Hints & Tips

Eating healthy can be a challenge.

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I live in an area where we don’t have many health food stores, and the ones we do have charge outrageously high prices. On a college budget, I can’t afford to head out to the local health food store every time I want to eat, and our local farmer’s market is only two days a week for a few months of the year.

To eat healthy on a budget, try these tips:

  • Do some hunting at your local chain store like Wal-Mart, Meijer, or Kroger. I especially like the produce section at Meijer, and they have a store brand of all natural foods, so it keeps my budget in check.
  • Don’t be afraid of frozen or canned vegetables and fruits. Be sure to check the labels (especially on canned fruits) to make sure there aren’t a lot of added sugars or any corn syrup.
  • Look for sales and coupons! Don’t be afraid to try Wal-Mart’s price-matching to get items at their competitor’s price.

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It can be hard to eat healthy in social situations. We’ve all been there. Birthday parties, Superbowl parties, work gatherings, casual get-togethers, cookouts, and holiday parties are a healthy eater’s worst nightmare. There are always so many temptations! Lurking on every table, there are Crock-Pots filled with hot, delicious goodness next to platters of sugary desserts beside bags of salty, cheesy chips. And then, sad and alone, there sits an untouched veggie tray that seems so unappetizing compared to the seductive options surrounding it.

To eat healthy in social situations, try these tips:

  • If it’s a special situation, don’t deprive yourself. Eat those delicious foods in moderation, but eat some of those veggies too.
  • Don’t think you can eat everything you want because “you already ruined today.” (I’m guilty of this sometimes). Two servings of chips and dip won’t hurt. Eating six cookies, a pound of Velveeta, half a bag of Doritos, and a 2-liter of Mt. Dew will though, so be careful.
  • Don’t sit at the food table! If you’re anything like me, you’ll continue stuffing your face as long as you can see food. So move the heck away from it!
  • Be careful of the empty calories in alcoholic drinks. Be especially careful if they’re fruity drinks or margaritas, as those most likely contain tons of sugar.

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Eating healthy at restaurants can be one of the most difficult tasks. Some restaurants don’t have any healthy choices, and others have choices that sound healthy but definitely aren’t. Even if you manage to find a healthy option, it might come with a side dish that’s just the opposite. Even if you order a healthy meal, you still might have to sit there throughout your visit watching your friends or family chow down on french fries, pop, pizza, and dessert.

To eat healthy at restaurants, try these tips:

  • Check out the menu ahead of time. Some restaurants have their menus online, so take a look ahead of time to get an idea of what healthy options they have.
  • Ask for substitutions. Most restaurants will let you substitute a cup of soup or a side salad in place of french fries, but remember a few fries won’t kill you.
  • Pay attention to the wording in the menu. Steamed vegetables have no added butter or oils, while sauteed veggies are cooked in oil or butter. Grilled chicken is better for you than fried chicken.
  • Ask your server. If you’d rather have your vegetables steamed, ask your server if that’s possible. If you’d rather have a chicken breast than a beef patty, ask. It never hurts to ask, and most restaurants will be happy to make you happy.
  • Order water. Not only will this save you money, but it’s also better for you than drinking pop (even diet) or sugary lemonade or iced tea.
  • Indulge a little. If you’re at the restaurant for a special occasion or you don’t eat out much, don’t be afraid to live a little and get those amazing deep fried chicken strips with fries and that delicious honey mustard for dipping (my mouth’s watering now). You won’t ruin your health by eating one fatty meal. However, if you eat out a lot, like every day for lunch, don’t let yourself indulge.
  • Beware of fake healthy-sounding foods. Sure, the grilled chicken wrap sounds healthy, but when its coated in ranch dressing and topped with a mound of cheddar, it’s not really. That taco salad is healthy, right? I mean, it’s got the word salad in it. Wrong. If it’s in a fried tortilla shell and topped with sour cream, the salad part doesn’t matter anymore. Use your brain to decode the menu.
  • Use caution on the salad bar. The salad bar sounds like the healthiest choice at a restaurant, but be sure not to load up your plate with a ton of cheese, bacon, croutons, and dressing. Try sunflower seeds instead of croutons, and use dressing sparingly.

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The grocery store can seem like a scary place when you’re trying to eat healthy in a processed-food world. There are so many different types of breads, 10,000 kinds of cereal, and 37 varieties of peanut butter (just a guesstimate…). There are so many things that sound healthy at the grocery store that you might think about just loading your cart up and buying everything. But wait! Those fruit juices, ‘health’ cereals, fruit spreads, fruit pops, fat-free crackers, low-fat pretzels, and granola bars can be deceiving. Chances are, those so-called health foods are the complete opposite.

To buy healthy foods at the store, try these tips:

  •  Always always always read the label. The first thing I do when I pick a new product off the shelf is read the ingredients label. If there are any unfamiliar words, I put it back. If there are any added sugars, high fructose corn syrup, chemicals, or white flour, put it back.
  • Don’t fall for tricks. Lots of companies like to put words like “healthy,” “all natural,” “low-fat,” or “low-calorie” on their products to make shoppers think these foods are good for them. Be a smart shopper and check for yourself; don’t take their word for it. Low- and reduced-fat foods tend to have more sugar and less nutritional value than regular, so read those labels!
  • Remember, the word organic doesn’t necessarily mean healthy. Many organic products have lots of added sugar, but it’s organic sugar (which isn’t any better for you).
  • Use the NuVal System. If your store has this in place it’s a great help! The higher the number, the better it is for you! To learn more, visit the NuVal website here, or watch this video.

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Exercising can be a chore.

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Whether you like to wake up early to get your workout in, fit it in after work, or do it at the end of your day, exercise takes up time, and no one ever really wants to do it. Of course, we’d all much rather be sitting on the beach, getting a massage, or winning the lottery, but some things just aren’t going to happen. To be as healthy as we can, we need to exercise. We need that dreaded cardio to keep our heart healthy, and we need to lift those weights to stay strong, no matter how much it burns.

To stay on track with working out, try these tips:

  • On weekends, get up early, and get it out of the way. If your schedule allows, and it’s not your day off, wake up early and do your workout before everyone else even gets out of bed. If you wait until later in the day, you might be tempted to skip. Plus, you’ll have more time to spend with your friends and family.
  • Give yourself a day or two off during the week. Your body needs time to recover, and you can always look forward to having extra free time on your day off.
  • Have good music on your mp3 player. When you have good music to pump you up, your workout might seem like more fun!
  • Buy yourself new workout clothes. Reward yourself for your hard work, not by eating, but by treating yourself to some new running shorts and tank tops. You’ll feel so fashionable rocking your matching outfit that you’ll look forward to working out so you can wear it.

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4 thoughts on “Hints & Tips

  1. Some great pointers in this article! Especially the one about paying attention to the wording in restaurant menus. The way food is prepared (e.g. grilled, steamed or fried) can have a dramatic impact on its nutritional value. Looking forward to more posts from you, Niki 🙂 x

  2. These are great tips! I know you posted this a while ago, but I am wondering what the most affordable clean sweetener is. I’m on a college budget as well, and trying to keep my grocery bills down. Thanks 🙂

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