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Healthy and Affordable Shopping

Grocery shopping can seem overwhelming especially as you are getting used to eating and preparing foods in a new way. It can be especially difficult on a budget. My belief is that investing in healthy food is investing in your health. I recently shared some tips with my patients at our R-Health Cherry Hill Healthy Shopping on a Budget event. Here are some of my favorite pieces of advice.

First let’s broadly define “healthy” as there are many controversies.  However, let’s focus on key elements of agreement.  They are: eating whole unprocessed foods, especially fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, avoiding empty carbohydrates such as those in sweets and refined flours, avoiding additives including chemicals and added sugar and salt, avoiding pesticides, antibiotics and hormones and getting adequate amounts of healthy fat, protein, and fiber.

Reading labels is empowering! It takes extra time at first, but once you know the products that are right for you, shopping will get faster again.  Not all food labels are helpful in making decisions.  For example, “natural” does not have a clear definition that is regulated by the FDA.  Companies can label their food natural and it still contain high fructose corn syrup for example. Also, beware of Heart-healthy statements as well as they can have plenty of refined carbohydrates that raise your blood sugar and trigger inflammation.  A few things to think about food labels in general.

  • Ingredient list: QUICK HINT – look for names you can pronounce and foods you have in your own kitchen.
  • MANY OF THE BEST CHOICES WILL NOT HAVE A LABEL – Think the produce section!
  • Calories: Not all calories are created equal – don’t worry so much about the calorie count, when you are able to get rid of processed foods usually you can trust your body to tell you when you have had enough.
    • Your body processes a Twinkie much differently and with different metabolic effects than a handful of nuts even though they have the same amount of calories.
  • Check the portion size. (Sodium content can be misleading when that tiny can of soup has 2.5 servings!)
  • Watch for fats
    • Buy healthy fats – nuts, seeds, olive oil, etc. and avoid trans fats
    • Foods can be labeled as having 0 gm of fat or trans fats if they have ½ gram or less.
  • Fiber is good for your body, especially for healthy gut bacteria
  • Watch for additives especially sugar and salts
    • New guidelines now ensure labels now contain “added sugars”
    • Try to avoid concentrated natural sugar in high quantities too (e.g. fruit juice or dried fruit)
    • Work on sticking to the recommended limits of no more than 6 tsp of added sugar for women and children and 9 tsp for men per day
    • For salts, much of the sodium and added sugar comes from salts and sugar added to processed foods. This helps the food industry to make the food more addictive. Read labels carefully and cook home-made meals whenever possible.
    • Look for chemical additives or artificial flavors/colors. You might be surprised when you first start reading labels to find how much more is in your can of beans, tomato sauce, or yogurt than you thought.

Saving money on anything usually requires planning ahead.  Look at circulars for sales and make a meal plan for the week.  Look online and in magazines for great ideas for your palate and budget.  Try searching “clean eating on a budget.”  On our grocery trip we toured Aldi.  Not only does this grocery store offer healthy natural (their Simply Nature labels are verified by a third party) and organic options, but surveys show Aldi’s prices on average contain 20% more savings than larger retail stores.  Remember to bring a quarter and your own shopping bags.

Other cost saving tips:  If you have the time, avoid pre-cut servings.  Stock up on nonperishable and frozen items when on sale, and shop frequently for perishable items so they don’t spoil before you can use them.  Try looking above and below eye level, compare store brands, and of course not shopping while hungry are other cost saving tips.

Also know when to invest in organic produce and when to save on conventionally grown produce. According to the Environmental Working Group’s 2017 list below are products to look for.

  • DIRTY DOZENFruits and Vegetables with the most pesticides (Shop organic when possible for these!)
    • Strawberries
    • Apples
    • Peaches
    • Pears
    • Spinach
    • Tomatoes
    • Celery
    • Potatoes
    • Sweet bell peppers
  • CLEAN 15Fruits and Vegetables with the least pesticides (Okay to buy conventionally grown produce for these!)
    • Pineapples
    • Mangoes
    • Papayas
    • Honeydew Melon
    • Kiwi
    • Cauliflower
    • Eggplant
    • Sweet Corn
    • Cabbage
    • Avocadoes

Hopefully this is a good start for your next grocery store trip.  Please feel free to reach out to your R-Health doctor for more information and if you have specific medical conditions for your doctor to get you on the best health and nutrition plan.

No Time, No Problem

While we continue this month’s focus on nutrition, this week’s theme is exercise. Similarly to breakfast, one of the common associations with exercising is time…or lack thereof. Something we either hear, or even say to ourselves is, “I just don’t have the time to exercise.”

In hindsight that may seem like the case, but in reality, it’s imperative to schedule a little time for physical activity. Exercising is one of the most important things you can do to keep up your health, and today we’ll not only discuss how it’s beneficial, but also how you can engage, even with time constraints.

Our friends over at the CDC wrote an article highlighting the benefits of physical activity. Of the vast mentioned, we’re going to emphasize the following:

  • Reduces your risk of cardiovascular disease(s)
    • Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death, however, moderate intense activity (less than150 minutes per week), lowers the risk drastically, while lowering your blood pressure and improving cholesterol levels.
  • Strengthens your bones and muscles
    • It’s important to protect your bones/joints/muscles, but especially as you get older. Moderate intense activity can help slow the loss of bone density as you age, and helps with arthritis and/or other major health conditions (e.g. hip fracture)
  • Controls your weight

Though these benefits may be more commonly known, we’ve entrusted U.S. News to share with us some astonishing facts about exercising that may not be privy to everyone. The few we focused on are the following:

  • Exercising can reverse the detrimental effects of stress
    • Physical activity can not only increase levels of soothing brain chemicals that relieve you of triggering stressful thoughts, but can also slow down the aging of the cells in your body
  • It lifts depression
    • Exercising can stimulate the growth of neurons in the regions of your brain affected by depression, thereby acting as a natural antidepressant.
  • Helps with learning
    • Vigorous activities aid in creating new brain cells and connections, while improving the capacity to learn and retain information – which enhances both attention and concentration skills

Aware of the benefits of exercising, yet still limited by the obstacle of time? Luckily, the American Heart Association (AHA) provides great tips on making use of your time to exercise. The AHA believes you can get heart-healthy benefits of exercise if you divide your time into two or three, 15 minute segments doing some of the following:

  1. Add more walking
    1. Walking the dog
    2. Brisk walks with your children
    3. Walks through a mall while you window-shop!
    4. Parking further away and walking towards destination
  2. Take the stairs
    1. Skip out on the elevators and power through sets of stairs
  3. TV fitness
    1. Turn TV into a mini gym session. Walk on the treadmill while streaming your favorite show, or even do quick exercises in between commercial breaks.
  4. Join a team
    1. Maybe it’s bowling, maybe it’s yoga, but find an activity you like that keeps you active and motivated!

These are just a few ways you can squeeze in some exercise even with a busy schedule. And if you are able to make it to a gym once or twice, make the most of your time. More activity, less rest. A 30 minute workout is just as good as a two hour session.

For more exercising tips that are right for you, feel free to contact your R-Health doctor, and follow us for more posts on optimum nutrition!

Change Your Diet, Change Your Life

Last week we discussed the importance of breakfast. Although many view it as the most important meal, we must all remember that it is in fact, one meal. Achieving optimal nutrition begins with a healthy diet. Diet has become somewhat of a taboo word because the general perception is that one must cut out countless foods while eating less, in an attempt to reach his or her health and/or body goals. However, we’re here to tell you otherwise. Today we’ll explain a few ways to improve your healthy eating habits.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) developed a simple process focused on improving eating habits; the three R’s: Reflect, Replace, and Reinforce. Beginning with reflect, the CDC urges you to keep track of your current habits. These may include the following:

  • Eating too fast
  • Always eating dessert
  • Skipping meals
  • Mid-day/Late night sweets

Reflection on common triggers to eat while not hungry are especially important to note. These triggers may include the following:

  • Eating before/after a stressful work meeting
  • Feeling bored/tired with hopes of a food pick-me-up
  • Opening up the refrigerator/cabinet and seeing a favorite snack

Once you’ve reflected on your habits, the toughest part is over. It is much harder to discover and accept your bad eating patterns, than replacing and reinforcing new ones. However, Health.com offers a few ways to make the latter much easier. Of the many healthy eating habits they recommend, there are a few standouts:

  • Don’t give anything up
    • Eat many foods you enjoy, just in small quantities. Dissatisfaction leads to overeating
  • Eat the rainbow
    • Eating a diverse array of vegetables fills you up, especially the above ground non-starchy vegetables, all without increasing the number of calories
  • Dump calorie counting
    • Don’t worry too much about the number of calories so much as where the food comes from. Aim for healthy, nutrient rich foods low in processed carbohydrates (e.g. lean protein and seafood)
  • Drink water!

When you’re finally done reflecting, replacing, and onto reinforcing, it’s important to remember that developing any new habit takes time. Never get too down or feel guilty if you slip up, we all do! And if you’re ever feeling lost, don’t forget about the secret fourth R, R-Health!

Set up an appointment with your R-Health doctor to help you determine the best diet/nutrition lifestyle for you. A good diet is one of the keys to good health!

Follow this post and others to help you along your journey to healthy living.

Carpe…Breakfast

As we venture closer to the spring, we find ourselves in March, which celebrates National Nutrition Month. There’s no better way to kick off this month than having March’s first official week as, National School Breakfast Week. Two of the main components of nutrition are diet and exercise, and today we’ll focus on the former. When it comes to your diet, one of the most important meals is the first one of the day – breakfast – and not just for kids in school, breakfast is important for everyone. Making a concerted effort to eat a healthy breakfast is a great nutrition practice, providing long term benefits to keep your body healthy.

Research shows how important it is to put the time and effort into eating a morning meal. Not only does it help get you moving and may power you through a tough morning, but it may provide a mental edge and even help maintain a healthier weight.

While many people unfortunately skip out on breakfast, Today’s Dietician (TD) reminds us that our bodies love breakfast, even if we mentally don’t think we need it. TD provided a few long-term benefits that come with consuming a healthy breakfast:

  1. Lowers risk of heart disease and stroke
  2. Boosts energy and metabolism
  3. Assists with weight loss
  4. Contributes to a healthier diet
  5. Helps with brain development and memory retention
  6. Leads to a happier mood

Authority Nutrition also provided the 12 best breakfast foods, including some of the following:

  • Eggs
  • Greek Yogurt
  • Berries
  • Chia Seeds
  • Oatmeal

As long as your choices have healthy doses of vitamins and proteins, you’re good to go. It’s true what they say, breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So for the rest of the year, but especially this week, make sure you get to work or school with a stomach full from eating a healthy breakfast.