Eat healthier by using prepared foods

Do you struggle to find a way to balance the need for quick, easy and inexpensive meals with good nutrition? Research says that small changes over time make a difference in our health and our wealth.

“We eat out so much,” “I wish we could eat healthier.” Sound familiar? Most of us would like to have all the time and money in the world to prepare nutritious, home cooked meals every day. But, the reality of busy lives and tight wallets gets in the way of this perfect existence. Relax. There is no need to be perfect. Research actually tells us that small changes over time really do make a difference in our health and our wealth.

Fact:Americans need to eat less. A “portion” is how much food you choose to eat, a “serving” is a standard amount set by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Restaurant portion sizes may equal to two or three standard servings.

Make a small change: Buy once eat “thrice.” Choose any restaurant meal and divide it into thirds. Select unsweetened ice tea or water to drink. If you are still hungry when you get home, open a can of fruit.

Benefits: You saved 400 to 600 calories, 600 or more milligrams of sodium, 10-20 milligrams of fat and you managed to eat an extra fruit for the day. Eat the other two portions over the next two days and save the cost of two more lunches or dinners. Do this once a week for 52-weeks a year and you have a lot of extra cash and a smaller waistline.

Fact:Prepared side dishes can be hidden sources of fat, sodium and calories. Most people don’t expect a salad to have 60 grams of fat or rice pilaf to have 500 or more calories. Choosing healthy sides can make a big difference in total fat and sodium intake.

Make a small change: Stock up on plain, frozen steamable veggies, canned fruit and plain, frozen brown rice. All of these are less expensive than what you would pay at a restaurant, they have a long shelf life and are much more nutrient dense. The next time you are in a hurry, grab a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store. If your freezer is stocked, you can microwave the veggies and rice in a flash and serve with canned fruit and you can feed four for about 10-dollars. Isn’t that what fast food costs?

Benefits: Do this once a month and you will save each person in your family at least 600 grams of fat and 6000 milligrams of sodium over a year.

Fact:Adults need to eat snacks!

Make a small change: Prepare to be hungry mid-morning and midafternoon. If you find yourself without a snack from home, there are better choices at convenience stores, such as yogurt, milk, nuts, string cheese and trail mix. At the vending machine? Select cheese snack crackers, pretzels, nuts or baked chips. You can convert what would have been nutrient poor choices to more nutrient dense selections, saving fat, calories and sugar.

Eating better doesn’t mean you have to give up eating out or using prepared foods. Maximize nutrition by having fruits, veggies and whole grains with prepared main dishes and keep in mind that you probably have a choice for better nutrition, even at the convenience store.

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