Healthy Super Bowl Noshes

January 30, 2014

If you’re hosting a Super Bowl gathering or going to a friend’s place to watch the big game, you’ll probably want to prepare an appetizer or two to share with others during the event. Foods that are typically served at sporting events are often high in calories, sodium, and fat, but it doesn’t have to be that way! Read on for low-cost, healthy versions of popular Super Bowl noshes.

Make your own popcorn. Did you know that popcorn is a whole grain? Popcorn can be a healthy choice if it is prepared the right way. Try preparing your own stove top popcorn. Avoid adding extra fat (butter) and salt; instead, add your own spices for flavor.

Lighten up your buffalo wings. Bake your buffalo wings instead of frying them to cut calories and fat. Serve this Baked Buffalo Wings recipe with blue cheese dip and see if your friends notice the difference. If you want to try a delicious vegetarian option, try this Healthy Buffalo Cauliflower Bites recipe!

Make your own guacamole. It’s actually quite easy to make guacamole at home. This homemade guacamole recipe is simple and won’t break the bank. If you want to be extra adventurous, make your own tortilla chips to go with it!

Serve mini taco meatballs. Imagine the best part of a taco in appetizer form. This mini taco meatballs recipe takes less than 30 minutes to make. This healthy app is packed with flavor!

Make your own healthy pizzas. Pizza is a wonderful low-cost meal that can feed many people without costing a lot of money. Whip up Pesto Pizza with Sliced Tomatoes and a Barbecue Chicken Pizza. If these two options aren’t your style, pick your favorite pizza toppings and create your own recipe!

There are many different ways to re-create your favorite dishes in a healthy way without sacrificing taste. Make one or two of these low-cost Super Bowl snacks and you’re sure to receive compliments from your guests!


Keep Your Heart Healthy on a Budget

February 27, 2012

In the United States, someone dies from cardiovascular disease every 33 seconds, according to The Heart Foundation.  In honor of American Heart Month, Health Advocate Inc. and The Healthcare Survival Guide offer the following tips on how you can reduce the risks associated with developing heart disease on a low-cost budget.  

Keep moving. The American Heart Association says that exercising for even 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of heart disease. And keeping a healthy weight can be helpful for your heart. If you need to lose weight, increasing your physical activity can also help you lose pounds.

If you can’t afford an expensive gym membership and you want to stay fit, there are several low-cost alternatives you can try.  Consider these ideas to help you jumpstart your fitness goals.

Try to take a brisk walk every day, whether it’s at the park, your neighborhood or local mall. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. If you’re driving, consider parking the car father away from your destination in order to get in some extra walking. You can even make a workout from your household chores. Cleaning the house, gardening and raking leaves are some good ideas to increase physical activity and get the heart pumping. 

If you’re looking to enhance your workout, you don’t have to spend a lot of money on fancy equipment to get the results you’re looking for. Many household items make perfect low-cost substitutes. For example, canned goods or milk gallons can serve as hand weights. You can reuse the empty jugs and fill them with water or sand and adjust the weights to better meet your fitness level changes by adding more sand or water.  If you have a step stool, you can use that or a set of stairs for step training.

Jump ropes are also fairly inexpensive and jumping rope can be a great cardiovascular workout. If you don’t want to purchase one, you can use clothesline rope. Just cut it down to the size you’re looking for. Also, think about trying exercise videos and DVDs, which can create the feel of a gym in your own home.

If you are interested in taking an exercise class and don’t want to break the bank, check out your local community recreational department. Many offer discounted fitness classes to local residents.

Eat right.  Eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables as well as fiber-rich whole grain foods can help reduce cholesterol and keep blood sugar at healthy levels, according to the Mayo Clinic. Use sodium-free or reduced sodium soups, gravies and sauces, and avoid drinking sugar-sweetened beverages. Eat more oily fish that is high in Omega -3 fatty acids, such as salmon, Arctic char and mackerel to keep your heart healthy.  

It can be easy to eat healthy without spending too much money. Consider the following ideas when grocery shopping.

Look for sales and coupons on fresh fruits and vegetables. Choose larger bags of fruit (like apples, oranges and pears) instead of the single fruits that are priced per pound.

Look for generic brands. Generics provide great savings and have the same nutritional value and ingredients as the popular brand names. 

Skip the bottled water; drink tap water. If you prefer bottled water, buy the larger gallon size instead of the smaller single bottles.

Stroll through the frozen goods aisle. Many fruits are out of season in the winter and those that are available are usually imported and very expensive.  Look for frozen fruits instead. Buying a frozen bag of berries can be an inexpensive and healthy option. Also consider canned fruits, such as peaches, in 100 percent fruit juice.

Quit smoking.  Smoking is one of the leading risk factors to coronary heart disease. According to the American Heart Association, smoking decreases your tolerance for physical activity and increases the tendency for blood to clot. It decreases HDL, which is a “good” kind of cholesterol. Your risks increase greatly if you smoke and have a family history of heart disease. Smoking also creates a higher risk for peripheral artery disease and aortic aneurysm. It increases the risk of recurrent coronary heart disease after bypass surgery, too.

If you are having a hard time quitting, there is help. Check with your employer to see if a smoking cessation program is offered. If not, there are several organizations that can help you quit smoking. Some resources include:

American Cancer Society Toll-free hotline: 1-800-ACS-2345, www.cancer.org

National Cancer Institute: Toll-free hotline: 1-877-44U-QUIT, www.smokefree.gov

Stay cool, calm and collected. Keeping stress levels at a minimum can also lower your blood pressure. To help manage your stress, try meditation or yoga. Yoga actually helps to lower blood pressure and decreases the heart rate, according to the Mayo Clinic. Exercising can also relieve tension. Going for a brisk walk can increase the production of endorphins, the brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters, according to the Mayo Clinic.  

If you find it too overwhelming to keep stress at a minimum, try talking to your physician, health provider, clergy or counselor.  You can also contact the National Alliance on Mental Illness: www.nami.org, 1-800-950-NAMI (6264). Each state has its own chapter.

Keeping yourself healthy through exercise, lifestyle and eating right may help to minimize the risk of developing heart disease down the road. If you already have high blood pressure or have a heart condition, it can also help you manage your condition. You don’t have to spend a fortune to be healthy. Eating right, working out and making some lifestyle changes can be easily done on a low-cost budget.  Remember to always talk to your doctor first before starting any new exercise or dieting routine.


How to eat healthy without breaking the bank

August 9, 2011

By now, everyone knows that eating healthier foods is better for you than eating junk food.  What people are just starting to realize is how expensive eating healthier can be.  Nutritional guidelines for the U.S. have recently been updated to include recommendations for even more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium and Vitamin D.  But scientists reported in the Health Affairs journal last week that following these recommendations could result in your grocery bill being close to $400 more each year.  So how do you have a healthier diet without taking a trip to the poorhouse in the process?  Read on for some handy tips on eating healthy for less.

  • Pick nutritional overachievers.  For instance, bananas are not just an excellent source of potassium–they’re also high in dietary fiber.  That’s two benefits for the price of one!  Beans do double-duty, too, as they’re a good source of dietary fiber and often contain lots of calcium, too.
  • The freezer is your friend.  Fresh produce can spoil easily.  Don’t buy more than you and your family can eat before it goes bad.  If you like to stock up on food, buy frozen fruits and veggies that will keep for longer.  If you do buy fresh produce and know you can’t eat it all, package it up and freeze it right away, making sure to label it with the date.
  • If you’re buying fresh produce, check into whether you have a farmer’s market or produce stand nearby–often, fruits and veggies from these types of places are cheaper.
  • Consider buying in bulk.  Often, buying in bulk can be cheaper than buying individual items.  Choose healthy items with a long shelf life, like bottled water, oatmeal, canned beans, peanut or almond butter, etc.  Many warehouse markets that sell food in bulk charge a membership fee, but if you buy nonperishable staples there often, the membership will pay for itself in savings.
  • Go generic.  Why buy brand-name foods when your local grocery store makes the same food, but under their store brand?  Store brands are often cheaper than the bigger brand names, and product quality is generally about the same.
  • Get carded.  If you don’t have a savings or loyalty card for your local grocery store, go to the store’s customer service counter and sign up for one.  These cards are generally free, and swiping them each time you’re at the register can result in savings.
  • Cut it out.  Scour your grocery store’s circular for coupons.  If your favorite grocery store doesn’t have a circular, go online and see if they have coupons on their website that you can download and/or print out.
  • “Like” stuff.  Consider “liking” the Facebook pages of your favorite food brands and/or grocery stores.  Often, companies offer exclusive coupons or savings to people who “like” them on Facebook.
  • Get growing.  Consider creating a vegetable garden for your backyard.  No backyard?  You could try growing herbs in little pots.  Seeds are inexpensive to buy, and maintaining a garden and/or potted herbs can be a fun family activity.

Now there’s no excuse for eating inexpensive and nutritionally bankrupt foods from your local fast food joint–as you can see, there are many ways to eat well while cutting costs.  Your health will thank you–and so will your piggy bank!


Easy, sneaky tricks for portion control

July 21, 2011

Worried about your waistline?  Want to avoid overeating?  Use these simple strategies to help yourself eat reasonable amounts of food at mealtimes and snacktimes.

  • Never eat straight out of the bag or box.  If you plant yourself on the couch, bag of chips in hand, by the time that episode of Grey’s Anatomy is over you might find you’ve devoured half the bag.  Before you start eating, take a recommended serving size of the snack out of the box/bag and put it in a bowl.  Put the snack bag/box back in the cabinet (out of sight, out of mind!) and take your bowl to the couch.  Chances are, you’ll be too engrossed in what you’re watching to sneak back to the kitchen for seconds.
  • Be a little bored.  Studies have shown that repetitive eating can lead to weight loss.  The theory behind this is that even your favorite foods can get boring after a while if that’s what you predominately choose to eat.  Humans are programmed to have a habituation threshold–whatever your culinary vice, be it pizza or buffalo wings or hot dogs, you’ll habituate to it after a while.  And once you habituate to it, it’s very likely you’ll eat less of it than you used to.
  • Go ahead, eat the whole plate of food!  But there’s a caveat: it should be a smaller plate.  If you use a 10″ plate as opposed to a 12″ plate, you’ll automatically serve yourself 20-22% less food.  It won’t look like any less food to you–after all, that plate is nice and full–which will help to trick your brain into being satisfied with the smaller amount of food.  (But don’t use a plate that’s smaller than 10″–then it might really look smaller to you, which could make your brain think it’s not satisfied, prompting you to go back for second helpings.)
  • Get a bigger fork to go with that smaller plate.  New research indicates that using a plus-sized fork could help you eat less.  One recent study involved restaurant patrons–half got standard-sized forks while the other half got forks that were 20% bigger.  The folks who used the bigger forks ate significantly less than those who had forks of regular size.  Researchers found that bigger forks hold more food, which gave the people using those forks a visual cue that indicated they’re filling up.  On the other hand, the smaller forks–which, of course, held less food–seemed to make people think that they weren’t satisfying their hunger as quickly, which could compel people to keep eating.

There are ways to eat less without feeling like you’re limiting yourself–all it takes is knowing a few good ways to trick your brain and keep oversized amounts of edible temptations out of reach and out of mind.  If you have questions or want more information about ways to eat sensibly with reasonable portion sizes, it’s always a good idea to consult with a nutritionist or wellness coach.  Check with your employer first, since many employers offer wellness coaching (Health Advocate’s Wellness Advocate is one such program) as part of employee benefits packages.


Healthy, flavorful ideas for your July 4th cookout

July 1, 2011

Along with every holiday celebration comes the fear of packing on unwanted pounds.  Luckily, not all cookout cuisine will derail your diet.  Below, check out fun, fresh, and healthier foods to incorporate into your 4th of July celebration.

Burgers all around!  Who says burgers have to be bad for you…or that they have to be boring? 

Be smart about side dishes.  One of the best things about summer is the abundance of fresh fruit and veggies available, so take advantage!

Save room for dessert!  Dessert doesn’t have to be fattening to be delicious…