Q: Our family is on a tight budget, and while I would like to serve the healthiest food, it always seems too expensive to get fresh veggies and fruit.
— Nancy S., Tampa, Fla.
A: As the old saying goes, “You can pay me now” (when the cost of a preventive measure against future problems is minimal) “or you can pay me later” (when the cost associated with health problems is much higher). But as you'll see, if you're on a tight budget, you don't have to spend more now to eat healthfully, and you'll save money later on health care expenses!
We know a recent Harvard study received a lot of attention when it declared the daily price tag on healthy meals was $1.50 more per day than an average, unhealthy diet loaded with processed foods. But here's how to save money today on healthy foods — and tomorrow on health care bills:
Make creative shopping lists. Start with a great road map on how to eat more healthfully. Go to www.doctoroz.com and search for “Mediterranean diet shopping list.” It will help you build your new healthy, economical menu.
Buy in bulk, and do the math. At big-box stores, look for bulk canned goods such as tomatoes, which you can use year-round to make sauces, soups and stews. And go for bulk buys on frozen fruit and veggies; they're loaded with nutrition. Get creative, and use them in new ways: Spinach, for example, can go into eggs, stir-fries, soups, veggie lasagna, on whole-wheat pasta with olive oil and garlic and in a healthy dip with low-fat, no-sugar-added yogurt!
Make sauces from scratch, and freeze the extra. Sauces for pasta, gravies (thicken them with pureed, cooked veggies, not flour) and even salad dressings (so much better made with olive oil bought in the largest tin) can be prepared in large quantities at huge savings — and you're eliminating preservatives, food colorings, trans fats, sugars and who knows what else from your plate!
Q: Is there a probiotic that I can take to help me lose weight and get other health benefits too?
— Katie J., Pierre, S.D.
A: We wish there was a simple “take this, get that result” answer! But we do know that gut bacteria influence weight and many other aspects of your health.