Flavor With Onions
What it costs:
18 cents per serving (1 cup, raw)

Why it’s good for you: Adding white-fleshed fruits and veggies like onions to your daily diet can lower your risk of stroke. It may also help keep colon and liver cancer at bay. Some research even suggests that onions and their relatives (scallions, garlic, shallots) may reduce rates of arthritis.

How to use it: Onions are a cheap way to add a lot of flavor. Sauté chopped onions in olive oil and garlic and add to any savory dish, from scrambled eggs to vegetable or chicken stir-fry. For a warming meal, try our decadent Simple, Delicious Onion Soup. Or make chicken fajitas with grilled onions and peppers. The secret to superb Mexican: lots of cumin, chili powder, black pepper and garlic. Garnish with plain Greek yogurt, salsa, cilantro and avocado slices.

Keep on Moving!

Keep on moving, don’t stop! On the coldest days, try this indoor workout.

Getting your blood pumping outdoors — even just a brisk walk around the block — can help keep you strong, healthy, and happy throughout the winter. But when the wind is whipping, the sidewalks are icy, and you feel truly stuck, resist the sofa’s siren song. This indoor cardio circuit from Cleveland Clinic fitness expert Ryan Sidak will jump-start your engine with no home gym required! Do the sequence below two to five times, depending on your fitness level.

High Knees: Standing upright, raise your right knee up toward your chest as high as you can. Return your right foot to the ground and repeat with the left knee. For more intensity, increase the pace so that you are running in place with high knees. Do 20 repetitions.

Mountain Climbers: Secure a chair by pushing it against a wall. Place your palms flat on the seat of the chair and extend your body straight back, in a line from the top of your head to your heels. Begin in a push-up position, hands directly below your shoulders. Now raise one knee, as close to your chest as you can, and return it to the starting positing. Repeat with opposite leg and continue alternating for 20 repetitions. If you’d like, when you’re ready, you can increase the pace for a more intense workout.

Lunges: Standing upright, lift your right foot off the ground and take a big step forward. While shifting your weight to the front right foot, lower the knee of the left leg toward the ground. Be careful that your right knee doesn’t extend beyond your toes. Maintain a good upright posture all the while, and press up through your right heel to the starting position. Perform 6 to 10 lunges, always leading with the right side and then repeating with the left.

Wellness Challenge: Salads

salad2

What could be better than a taste of summer in the depths of winter? Your wellness challenge for this week is to have a side salad with dinner for four or more nights this week. Need some motivation? Here are some reasons why eating salads is good for you:

Eat Salads for the Fiber

Eating a high-fiber diet can help lower cholesterol levels and prevent constipation. And eating more fiber can help you feel fuller, eat less, and ultimately lose weight.

Eat Salads for the Health Benefits of Fruit and Vegetables

Many experts agree that Americans need to eat more fruit and vegetables (especially dark green and orange vegetables) and legumes — all popular salad ingredients. There is plenty of evidence that nutrient-rich plant foods contribute to overall health. If you frequently eat green salads, you’ll likely have higher blood levels of a host of powerful antioxidants (vitamin C and E, folic acid, lycopene, and alpha- and beta-carotene,) especially if your salad includes some raw vegetables. Antioxidants are substances that help protect the body from damage caused by harmful molecules called free radicals.

Eat Salads to Cut Calories and Increase Satisfaction

If losing weight is your goal, you may want to start your meals with a green salad. Studies have shown that eating a low-calorie first course, like a green salad of 150 calories or less, enhances satiety (feelings of fullness) and reduces the total number of calories eaten during the meal.

“Bigger is better” as long as the salad is bigger in volume, not in calories – which means more veggies and less dressing and other fatty add-ons.

Eat Salads to Get Smart Fats

Eating a little good fat (like the monounsaturated fat found in olive oil, avocado and nuts) with your vegetables appears to help your body absorb protective phytochemicals, like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark green vegetables.

A recent study measured how well phytochemicals were absorbed by the body after people ate a salad of lettuce, carrot, and spinach, with or without 2 1/2 tablespoons of avocado. The avocado-eaters absorbed eight times more alpha-carotene and more than 13 times more beta-carotene (both of which are thought to help protect against cancer and heart disease) than the group eating salads without avocado.

If you dress your salad with a little olive oil, there may even be some additional years in it for you. Italian research on people aged 60 and older has suggested that a diet that includes plenty of olive oil and raw vegetables is linked to reduced mortality.

Click here for some ideas on delicious side salads. Enjoy!

Why Cruciferous Vegetables Are Good for You

cruciferous

What do broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy have in common?

They’re all members of the cruciferous, or cabbage, family of vegetables. And they all contain phytochemicals, vitamins and minerals, and fiber that are important to your health (although some have more than others.)

Various components in cruciferous vegetables have been linked to lower cancer risks. Some have shown the ability to stop the growth of cancer cells for tumors in the breast, uterine lining (endometrium), lung, colon, liver, and cervix, according to the American Institute for Cancer Research. And studies that track the diets of people over time have found that diets high in cruciferous vegetables are linked to lower rates of prostate cancer.

Lab studies show that one of the phytochemicals found in cruciferous vegetables – sulforaphane – can stimulate enzymes in the body that detoxify carcinogens before they damage cells. Another way cruciferous vegetables may help to protect against cancer is by reducing oxidative stress. Oxidative stress is the overload of harmful molecules called oxygen-free radicals, which are generated by the body. Reducing these free radicals may reduce the risk of colon, lung, prostate, breast, and other cancers.

To maximize taste and nutrition, here are some tips for buying and cooking cruciferous vegetables:

• Don’t overcook cruciferous vegetables. They can produce a strong sulfur odor and become unappealing.
• You can buy several types of cruciferous vegetables ready-to-go in the frozen or fresh packaged sections of your supermarket, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels sprouts.
• No raw veggie platter is complete without dark green broccoli or snowy white cauliflower florets.
• Add raw broccoli or cauliflower florets to your green salad to give it a big nutrient boost.
• Add chopped cruciferous veggies to soups, stews, and casseroles.
• When buying fresh broccoli, look for firm florets with a purple, dark green, or bluish hue on the top. They’re likely to contain more beta-carotene and vitamin C than florets with lighter green tops. If it has yellow in it or is limp and bendable, the broccoli is old — don’t buy it.

Salsa Dancing

salsa
Salsa dance has been around for several decades, but many gyms have recently started offering salsa dance classes. Salsa dancing involves a lot of spontaneous movements that can work a variety of muscles in your body, including the muscles in your legs, hips and even your arms. Unlike running, salsa dancing does not negatively impact your legs, but it can help you to burn up to ten calories per minute.

Freedom of Salsa Dance

Unlike traditional cardio classes, classes that focus on salsa dancing are not regimented. This can make them feel more fun and exciting. Salsa dancing usually requires you to dance with a partner and features a series of hip movements, twirls and other dance moves. However, the great thing about salsa dancing is the variety if offers. While other dancing styles require you to move in a certain way, there are many ways to salsa dance.

Benefits of Salsa Dancing

Once you learn to salsa dance, there are many benefits that you can enjoy. It burns calories quickly and keeps your body moving at all times. This not only keeps the activity fun and interesting, but it also keeps your heart rate up and keeps your muscles active too. All the movements you do will strengthen your lower body, make your hips more flexible and help you with your posture. You can also burn fat by salsa dancing.

If you want to get a good workout but are bored with traditional methods, salsa dancing might be for you. When done properly, it can help you improve your fitness levels in just a few sessions.

If you live on the Mendocino Coast, you might want to try the salsa lessons on Sundays from 5:00-7:00pm at the Weller House Inn at 524 Stewart Street in Fort Bragg. Call (707) 964-4415 for more information.

Wellness Challenge: Water

water-glasses

This week’s wellness challenge is to drink a minimum of 64 ounces of water a day, for four or more days this week.

Here are some reasons to make sure you’re drinking enough water every day:

  • Drinking Water Helps Maintain the Balance of Body Fluids. Your body is composed of about 60% water. The functions of these bodily fluids include digestion, absorption, circulation, creation of saliva, transportation of nutrients, and maintenance of body temperature.

  • Water Can Help Control Calories. For years, dieters have been drinking lots of water as a weight loss strategy. While water doesn’t have any magical effect on weight loss, substituting it for higher calorie beverages can certainly help. Food with high water content tends to look larger, its higher volume requires more chewing, and it is absorbed more slowly by the body, which helps you feel full. Water-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, broth-based soups, oatmeal, and beans.
  • Water Helps Energize Muscles. Cells that don’t maintain their balance of fluids and electrolytes shrivel, which can result in muscle fatigue. Drinking enough fluids is important when exercising. Follow the American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for fluid intake before and during physical activity. These guidelines recommend that people drink about 17 ounces of fluid about two hours before exercise. During exercise, they recommend that people start drinking fluids early, and drink them at regular intervals to replace fluids lost by sweating.

    Here are some tips to increase your fluid intake and reap the benefits of water:

    - Have a beverage with every snack and meal.
    - Eat more fruit and vegetables. Their high water content will add to your hydration. About 20% of our fluid intake comes from food.
    - Keep a bottle of water with you in your car, at your desk, or in your bag.

Wellness Challenge: Fresh Air

air

Here’s your wellness challenge for this week: Spend 30 minutes or more in the fresh air, four or more days this week!

Why is fresh air good for you? Here are some reasons:

•Fresh air cleans the lungs and helps to bring more oxygen to the cells and improves the cleansing action of your lungs. When you exhale and breathe out through your lungs, you release airborne toxins from your body. The increased oxygen level in the body brings with it increased energy to do the things you need to do.

•More oxygen also brings greater clarity to the brain, which needs twenty percent of our body’s oxygen to function. When you breathe fresh air you can automatically think better as compared to when you remain inside a room for a longer period of time.

•Fresh air is good for digestion as it helps you to digest food more effectively. That is why experts’ recommend taking a small walk outside after you eat. From all the health benefits of fresh air, this one is really important if you are trying to lose weight.

•Fresh air also improves your blood pressure and heart rate. Those who have a problem with blood pressure should avoid staying at polluted environments and try to stay in surroundings that have a good supply of fresh air. Dirty environment forces the body to work harder, to get the amount of oxygen it needs.

•The amount of serotonin your body has is hugely affected by the amount of oxygen you inhale. Serotonin can significantly lighten your mood and promote a sense of happiness and well-being. Fresh air will leave you feeling more refreshed and relaxed.

•Fresh air is also essential to make your immune system strong. White blood cells require more oxygen when working to kill and destroy bacteria, viruses, and germs. They need enough oxygen to work and function properly.

•Fresh air purifies the blood, imparts to it a bright color, and sends the blood, a life-giving current, to every part of the body.

So get out there, take a deep breath, and enjoy! See you next week!

Wellness Challenge: Fruit and Vegetable Snacks

fuitandveg

We hope you are having fun with our weekly wellness challenge! You will find that small changes in your diet and routine can make a big difference in your health and how you feel.

Remember, you can do each week’s wellness challenge on your own, or with a group of friends. You can even reward yourself for successfully completing the challenge!

To complete, do each challenge for four days a week, or more if you’d like to set your own rules. We usually do Monday through Thursday.

Here is this week’s challenge:

Eat one piece of fruit and one vegetable as a snack on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of this week. You can do it!

Why is it important to eat fruit and vegetables?

Nutrients:

  • Most vegetables are naturally low in fat and calories. None have cholesterol.

  • Vegetables are important sources of many nutrients, including potassium, dietary fiber, vitamin A, and vitamin C.
  • Diets rich in potassium may help to maintain healthy blood pressure. Vegetable sources of potassium include sweet potatoes, white potatoes, white beans, tomato products (paste, sauce, and juice), beet greens, soybeans, lima beans, spinach, lentils, and kidney beans.
  • Dietary fiber from vegetables, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease. Fiber-containing foods such as vegetables help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories.
  • Vitamin A keeps eyes and skin healthy and helps to protect against infections.
  • Vitamin C helps heal cuts and wounds and keeps teeth and gums healthy. Vitamin C aids in iron absorption.

Health Benefits:

  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruit as part of an overall healthy diet may reduce risk for heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, and may protect against some kinds of cancers. It may also lower blood pressure and reduce bone loss.

  • Eating a diet rich in some vegetables and fruit as part of an overall healthy diet may protect against some cancers.
  • Diets rich in foods containing fiber, such as some vegetables and fruit, may reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating foods such as vegetables that are lower in calories per cup instead of some other higher-calorie food may be useful in helping to lower calorie intake.

Wellness Challenge: Eat Breakfast

breakfast

Here at MCC, we are participating in weekly wellness challenges. It’s been so fun so far that we wanted to share them with you.

You can do each week’s wellness challenge on your own, or with a group of friends. You can even reward yourself for successfully completing the challenge!

To complete, do each challenge for four days a week, or more if you’d like to set your own rules. We usually do Monday through Thursday.

Are you ready? Here’s the first challenge: Eat breakfast every day of the challenge.

Why is eating breakfast important? Here are 5 good reasons to eat in the morning:

1. It may protect your heart

Researchers found that those who didn’t eat a morning meal were 27% more likely to develop heart disease than those who did. Research indicated that people who skip breakfast gain weight, which can lead to diabetes as well as high cholesterol and blood pressure—all of which can raise your risk of heart disease. The reason isn’t entirely known, but breakfast skippers tend to overeat at other meals and snack excessively throughout the day.

2. It might lower your risk of type 2 diabetes
A morning meal may help you avoid fluctuating glucose levels, which can lead to diabetes. Studies have found that not eating breakfast raises the risk by 21%, even after taking into account body mass, what they ate, and other factors. Women under the age of 65 who skipped breakfast even just a few times per week were 28% more likely to develop diabetes than women who ate it regularly. And if you’re in the habit of dashing out the door for work in the morning with only a cup of coffee, take note: Women in the study who worked full-time had a greater risk than those who worked part-time, the researchers noted, possibly because job stress has been found to raise glucose levels.

3. It gets you moving

Studies have shown that people who eat breakfast are more physically active during the morning than those who don’t. That might be because a temporary increase in blood sugar gave them more energy. It’s interesting to note that those who ate a morning meal consumed more calories over the course of the day than the breakfast skippers, but they didn’t gain weight because they were more active.

4. It might give you a mental edge
Research involving adults and children has indicated that breakfast might enhance memory, attention, the speed of processing information, reasoning, creativity, learning, and verbal abilities. Scientists have found some evidence that those benefits might be a function of the stable glucose levels that a morning meal provides.

5. It just might keep your weight down

Studies have linked eating breakfast with a reduced risk of obesity, including several that showed people who were dieting and ate more calories for breakfast than dinner lost more weight compared with subjects who ate larger evening meals.

November Is Diabetes Awareness Month

daibetes awareness

President Barack Obama has declared November to be National Diabetes Awareness Month.

More than 29 million Americans have diabetes. That’s 1 in 11 people. Are you or your family at risk?

To learn some basic information about diabetes, such as types of diabetes, symptoms, risk factors, treatment, and prevention of diabetes click here.

For some helpful and healthy tips on how to manage or even prevent diabetes, click here.

Our nation’s health care providers, researchers, and advocates have made important strides in combating this disease, and we have reason to hope this progress will continue. This month, let us work to show every individual living with diabetes that they are not alone, and let us continue strengthening our investment in the fight against this disease.