I realized the other day that so many of the things that keep me healthy are free. There are things that I love that are not free (acupuncture, massage) but there are so many free tools too. Self-care does not need to cost a lot of money.
Sandwiches are a go to lunch for so many. And let’s face it they are easy to transport and a familiar meal. For most of my clients, it is a good idea to pass on the bread basket to achieve personal health goals. Some common goals are…
2) Lose weight, lose belly fat
3) Optimize antioxidants and nutrients
4) Support a healthy microbiome and overall gut health
5) Increase energy, reduce sugar cravings
6) Optimize cholesterol and blood sugar
- Cabbage – This cruciferous vegetable is one of the least expensive vegetables to purchase and tastes great in coleslaw or simply sauteed with butter or coconut oil, salt and caraway seeds.
- Water – I don’t buy water (unless I am thirsty and forgot my water bottle). I don’t like the plastic bottles and creating waste. So I save by drinking water at home from my faucet. We have a sink mounted filter and several re-usable water bottles.
- Make my morning beverage at home. According to the USA Today Coffee Calculator tool, the cost for at home brew for 30 years is $867- compare that to 30 years of coffee at Starbucks for a whopping $22,995! I don’t drink coffee but even making tea at home will save money and reduce intake of added sugars!
- Frozen wild blueberries – I like the ones at Trader Joe’s, They maintain their shape and firmness even when defrosted. Blueberries are a powerhouse superfood for memory, heart health and preventing diabetes. I like to buy them year round so getting frozen helps me save money.
- Coyo yogurt (plain) – Living in a dairy-free house translates to minimal yogurt options. Most of the dairy-free yogurts have sugars, additives and don’t taste great. Coyo yogurt changed all that! With only 3 ingredients – coconut, tapioca and probiotics, this medicinal food is delicious. It packs a hefty caloric punch (400 kcal per container) so a little can go a long way.
- Nuttzo Organic PowerFuel – I love this product because it mixes 7 amazing nuts and seeds into a delicious butter. A great boost to minerals and healthy fats, eat with apple or celery for a healthy snack. Trader Joe’s has a cheaper version that is not organic.
- Sustainable healthy fish – This is a challenging topic because there are so many elements to making smart fish choices. Wild? Farm raised? Geographic location? Mercury level? Read this great article to get the low down. Whole Foods has partnered with Seafood Watch to ensure sustainable fish choices.
- Maitake mushrooms – I love going to the health food store and seeing fresh maitake mushrooms – also called hen of the woods – available for purchase. They have such a delicate flavor, are great for fighting cancer, improving outcome with infectious disease and so much more. I substitute maitake in recipes that call for mushrooms like lasagna, mushroom and barley soup, etc
As a nutritionist, I am often talking about healthy snacking with my clients. The goal of healthier snacking is to reduce sugar intake, boost fiber and protein, and increase disease fighting phytonutrients (fight with color!). By doing this, you are helping to stabilize blood sugar and achieve optimal and healthy weight.
How do you know if it is a healthy snack?
- You won’t feel hungry or headachy and tired 1 hour later
- The snack is made from whole foods
- There are no unrecognizable ingredients on the label
- There is no added sugar or artificial sweeteners in the list of ingredients
In the image below, I have laid out some of my favorite healthy snacks.
- Veggies with hummus
- Banana with almond butter
- Rx Bar – one of the only protein bars all from whole foods (eggs, nuts, dates)
- Chickpeatos (roasted garbanzo beans)
- Sea snax, roasted sea vegetable
You can get the full list Healthy snacks.
HOWEVER, is snacking actually good for you? The research is mixed. Higher sugar snacking (sweets, sodas) is associated with obesity, while higher quality snacks (nuts, fruit) is associated with healthy weight. In some studies, overall snacking is associated with greater BMI and body weight but a causal relationship is not established.
Snacking is on the rise, due to cultural trends, marketing and food industry growth, it is estimated that for some youth, 30% of their daily calories are derived from snacks. Snacking in teenagers leads to a greater likelihood of skipping meals. We live in a time of excess food availability. Decreasing children’s exposure to unhealthy snacks has been shown to increase fruit and vegetable consumption.The mixed research may be in part because some people eat 4-5 small meals a day while others eat 3 regular size meals with 2-3 snacks. The the line between snack and meal is sometimes not well defined. Listening to your body is good.
It is OK to feel hungry between meals. It is a natural and healthy response to intermittently fasting. Eating at regular times, 3 times a day provides healthy cues to your biological clock which improves sleep quality and overall immune health. Like exercise, fasting between meals provides a healthy “stress” on your body that allows your body to enhance physiological function to adapt to the stressor. These benefits include improved cardiovascular, learning, memory and cognitive health.
My philosophy is progress not perfection.
- Good – choose healthy snacks
- Better – eat 3 meals a day, snacking if you are growing, pregnant, b-feeding or hypoglycemic and have increase energy demands
- Best – Provide healthy meal structure and also listen to your body, eat when you are belly hungry and stop when you are satiated
For some snacking is a part of life. If people are going to snack, let’s make every bite count for health and not against.
Chapelot, D. (2011). The role of snacking in energy balance: a biobehavioral approach. J Nutr, 141(1), 158-162. doi: 10.3945/jn.109.114330
Collier, R. (2013). Intermittent fasting: the science of going without. Cmaj, 185(9), E363-364. doi: 10.1503/cmaj.109-4451
O’Connor, L., Brage, S., Griffin, S. J., Wareham, N. J., & Forouhi, N. G. (2015). The cross-sectional association between snacking behaviour and measures of adiposity: the Fenland Study, UK. Br J Nutr, 114(8), 1286-12
I love this Jello Immune Shot recipe. Or you can call it the Jello “No Flu” Shot
Elderberry and Vitamin C can help reduce the duration and severity of a cold or flu. This is tasty medicine for kids of all ages.
12 servings, 1 serving contains 750 mg Vitamin C, 1,000 mg Elderberry juice
1 rounded Tblsp of nonflavored grass fed gelatin, Great Lakes
3 rounded teaspoons of Perque Potent C guard
2 Tablespoons Gaia Elderberry syrup
- Mix 1/4 cup Power of 7 juice with gelatin in a bowl.
- Heat the remaining juice.
- When the juice is nice and hot, add Vitamin C and elderberry and stir well.
- Add the juice mixture to the gelatin/juice and stir well.
- Pour into a shallow 8 x 8 inch pan.
- Let cool and then put in fridge to harden.
- Cut into 12 squares.
You can feed 3 birds with one worm.
Call it a three-fer.
Get the FULL 11-page report HERE.
DRINK FILTERED WATER INSTEAD OF BOTTLED WATER
Save hundreds of dollars a year, reduce your exposure to health-disrupting chemicals from plastic bottles, and protect the environment from additional landfill waste. Benefits – less plastic bottle waste, save money, cleaner water that is filtered from various toxins.
BREW YOUR OWN COFFEE AT HOME
Make coffee at home and save hundreds of dollars! According to the USA Today Coffee Calculator tool, the cost for at home brew for 30 years is $867– compare that to 30 years of coffee at Starbucks for a whopping $22,995! Restrain from fancy coffee drinks to save calories and protect the environment from paper disposable cups. Plus, no waiting in long lines to get your java fix!
EAT LESS MEAT, MORE VEGETARIAN
Reduce hormone and toxin intake from factory-farmed meat, improve blood sugar and lipids with increased bean consumption. Although 1 lb of chicken and beans cost the same, beans produce 3 times more servings than chicken does, plus it requires over 10 times less fossil fuels to produce beans.
WALK OR RIDE A BICYCLE TO GET PLACES
This may not be possible for everyone, but there are often ways to get more physical activity in one’s life while cutting costs. Most modern conveniences use the earth’s natural resources and spare us from physical labor, i.e. snow blower versus shoveling, cleaning your house versus hiring cleaners. The truth is, we need more physical labor and the earth has limited resources. Conserve fossil fuels and burn your own: walking or riding a bike requires no fuel other than yours!
EAT YOUR WEEDS, DON’T SPRAY THEM
Your backyard is a medicine cabinet just waiting to be discovered. Don’t kill those weeds, eat them! Wild weeds are nutrient dense, FREE and reduce the amount of insecticides and herbicides we pump into our ecosystems. My favorite ways to prepare dandelion greens, chickweed, violet leaves and nettles is as an addition to pesto, salad, smoothies, quiche or green cakes.
RE-USABLE FEMININE PRODUCTS
The average woman will have between 350 and 500 periods in her lifetime, and women who use tampons will go through nearly 11,000 in her lifetime (Sutton et al, 2005). Imagine the landfill waste! Re-usable cups and pads can save money, 5 years of tampons is $420. Plus the chemicals found in commercially available pads and tampons are a concern for reproductive health.
COOK AND EAT AT HOME
It could be easily argued that eating outside the home is a major cause of obesity in our country. Let’s reclaim our kitchens for the sake of our families! It is cheaper to eat at home and you know more about the food that is going into your body, less sugar, salt and trans fats. Eating at home will help reduce carbon emissions from driving and increase physical activity from cooking and grocery shopping. Create family-social time, set a good example for your children.
GROW VEGETABLES IN YOUR OWN YARD
Even the smallest patch of soil can usually grow something… how does your garden grow? If you don’t have a yard, use containers for green beans and tomatoes. Keep it simple to keep cost down. Perennials like asparagus and strawberries cut down on yearly costs. Gardening burns calories, gets you outdoors and helps you control what chemicals are added or NOT added to your vegetables. Locally grown produce reduces the fossil fuels necessary to get food from all over the world to your grocery store.
BUY GENTLY USED CLOTHING AND FURNITURE
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure! Reduce toxin (i.e. flame retardant) exposure from new clothing, and reduce landfill waste and resources needed to produce new clothes. Cost savings can be tremendous depending on what you find!! Best resources are Salvation Army, Goodwill, Ebay, and Craigslist.
CUT BACK ON ALCOHOL AND CIGARETTES
Cigarettes and alcohol are both addictive substances and even small amounts can affect your health. They are both expensive habits due to taxes. The health consequences of smoking are not debated. Alcohol can be healthy at the rate of 1 drink daily, but larger consumption can have negative health consequences. Reduce air pollution, harm to wildlife and litter from cigarette use.
1. Water is almost free, particularly if you use tap water or filtered tap water and don’t buy bottled water. Free of calories, essential to human health, supports detoxification, cognition, healthy blood pressure, reduces overeating and false hunger. Water consumption reduces the intake of fruit juice, soda and coffee drinks that are high in sugar and cost.
2. Wild plants, foraging is free. You don’t need to poach on other people’s property. Likely you already have a few edible visitors in your own yard. Some common edible plants are – dandelion leaf, chickweed, purslane, garlic mustard, stinging nettles (puree or cook first), tiger lily flower, violets. Wild edibles tend to be more nutrient-dense than store bought varieties, rich in minerals and “secondary plant metabolites” = good medicine.
3. Beans, approximately $2 per pound of dried beans. Beans are a powerhouse food. Rich in antioxidants, heart healthy saponins, fiber and protein. Beans benefit weight loss, they are low glycemic and good for Type II diabetes and diabetes prevention.
4. Whole Grains, approximately $2 per pound of brown rice. Best to get a variety of whole grains. My favorite healthy options are quinoa, buckwheat, brown rice, millet and amaranth. Since wheat is a growing issue for many, I am not listing gluten-containing grains here. Get whole grains not “whole grain” products and rinse and soak for better absorption of nutrients. Grains are rich in fiber and support healthy digestion.
5. Spices and culinary herbs, starting at 75 cents per oz in bulk. This is one of the few items that will be cheaper in the health foods store than conventional grocer, if you buy bulk. A little bit goes a long way! Small amounts of spices and culinary herbs provide health benefits. In general, this category of foods improves taste, improve digestion, relieve gas, improve body temperature in winter, rich in antioxidants, anti-inflammatory compounds.
6. Least expensive veggies – carrots, onions, cauliflower and cabbage
7. Least expensive fruits – apple, watermelon, banana
Get the USDA’s full report here.
8. Chicken eggs. A dozen eggs can be as low as $2. Get organic and free range and the price jumps to $4-5. Regardless, chicken eggs are one of the best, inexpensive non-vegetarian protein options. They are a rich source of B vitamins, Vitamin D, selenium and protein. Eggs provide a low calorie, high protein source. Many studies suggest that 1-2 eggs a day has little correlation with heart disease
Sample Menu from our Top Ten List
Bfast – Steel cut oats, with sliced banana, pinch of sea salt and cinnamon
Lunch – 1 egg poached over sauteed cabbage, roasted garbanzo beans
Snack – sliced apple
Dinner – Red beans and cauliflower rice
There is a terrorist among us. It hides. It lures. It will take some of our children. We are smitten and we don’t take a stand. Forgive my alarmist attitude but we need to do something for our next generation. In 2012, this enemy killed 1.5 million people worldwide according to the WHO. Who or what do you think it is?
So how do we take a stand? How do we cut back on sugar?
One place to start is with our hearts, our spirits. Loving ourselves more, loving others more, finding the sweetness in life.
“The root cause of sugar addiction is that we are out of touch with the sweetness of life itself.” Charles Eisenstein
If you feed yourself sugar, you want more sugar. Eat a balanced breakfast with no refined starches (cereals, breads), it will cut your cravings for the rest of the day. Some recipe ideas.
Get a hug from human or animal (cuddly furry type)
Sing a song or listen to music or both
Take a bath
Step outside for some fresh air, look at moon and stars
Pray or journal
When you are getting a sugar craving, eat some fermented food. It sounds weird but it works. Eat a bubbies pickle, drink some kombucha, kvass, plain unsweetened yogurt.
Watch Monica Corrado make kvass.
Don’t eliminate the natural sweetness of real, whole food. Sauteed carrots, baked sweet potato, fresh or frozen berries, mashed potato and celery root puree, apple sauce. Cutting out the natural sweetness found in fruits, root vegetables and grains will stimulate sugar cravings.
Make your own applesauce, no sugar required.
Are you thirsty? Drink water. Sometimes we mistake thirst as a craving for sugar.
When we are missing a key nutrient, or not hydrating, our body is in need of ‘something’ but we can misinterpret the body message. Balance is key. Try to avoid extreme diets that limit essential nutrients like fats or all carbohydrates. Keep a water bottle by your desk.
When I had my own herb product business, Dancing Violet Botanicals, I used to make and package Salty Dog – a salt substitute. It was one of my client’s favorite recipes! Now with a busy clinical, teaching and mentoring schedule I don’t have time to develop and produce products. When I discontinued making the product, I taught people how to make the recipe. And now I am sharing with you. You can purchase all the ingredients from Mountain Rose Herbs or local health food stores.
5 part Nutritional yeast
3 part Kelp powder
2.5 part lightly roasted Sesame seed, ground
2 part lightly roasted Milk thistle seed, ground
2 part Garlic, powder
1 part Nettles, powder
A part is whatever you want it to be, i.e. 1 part = 1 Tblsp or 1 part = 1 tsp. It depends on how big of a batch you want to make.
To roast seeds, spread a thin layer on cookie tray and roast in oven at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes. Grind seeds and nettles in coffee grinder or mortar and pestle. Blend all ingredients together. Store in airtight jar.
My favorite use for Salty dog is on air popped organic (nonGMO) popcorn, with olive oil. Spray olive oil on popcorn using a refillable sprayer, try Misto Stainless Steel Olive Oil Sprayer. Then sprinkle with salty dog. Enjoy!
Nutritional yeast – is derived from a single celled organism, Saccharomyces cerevisia, grown on molasses. It is deactived, dried and powdered. Nutritional Yeast is rich in B vitamins, and offers a small amount of B12 and protein from a vegetarian source.
Kelp – Mineral rich, iodine rich, excellent thyroid supportive food. Make sure to buy good quality, like Maine Coast or from Island Herbs. Kelp is a good replacement for table salt due to the nice balance of sodium and potassium.
Sesame Seed – Rich in calcium, magnesium and zinc for muscle, bone, immune health to name a few, phytosterols to help lower cholesterol. Adds a nice nutty flavor to the mix
Milk thistle – An excellent herbal medicine for supporting optimal liver function, bile output, supporting blood sugar regulation and detoxification.
Garlic – Excellent flavor option, rich in sulfur compounds, in larger quantities supports heart health, blood pressure, detoxification and joint health.
Nettles – Nettles is a great mineral rich weed, food and medicine. It does sting, but not in the dried, cooked or pureed form. Rich in Vitamin K, minerals, protein and silica, I like to call it “spinach on steroids.”
What is eating locally? It is eating food that is grown in your region. This could mean growing your own produce, joining a CSA, shopping at a producer-only farmer’s market or checking the source of your produce at the grocery store.
2. Food is healthier. For the reasons stated above, food harvested at the peak time will be more nutrient dense. Avoids the use of fruit ripening agents and coloring agents used to mask lack of vitality in the plant. Also, animals raised on small farms generally have more humane living conditions.
3. You can talk to the person who grew your food and support your local farmer. Make sure your farmer’s market is a producer-only farmer’s market so you are buying directly from the farmer.
4. Food is generally less toxic. Generally less pesticides are used at small local farms. Most local farmers can’t afford to be certified organic through the USDA, as it costs about 50,000 just to submit an application. But small farmers may use techniques to reduce the need for pesticides such as integrated pest management.
5. Save money. Buying direct from the farmer may be cheaper than going through a middle man.
6. You can support local business and local economy.
7. You can help the environment. Reduces carbon emissions. Have you wondered how much it costs to ship a garlic bulb from China?
8. Eat with the seasons. Eating food in season saves money. Also the plants that grow locally are exposed to the same environmental stressors as you are, they secrete secondary plant metabolites in response to those stressors. Those secondary plant metabolites are the medicinal components of the food we eat.
9. Try new foods and new recipes! The farmer’s market or a CSA is a great opportunity to try weird new foods. What do you do with Kohlrabi anyways!? Live on the wild side and eat purple carrots and potatoes.
10. Support plant diversity instead of mono cropping. Monocropping disturbs ecosystems. Americans are getting sick eating diets that consist of soy, citrus, peanuts, wheat, corn and dairy. Our ancestors ate diets rich in a diversity of plants.