Posts By: Theresa Albert

How to save on food and eat healthy, too!

“It’s so expensive to eat healthy!!” is the mom’s lament.  But I’m here to tell you not to believe it!

Yes, it’s true that the cost of fresh fruits and vegetables are variable, seasonal and can take a good chunk of your money. But, did you know that there are perfectly nutritious, dirt cheap healthy food items on store shelves that you ought to be tossing into your cart?

Frozen foods
Frozen spinach – The frozen stuff represents about 3-4 whole bags of fresh spinach cooked down and ready to eat.  And it costs pennies per serving.

Frozen Brussels sprouts – The frozen sprouts are normally trimmed and ready to serve so there is no waste.  When you buy the fresh ones, you do lose a few leaves and ounces from each batch.

Frozen Organic Edamame – On a price per pound basis, a little goes a long way and they cost much less than even the cheapest cut of beef.

Canned goods
Canned peaches – Most canned peaches come from California at the peak of the season and retain their nutrients as well as texture.  Each can holds about 3 peaches which is less than a buck a peach.  Even in peak season, fresh, local peaches can cost more than that. These peaches are available in juice rather than sugar water and are great in smoothies, on pancakes or ice cream.

Canned tomatoes – This convenience is heaven sent. All the prep that goes in to peeling and poaching tomatoes can’t be quantified. The buck or so per can contributes one of the best sources of lycopene and vitamin A.

Dry Goods

Brown rice (even instant) – It contains more nutrients than white rice. For pennies per plate you can have the foundation of a variety of nourishing meals.

Red Lentils – These legumes can be stirred into any soup, pasta or sauce and they virtually disappear while adding phytonutrients and critical fibre.

Cost per nutrient fresh veg

Onions – Cheaper by the dozen and powerhouses of trace minerals.

 

Bagged Carrots – Not the baby ones! The whole carrot has much more to offer and is a fraction of the cost.

 

Cabbage – Ounce for ounce cheaper than broccoli and more versatile.  Shred into soup, pasta or make cole slaw.

 

There are hundreds of ways to cut corners on the household budget; your health need not be one of them.

 

About the Author

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com

Understanding Food Labels

Labels are critical to help you keep track of your things. The same is true of the food labels that appear on every package in North America. And there are certain standards that must be followed by law.

There are also private systems that have been designed which may contribute to “nutrition confusion”.  The Health Check System in Canada, which is a Heart and Stroke Foundation system, comes to mind as one that hasn’t lived up to rigorous enough standards.

In the US, there is the Hannaford Guiding Stars System which is now implemented in Loblaws stores in Canada. These are “quick peek” and one, two, three star systems that identify the healthier products on store shelves.  Each product is given an algorithmic rating by a third-party panel of experts. Points are weighted according to the presence of positive attributes (like protein and fibre) and the absence of negative (white sugar, flour, salt, fat…). It’s a great quick glance to help you pick up the best in class.

Once you get your products home, take the time to actually read the label and focus on:

  • The ingredient list.  The first three items should be real, whole foods and the list should be as short as possible and completely recognizable.
  • The serving size.  Be sure you know the serving size is not the recommended amount that you should eat but that it is a reference number upon which everything else rests.
  • % of Daily Value. The number chosen is for a 2000 calorie per day diet which represents an average.  And you are not average.  So much can affect how many calories are right for you.  Be sure that you know how many calories are right for you because your number could be higher or lower.
  • Slippery Sodium. Health Canada estimates that 88% of our salt intake comes from packaged foods so simply putting away the salt shaker isn’t the best solution. Packages contain a “% Daily Value” amount that is too high, so it obscures the facts.  Most health care professionals recommend around 1500 mg per day as a maximum.  Nutrition labels allow 2400 mg per day (because the Canadian average is around 3300). Be sure that this is a percentage that you stay well below. There are ways to reduce your sodium , but in the meantime, read every package, add up your sources for a day and do not go above 75% of the “% DV”.
  • There are only 13 “important nutrients” that must be listed on a label. But of course, a healthy diet contains much, much more.  If a piece of fruit listed all of its nutrients, the label would wrap around it many times over.

Most of your nutrients will actually be coming from whole foods…Be sure that this is also where most of your calories come from and you will be right on track.

About the Author

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com

Your Weekend Superfood Prep Plan

What if time is the barrier between you and your superfoods? Maybe it isn’t that you don’t want them or don’t like them but that you don’t have the time to work them into your routine. Your schedule is stretched to the max and it just won’t allow you to eat well, though you know that you should and believe in the benefits of a better diet.

What if I told you that there is a way to have it all at your fingertips when you need it? And that “way” would take you less than an hour on a weekend? If you knew that it would help improve your health, kick start weight loss and shrink your waistline, decrease stress levels and ease your schedule…would you do it?  Read on to discover how.

Here is the superfoods list of the top 10 performers in the category of anti-aging, anti-cancer foods:

(chicken bones)

Onions

Sweet Potatoes

Beets

Fennel

Red Pepper

Broccoli

Leeks

Watermelon

Kiwi

Blueberries

It is simple to have them at the ready as the foundation for every meal you will have this week. You are about to embark on a one hour journey of readiness and healthy meal plans using only your slow cooker and your oven. Store everything in the fridge and watch them all come together into multiple meals with minute effort.

Slow cooker:

(or stovetop but you have to watch it simmer for 3-4 hours)

  1. Place chicken bones and one onion halved (skin and all) into a slow cooker, cover with water, set on high. Walk away. 8 hours later, divide into 2-3 cup portions and place into fridge or freezer.

Oven:

Turn oven on to 400 F and pull out two large cookie sheets:

  1. Rinse sweet potatoes and beets under cold water, poke with a fork and place them whole into the oven on the bottom shelf for 45-60 minutes. (rinse and reserve greens)
  2. Chop two onions, spread onto cookie sheet and drizzle with 1 tbsp grapeseed oil. Place into oven on top rack for 30 minutes, stir once. Store empty into containers. (do not wash cookie sheet, reuse for bread croutons)
  3. Cut fennel in half, remove core and discard fronds. Slice bulb into strips and lay onto second cookie sheet.
  4. Chop or rip 3-4 slices of day old whole grain bread into crouton sized chunks, sprinkle with dried herbs and 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil.  Empty onto onion cookie sheet and place back into the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool at room temperature before storing. Use for salads or soups.

Fridge:

Wash and chop and store in the fridge:

  1. Red peppers, broccoli and leeks. Store each in separate baggies to use as veggies and dip or within meals as below.
  2. Carve watermelon into cubes to use as a fruit snack or in smoothies.
  3. Peel and slice kiwi as above.
  4. Rinse and store blueberries likewise.

Now. What to do with all this prepped super food?

Chicken broth:

  • Sauce: simmer to evaporate into a jus for grilled fish or chicken. Stir in 1 clove of garlic and 1 tsp fresh herb as desired
  • Soup: 4 cups broth + 1 cooked sweet potato +1/4 cup cooked onion +1 tsp curry powder or 4 cups broth + 2 cups chopped broccoli + ¼ cup cooked onion + ½ cup cream
  • Pasta Sauce= ½ cup broth + chopped cooked fennel + can white beans + ¼ cup parmesan cheese

Side dishes:

  • Salad=Cooked fennel + sliced leeks + red pepper + balsamic vinaigrette
  • Mashed sweet potatoes = 2 peeled sweet potatoes + 1 tsp butter + salt and pepper
  • Pan fried beets with beet greens = peel and chop 3 beets, warm in a skillet with 2 tsp butter + chopped leeks + chopped beet greens.
  • Vegetarian= Leeks + oil + canned lentils pan fried

Healthy snacks:

  • Broccoli and Red Peppers with hummus
  • Fruit salad of kiwi, watermelon and blueberries + vanilla yogurt + cinnamon
  • Smoothie blend above ingredients
  • Freeze fruit on a cookie sheet to preserve for future smoothies

 

You want to be ready for anything that the week throws at you! Having all of these items prepped and in the fridge makes those decisions that much easier.  Do you do something similar? What tips can you share to get healthy foods into your diet easily and quickly?

 

About the Author

Theresa Albert

Theresa Albert is a Food Communications Specialist and Toronto Personal Nutritionist. She is @theresaalbert on twitter and found daily at www.myfriendinfood.com

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