Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Fighting recession obesity

I read an interesting article the other day on "recession obesity." In other words, people stock up on the high-calorie, high-fat foods that seem to be cheaper instead of things that are healthier options.

Reuters reports:

They fear that as people cut food spending they will cut back on healthful but
relatively expensive items such as fresh fish, fruit, vegetables and whole
grains in favor of cheaper options high in sugar and saturated fats.

"People . . . are going to economize, and as they save money on food they will be eating more empty calories or foods high in sugar, saturated fats and refined grains,
which are cheaper," said Adam Drewnowski, the director of the Nutrition Sciences
Program at the University of Washington in Seattle.

I’ll admit that I’ve been guilty of the same mentality. When my husband first lost his job and we had no unemployment, I avoided eating lunches, instead eating the snacks that were brought into the office. It wasn’t good for my physical or mental health – the ups and downs of blood sugars, particularly when you’re diabetic, or the fogginess that results when you’re just not filling your body with foods that are best for you.

Fortunately, I was quick to come to my senses before I did too much damage to my blood sugars and my waistline, which I admit is still far from perfect. But there are many things you can do to be more mindful of your dollars and your health.

Most of it involves common sense. For the $1 for a can of salted, limp, washed-out green beans, you can almost always find a bag of frozen green beans, which retain more nutrients, or fresh green beans on sale. (Or, if you're really motivated, a pack of seeds to grow your own!)

For the $3 for a bag of potato chips, you can buy three to five pounds of potatoes, which in a pinch can make loaded baked potatoes for dinner or hash browns or latkes for breakfast.

For the $5 spent on flimsy hamburgers for your kids off the $1 dinner menu, you can buy at least a pound of hamburger and some buns to make burgers with some taste on your grill. Or, if you’re more motivated, you can stretch that pound of burger into pasta dishes or other meals where the meat is an accent, and not the main emphasis, of your meal.

Home-cooked meals don’t need to be time-intensive. For the time it takes to have a pizza delivered, you can easily cook most meals. It’s a great way to keep your kids involved too. My daughter has been cooking with me since she was a year and a half. Even little ones can tear lettuce or snap beans, and they love to be helping in the kitchen as well. (The youngest ones can always sit in a high chair with a few measuring cups and some dried cereal to “measure” or munch on.) You may think that having kids in the kitchen makes things worse, but to be honest, they love it, and I’d rather control what messes they are making!

The other piece of the puzzle is exercise. While diet and nutrition is important, so is taking time to take care of yourself. If your gym membership or your child’s participation on a soccer team are casualties of this recession, fine. It’s days until spring, so take advantage of the weather for your exercise. Go for walks or jogs. Bike around the neighborhood – or to work. Play outside with your kids instead of on the Wii.

Yes, these times may force us to use some creativity, but in the end, it’s worth it.

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