Health care tips often find their way into New Year’s resolutions. We all want to be healthier, but do you ever worry that following expert health care tips will end up costing you too much money? Gym memberships, supplements, and special foods can be expensive. But it is possible to adopt a healthier lifestyle and save money too.
Instead of buying diet foods and following special diets, think about making simple lifestyle changes. Most of these changes will cost very little, if anything at all. And some of them can actually cut your food costs. Best of all, they will help you improve your overall health. And that means you’ll spend less on healthcare in the long run. Let healthy food choices be your medicine, and you may just find that you have fewer doctor visits and need medication less often. You’ll be able to do more things, and you’ll enjoy life more.
These health care tips come from a belief that prevention is the best medicine. Adopting a healthy lifestyle in the first place can prevent a lot of medical conditions before they happen. And even if you already have a chronic health condition, you may find that your symptoms improve when you adopt healthier eating habits.
Basic Health Care Tips for 2018
I’ve chosen these health care tips to be easy to implement and also frugal. I tried to pick lifestyle changes that should be safe for everyone. But if you do have a particular medical condition, be sure to check with your doctor before you make any changes to your diet. Also, be sure not to make any changes to your prescribed medications without consulting your doctor or pharmacist.
As for ease of implementation, don’t feel you have to put all five health care tips into practice at once! You may find that it’s fairly easy to follow through on some of the health care tips, such as eliminating fruit juice from your diet. But other tips, like cutting back on meat or meal prepping, can take a little more work. So at first, just pick the tips that you think you can follow fairly painlessly. As you master one or two of these lifestyle changes, you can start following other health care tips a little at a time.
Give yourself the whole year to make all five changes to your eating habits. This is an ongoing project that will take time to complete. So don’t let yourself feel rushed, and be sure to reward yourself for each of the health care tips as you successfully adopt it.
1) Stop Drinking Fruit Juice
Did you know that drinking juice every day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 21%? This is why the very first of our health care tips for the new year is to stop drinking fruit juice.
Cutting juice out of your daily diet is an easy change to make and it will save you money on beverages, especially if you replace juice with tap water. Some fruit juices have as much sugar as a soft drink. And fruit juice, even if you are juicing with fresh fruits and vegetables at home, lacks fibre.
Dietary fibre is an essential nutrient – and most North Americans are not getting enough of it. Fibre helps you feel full, which can help you to eat less and lose weight. Some types of fibre are prebiotic: they feed your gut bacteria, the probiotics that help your body break down food.
Fibre also helps improve heart health. It can contribute to lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and decreased risk of stroke and diabetes. Fibre also slows down the digestion of sugars in foods like fruit, which helps reduce the strain on your liver. When you drink fruit juice, it’s like eating several pieces of fruit at once. The liquid sugar moves through your body too fast. This can lead to increased body fat and insulin resistance.
Eat Whole Fruits Instead of Drinking Juice
Instead of drinking fruit juice, drink water and eat whole fruit. This is two health care tips in one. Drinking water has its own health benefits, and tap water is available free of charge. Eating at least two servings of whole fruit each week can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes by up to 23%. Drinking juice every day can increase your risk of type 2 diabetes by 21%.
Juice is often more expensive than whole fruit, especially locally grown fruit in season. So save money by buying more fruit and drinking tap water instead of juice. Even if you only swap out three servings of fruit juice each week, you could lower your diabetes risk by 7%.
2) Respect Portion Sizes
It’s no secret that North Americans tend to eat too much of a good thing. And often, we eat too much of a less than healthy thing. We are living in the “supersize me” era. Fast food restaurants actually require employees to upsell you a larger drink or to accept a meal deal instead of a single food item. Some eat-in restaurants even serve grossly oversized meals or desserts, timing the diners and making a big deal out of whether they can finish the enormous amount of food.
We all know that in order to maintain a healthy weight, you can’t eat more calories than we’re going to use in a day. And especially if you need to lose weight you can’t afford to eat over-sized portions.
Respecting portion size is probably one of the health care tips that dietitians spend the most time working on with clients. Most of us have grown up in a meat and potatoes culture that makes the steak or the pork chop the most important food on your plate. And usually, that piece of meat is a lot bigger than is healthy for us.
Learn what foods are in each of the four food groups, and how many portions of each you need for your age, gender, and activity level. Then learn how much the portion size is and respect it. Preparing smaller portions will help you save money on your grocery bills, and eating the recommended number of portions from each food group will help you get the most health benefits from your food.
3) Eat Less Meat
This health care tip follows on the last one. The recommended portion size for meat is 2-1/2 oz, or 75 g. That’s about 1/2 cup of cooked poultry or lean meat. Or about the size of a deck of cards. Think on that for a minute, and then think about how much meat you normally put on your plate. Are you eating one or even two quarter-pound burgers at a single sitting? Do you scarf down an 8-ounce steak in one meal? If so, you’re eating too much meat for one meal.
And remember too, that meat alternatives like eggs, peanut butter, nuts, tofu, and legumes also count towards your daily meat servings. If you grabbed two Egg McMuffins on the way to work this morning, you’ve already eaten almost two portions of meat alternatives. Did you know that teen girls and adult women are only supposed to eat two servings of meat or alternatives in a day? You’d better be planning on a meatless supper! And really, that means a meal with no nuts, legumes, or tofu as well. Are you regretting those breakfast burgers now?
But I don’t want you to think that you shouldn’t eat your meat alternatives. Just that you should respect the number and size of portions each day. In fact, in 2015 the World Health Organization and the American Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee recommended that we reduce the amount of meat we eat. So do eat nuts and seeds. Do make meatless meals that feature legumes or tofu. Do eat eggs for supper once in a while. These sources of protein tend to be less expensive than meat, so they will cost less.
Comparing Meat with Legumes
Choosing to make bean soup for supper will save you money over eating burgers, especially if you normally buy your burgers at the drive-thru. Legumes are also loaded with fibre, which meat lacks. Legumes also tend to have more protein and iron, and less fat, than a comparable amount of ground beef.
For example, a single hamburger patty (one serving of meat) weighs in at 254 calories. It provides 26% of your daily protein requirement, 14% of iron, and 11% of calcium. It also supplies 15% each of your total fat and sodium for the day.
By comparison, one cup of cooked kidney beans is 225 calories and supplies 30% of your day’s protein. It also provides a whopping 44% of fibre (burgers supply none) and 21% of iron. In addition, there is 20% potassium, 18% of magnesium, and 6% of calcium. All of that with only 1% of total fats and less than 1% of sodium.
I hope this encourages you to replace some of the meat in your diet with legumes and other healthy meat alternatives like seeds and nuts. You can add a handful of pumpkin seeds to a salad or top your morning yogurt with some walnut pieces. Nuts and seeds are also a wonderful source of healthy unsaturated fats and omega fatty acids. They are definitely worth adding to your diet, as long as you keep in mind that they should be replacing some of the meat.
4) Eat Soup Before Meals
Studies show that eating low calorie soup before a meal helps you to feel more full. That cuts down on the overall number of calories you eat at a given meal. This is true even when you include the up to 150 calories for a bowl of vegetable soup in the count.
If you had to pick just one health care tip to follow this year, this is probably the one one I’d recommend. Eating soup before a meal encourages you to sit down and make a bit more of an occasion of your supper. And taking that extra time and preparation can lead to more mindful eating. Including a vegetable soup in your meals also means that you will eat more vegetables. Considering that few of us are getting the recommended number of servings of vegetables and fruit each day, that’s an extremely healthy choice.
Even if you were just adding a small bowl of homemade soup to a meal of takeout pizza or tacos, it’s a step in the right direction. You will need less of those foods to feel satisfied. So you can buy a smaller pizza, or have fewer slices. You might decide to eat fewer tacos. Or if you’re making them at home, you might opt for a little less meat and cheese on them because you aren’t as hungry. Maybe you’ll start putting more vegetables on them instead. Whatever the case, these small changes will add up over time. They will help you save money and shift your diet towards healthier portion sizes and meals that emphasize vegetables and whole grains, rather than meats and processed foods.
5) Start Meal Prepping
Speaking of processed foods leads me to the last of our five basic health care tips for the new year. This one is probably the most challenging, but it could also be the most rewarding. Preparing meals ahead of time can help you to eat more meals at home, instead of ordering pizza or getting burgers at the drive-thru. Eating home-cooked meals can help you to cut the number of calories you eat. And it can mean that those calories will be coming from healthier food.
Eating restaurant food, particularly fast food, is associated with being overweight. Portion sizes tend to be too large, which ignores our second health care tip. Fast food, especially, tends to be overly processed and higher in fats, sugars and sodium than similar homemade foods.
You’ve probably heard that a fast food soda contains as much salt as the burger or the fries (not true – in Canada, at least.) But did you know that even the healthier options like salad sometimes have more fat, calories, and salt than the burger you’re replacing? People with higher fast food intakes can weigh up to 13 pounds more than those who eat mostly at home. They also have higher triglyceride levels and waist circumference, and are at twice the risk for metabolic syndrome.
Prepping Lunches & Snacks
As with all else, you can start meal prepping with baby steps. Try just planning your next day’s lunch and snacks after supper each night. Take some time to prepare fresh fruit and vegetables once or twice a week, and then grab some for snacks at work or school. Mason jar salads and homemade Ramen jars are a great alternative to the fast food main dish salads and sandwiches.
Instead of eating cold cereal, try eating fruit and yogurt for breakfast. This is so easy to do if you have frozen fruit on hand. Or you can top your yogurt with some of the fruit you cut up for work snacks. Remember to add a few walnut pieces or some slivered almonds, too. Other options for quick and easy breakfasts include overnight oats and vegan chia seed puddings.
Try to stay away from cold cereals, muffins, and breakfast pastries as much as possible. If you decide to eat eggs, think healthy omelettes with plenty of vegetables or poached eggs with whole grain toast and a half grapefruit or some grapes. Homemade breakfast sandwiches can be a healthy option. Just remember that the eggs and meat in the sandwich count against your meat servings for the day!
One of the most important changes you can make to reduce food spending and improve your family’s health is to treat restaurant and take-out meals as occasional treats. It can be tough for busy families to follow this health care tip, especially if you aren’t used to cooking or don’t have a well-equipped kitchen.
A slow cooker is a great investment in your family’s health. It allows you to cook healthy meals while you’re at work, doing housework, or running the kids around. Slow cooking is also a healthier cooking method than frying, which many families fall back on if they want to cook meat in a hurry. Crockpots are available in a wide range of sizes and price ranges. Choose one that suits your family’s needs, and try to put it to use at least twice a week.
There are tons of healthy freezer to crockpot meals on the internet. Choose a few for foods your family already enjoys, and maybe one that will introduce you to a new dish. Shop for just one or two of these recipes each week, then prepare it on a day when you have an hour to spare. Many freezer meal recipes actually make up two meals. If not, you can just double the recipe and divide it between two bags.
If you prepare two double recipes each week, you’ll have four new meals in the freezer each week. That means if you eat two during the week, there will always be two more tucked away for a rainy day. With each new week, you’ll increase the variety of meals in your freezer. And you’ll start to get into the habit of meal prepping, and get a sense of what meals your family likes. With time, you’ll just naturally start to prepare a few more meals ahead of time each week. You’ll notice that you are saving money on food, and that your family is starting to make healthier eating choices at other times of the day.
Trust Your Body & Take Baby Steps
Will implementing these basic health care tips be easy? Probably not. Even when it comes to the easiest of the tips, like cutting fruit juice, it will take some adjustment. You will miss your juice. You might even miss the convenience of getting several pieces of fruit in one glass.
But if you take those baby steps and just work on one lifestyle change at a time, it will get easier. Remember that even a partial change is usually better than no change at all. So if you find some of these health care tips too tough to tackle as is, then go halfway at first. Increase your vegetable portions before reducing the size of your steak. If you eat the veggies first, you’ll fill up sooner and you won’t feel the need to eat such a large piece of meat. Trust your body to lead you in making healthier diet choices. Eventually, the changes will just become second nature.
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Original content © 2018 Kyla Matton Osborne, aka #RubyWriter
This article was published on my food blog, 24 Carrot Diet. If you are reading this content anywhere else, it has probably been stolen. Please report it to me so I can address any copyright infringements. Thank you!