Archive for the ‘Diets’ Category


As a health editor, I really do try to practice what I preach. I walk up escalators. I don’t smoke. I get off the subway a few stops early to get more exercise in each morning. And I try not to drink my calories (unless it’s a glass of wine — that’s healthy, right?).

I thought that was enough. But over the past year, I’ve learned that Diet Coke, my calorie-free drink of choice, may be doing more harm than I thought. A study last summer presented at an American Diabetes Association meeting suggested an association between diet soda and a wider waist. A second, unrelated study found that aspartame — the artificial sweetener found in most diet soft drinks — raises blood sugar in mice prone to diabetes, with possible implications for humans as well. And just yesterday, we heard word that a diet soda a day is linked with an increased risk of stroke and heart attack (findings that were also presented last year at the International Stroke Conference).

“They may be free of calories but not of consequences,” Helen P. Hazuda, Ph.D., an author on the first study and a professor and chief of clinical epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio’s School of Medicine, said in a statement.

Uh oh — my “light” choice has turned into a vice.

While I’ve long suspected that a bottle full of chemicals is likely not as healthy as a glass of pure H20 (the ingredient list, including aspartame, caramel coloring and phosphoric acid, was a tip off), I’ve never considered it to be a real risk.

The truth is that Diet Coke and I have a long history. Cans of the stuff got me through late-night study sessions in college and grad school. When I lived abroad, the more economical two-liter bottle became a taste of home. And the individual-serving plastic bottles became the mainstay of my working life: a bottle with my salad at lunch and the occasional second bottle when the day got stressful. We have free vending machines at work (thank you, AOL Huffington Post Media Group), and the ritual of getting up and taking a walk over right before lunch became a habit. Always the health editor, I drank with a straw to avoid staining my teeth.

But, as with any great love story, there were tough times, as well. Through the years, I became a caffeine addict to varying degrees. If I went too long on the weekend without a Diet Coke (no free vending machines at home), I’d get a headache. And while I’d long acknowledged that artificial sweeteners trigger migraine headaches for me, I was in denial that Diet Coke counted. I swore the caffeine content counteracted any adverse affects.

Things could have gone on like that, but when I started reading more and more about a possible association between diet soda and serious health problems, I knew I had to do something. If I had already cut back on processed foods and started opting for organic produce with fewer pesticides over the past few years, how could I just ignore this research?

While compelling, studies linking diet soda to health problems are hardly definitive at this point. “It’s hard to translate one observational study into public health messages,” Hannah Gardener, lead author on the most recent diet soda study and assistant scientist at the clinical research division of the University of Miami’s department of neurology, told me over the phone on Tuesday. “For people who take a precautionary approach and change their habits on one study, they certainly wouldn’t be missing out on any important nutrients.”

In other words, it couldn’t hurt to make some serious changes and for me, these few studies were convincing enough. And so I drank my last Diet Coke on New Year’s Eve 2011 — I went out and bought a single-serve bottle at the grocery store so I wouldn’t have any temptation left at home. As my New Year’s Resolution, I made the decision to go one month diet soda free, and then to reintroduce it as an occasional special treat, not a daily lunch-salad pairing.

Coinciding with the latest health findings on diet soda, there’s been some speculation about whether or not it’s addictive. Last November, for instance, a U.K. man announced he was a diet soda addict who downed 18 cans of Diet Coke a day.

Our partner, Health.com reported:

Although diet soda clearly isn’t as addictive as a drug like nicotine, experts say the rituals that surround diet soda and the artificial sweeteners it contains can make some people psychologically — and even physically — dependent on it in ways that mimic more serious addictions. And unlike sugared soda, which will make you gain weight if you drink too much of it, zero-calorie soda doesn’t seem to have an immediate downside that prevents people from overindulging.”You think, ‘Oh, I can drink another one because I’m not getting more calories,'” says Harold C. Urschel, MD, an addiction psychiatrist in Dallas and the author of Healing the Addicted Brain. “Psychologically you’re giving yourself permission.”

Read the rest of their report here.

While I’m no chain drinker, for sure, there was something incredibly hard about avoiding the Diet Coke, even when I knew it could possibly be linked to health problems. My lunch didn’t feel nearly as satisfying without that aspartame-sweetened beverage to wash it down and my mid-afternoon slumps were much more pronounced. I became a little moodier and I often had to take a nap after work for those first two weeks. To be honest, the strong reaction concerned me and spurred me on in my commitment, but it didn’t make the month-long ban, which officially ended yesterday, any easier. So I asked HuffPost blogger Dawn Jackson Blatner, R.D., author of The Flexitarian Diet, to offer her best advice on how to make kicking the habit as painless as possible:

1. Replace the fizz. “What I have found is that my patients who are diet soda drinkers are in love with two things: with caffeine and with carbonation,” Blatner told me. So you’ll need a swap that addresses both. Get your fizz fix by taking a shot glass (1.5 oz) worth of 100 percent juice, such as pomegranate, blueberry or sour cherry, and mixing it in with sparkling water, she suggests. I switched to a Schweppes black cherry seltzer water, courtesy of the work vending machines.

2. Get a caffeine substitute. Even if you get your carbonation, cutting out caffeine abruptly can make you feel like you’re dragging. Blatner suggests swapping for either iced or hot green tea, which is loaded with health benefits and has a specific compound, L-theanine, that makes it a gentler source of caffeine. If you want to cut caffeine altogether, do it slowly, cutting down the amount a little bit every three days. I went cold turkey, which ended with headaches and irritability.

3. Replace the ritual. “Human beings love pattern, we love habituation, we love routine,” Blatner says. For me, there was something about getting up around 2 p.m., walking over to the vending machine and grabbing my drink. For others, it may be the one time you get to stretch your legs, or even the experience of sipping out of a can. Once you identify the habit, find a way to replace it. I kept up with the vending machine walks and just swapped in the seltzer water. Others may want to find their replacement drink in a similar container or take a walk with a co-worker and skip the vending machine altogether.

4. Keep downing the water. People forget that one of the main components of diet soda is water. So make sure you replace it with water — staying well hydrated has a host of other health benefits, as well.

Blatner says that with the right tools, most people can kick this habit in about two weeks. For me, it took the whole month of January — it wasn’t until the end that I finally stopped craving my mid-day fix. Now, as planned, I’m hoping to reintroduce it as an infrequent treat — as Blatner put it, if you finish a bad day with a zero-calorie drink instead of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, then that’s not so bad.

And I’ll be honest. Yesterday was February 1 and I broke the Diet Coke fast with my first can. And yep, it was amazing. But then something funny happened: around 4:00, I started craving that black cherry seltzer. And I bet I will again today.


Good luck, healthy girl!

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From CNN Health

(CNN) — If you’re trying to lose weight, close your eyes for a minute and imagine the moments that make you fat.

Think through your day, and you’ll see them, as big and obvious as a hot fudge sundae sitting right in front of you. You’ve been good all day, and wham, your friends suggest you go to a buffet for dinner; or you’ve diligently worked out and wham, you end up at a cocktail party with an array of the most killer desserts ever.

Don’t rely on your willpower to get you through these tough times, advises James Hill, executive director of the Anschutz Health and Wellness Center at the University of Colorado.

“Willpower is not inexhaustible,” he says. “You only have a certain amount of it, and it’s gone.”

The key is to accept the fact that your willpower will run out at some point, and plan strategies to get you through fattening situations. Here are the top five moments that make you fat, and what you can do to outwit them.

On vacation

The problem: You’re on vacation and you want to kick back, relax, and enjoy the local cuisine — but you don’t want to come home with pounds to shed.

The solution: “Go for it,” advises Frances Largeman-Roth, a registered dietitian and senior food and nutrition editor at Health magazine. But share with others. If you’re in Paris, for example, don’t skip a visit to the bakery — that would be tres triste — but share the goodies with friends.

After a break-up

The problem: You want to bury your sorrows in a pint of ice cream.

The solution: “Instead of meeting your friend for a drink to dish about your ex, meet up for a power walk or run,” Largeman-Roth advises. Also, sign up for a team that is training for a 5K or some other race to distract your self and meet new people.

A party with fabulous food

The problem: You’re at a party and everything looks delicious. It’s free, it’s in front of you, and no one’s stopping you.

The solution: Don’t arrive famished, says Dr. Melina Jampolis, CNNHealth’s diet and fitness expert. Eat a small protein snack before the party, such as a few slices of turkey, a half a cup of low-fat cottage cheese, or half a protein bar.

Also, limit your alcohol, and not just because it’s caloric, but because if it’s hard to control yourself while you’re sober, imagine how much harder it is while tipsy.

Watching TV

The problem: You want to plop in front of the television with a high-fat snack.

The solution: Use a small bowl, Largeman-Roth says, or snack on frozen grapes or veggies with a yogurt-based dip.

At a buffet, or a restaurant with enormous portions

The problem: Buffets offer limitless amounts of food, and much of it has tons of calories. Restaurants with big portions of delicious foods make it hard to push the plate away.

The solution: Simply don’t go to buffet restaurants, Hill advises. But if you really have to, sit at a table where you can face away from the buffet — Jampolis says studies show people who face away tend to eat less — and load up initially on fruits, vegetables, and lean proteins so (at least hopefully) you won’t have enough room for the bad stuff. At the end of the meal, she suggests having everyone at the table get just one dessert and share, so you get a little taste of lots of things.

As for big portion restaurants, the trick is to get the doggy bag at the front end, not the back end. Hill suggests when you order your meal, ask for half of your dinner to be brought to you on a plate, and the other half in a to-go box.

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Have you noticed the abundance of gluten-free foods available at grocery stores or on menus these days? The proliferation of gluten-free products, along with the marketing of them, might lead you to believe that they are the new panacea to better health or weight loss.

So, what’s the real story? Will going on a gluten-free diet improve your health or help you lose weight? The answer is that it depends. Limiting your intake of gluten means you are cutting out many starchy, refined carbohydrates, and that in itself can help your weight and health. Eating gluten-free, however, is a must for those with celiac disease, who face real risks from ingesting gluten.

What is gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye products. Most cereals and breads contain gluten. Examples of gluten-free grains include brown or wild rice, quinoa, millet, buckwheat and amaranth.

What is not widely known about gluten-free products is that they still contain the same number of carbohydrates as their gluten-containing counterparts. In this regard, there is no health benefit to choosing the gluten-free versions.

For example, a typical slice of gluten-free bread contains 15 grams of total carbohydrate — the same amount as a regular slice of bread. A snack of gluten-free crackers can contain 30 grams of carbohydrate per serving, the same as regular crackers.

The seriousness of celiac disease

So why avoid gluten in the first place? For those with celiac disease, their health demands it. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease resulting in a true intolerance to gluten. If someone with celiac disease consumes gluten, it causes the villi, or little hair-like projections that move food through the gut, to atrophy. This atrophy can cause bleeding, malabsorption of nutrients and other health complications.

According to the National Institutes of Health, more than two million (or one in 133) people have celiac disease. However, only about 1 percent of the population has actually been diagnosed. To get an accurate diagnosis, you need a blood test and/or small bowel biopsy to determine if there is atrophy in your gut.

Gluten sensitivity — difficult to diagnose

Research shows that another 39 percent of the population may be susceptible to having celiac or gluten intolerance/sensitivity. Some experts believe gluten sensitivity exists, but no research or tests to date are available for diagnosis. Symptoms of gluten sensitivity are diffuse, and can include headaches, fatigue or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).

In addition, there is a small amount of research showing that gluten is associated with some forms of inflammation in the body for those with auto-immune diseases such as diabetes or Multiple Sclerosis (MS).

Your body knows best

Many who go on a gluten-free diet may lose weight and feel better, but it has nothing to do with avoiding gluten. Just cutting out starchy, processed forms of carbohydrate or limiting carbohydrate intake helps with lowering insulin resistance, which leads to weight loss and improved energy.

If you have celiac disease, eating gluten-free is your only option. If you believe you have gluten sensitivity, going on a gluten-free diet is worth exploring. For the rest of us, there’s no need to follow the trends of what is currently in vogue with food manufacturers. Eating simple, unprocessed foods according to what your body can tolerate is the best way of eating.

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Dieters are sometimes told to have a substantial breakfast, because it reduces the amount of food consumed during rest of the day. Not so, a new study reports.

German researchers studied the food intake of 280 obese adults and 100 of normal weight. The subjects kept records of everything they ate over two weeks, and were carefully instructed about the importance of writing down what they ate as soon as they ate it.

For both groups, a large breakfast simply added to the number of daily calories they consumed. Whether they ate a large breakfast, a small one or none at all, their nonbreakfast calorie intake remained the same.

The study, published in Nutrition Journal, found that the foods most often responsible for the variations in daily calories were among the morning’s favorites: bread, eggs, yogurt, cheese, sausages, marmalade and butter.

This may mean that exactly the opposite of the commonly offered advice is correct: A smaller breakfast means fewer daily calories consumed, not more.

“Whenever someone comes to me for dietary advice and says, ‘I never eat breakfast,’ I say, ‘Keep doing what you’re doing,’ ” said the senior author, Dr. Volker Schusdziarra, a professor of internal medicine at the Technical University of Munich. “Eating breakfast is just added calories. You’ll never compensate for them at subsequent meals.”

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Check out this great article from SacMidtown.com – at the end, Ms. Carlson mentions “Also, if you want to try a safe and vegan detox, check out http://kaengraeng.com/. I forgot to mention that.”

By Danielle Carlson, SacMidtown.com

The holidays, as great as they are, always seem to add a couple pounds to my waistline.  It’s all those delicious treats, cookies and candy that surround us in the late months of the year.

Thank goodness January gives us the perfect opportunity to cleanse and detox, get back on the wagon and eat right, exercise, and shed those extra pounds.

To get back on track, I have some healthy weight loss tips taken from one of my very favorite vegan books, The Kind Diet, by Alicia Silverstone.  If you haven’t heard of this book yet and you’re interested in the kind life approach (being kind to your body, each other, animals and the earth) you must go buy this book as soon as possible (It will be worth the purchase, it’s also a cookbook!)

After reading her book I immediately lost 10 pounds just by 86ing most of the processed crap out of my diet.  Not only will you lose weight, but you will have an abundance of energy, all from natural foods that this gorgeous Earth provides for us.  None of this sugar-free over processed and refined junk, just real food.  I promise once you eat the real stuff, you’ll never want to go back!

Tip 1

Eat up your veggies and whole grains!  I guarantee you will never get hungry and will have so much energy!  Some grain examples: Brown rice, quinoa, barley, millet, oats, wild rice and the list goes on.  For veggies, try to get what’s in season.  Many people believe that our bodies are also “in season” and react positively to local produce.

Tip 2

Eat up some delicious daikon!  Daikon is in the raddish family and is a natural diuretic.  You can use it in soups, stews, vegetable dishes, and even tea!

Try Alicia’s amazing weight loss tea:
½ cup grated (into pulp) carrot
½ cup grated (into pulp) daikon
¼ umeboshi plum
1-2 drops of shoyu (fancy name for soy sauce.)
¼ sheet nori, ripped into small pieces (optional)

Bring the carrot, daikon, umeboshi plum, and 1 cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan.  Reduce the heat, and simmer for about 3 minutes.  Add the shoyu and simmer for 2 to 3 minutes longer.  Add the nori, if using.  Drink hot once a day for 10 days.  After that, drink three times a week for three weeks.  If you want to continue, a couple of times a week should do the trick.

Tip 3

Chew your food properly!  The more and better you chew the more energy you will get from the food and the more satisfied you will feel.

Tip 4

Do your best to eliminate white sugar out of your diet.  White sugar is addictive and can slow down weight loss.  Transition to sweeteners like brown rice syrup to break your white sugar habit.

Tip 5

Keep fattening and indulgent foods out of the house for a while; Even if they’re vegan.  It’s ok to have something sweet every once in a while but keeping things in the house will only tempt you to indulge.

Tip 6

Cut back on the salt consumption.  Seasoning should taste mild.  Too much salt can set you up to overeat or crave strong sweets.

Tip 7

Eat a big nutritious breakfast in the morning.  This will start your day out right and keep you full and energized, cutting the chances of an afternoon binge.  For example, this morning I had a big bowl of fruit (1 banana and 1/3 cup blueberries) and topped it with some soy yogurt and granola.  It was absolutely delicious and it kept me full until lunch.  Oatmeal is also great but try to avoid the sweetened and flavored stuff.  Regular ‘ol oatmeal is awesome with fruit, there’s no need for the extra sugar.

Tip 8

Don’t be too hard on yourself!  If you mess up, don’t give up everything that you’ve worked for.  Just sit down, take a break, and snack on some veggies and grains and you will feel much better.

Tip 9

Don’t eat anything 3 hours before bedtime.

Tip 10

Do some kind of fun exercise three to five days a week.  Whether it’s a jog around the park, or a yoga class at the studio down the street, get out there and move your body.

My Bonus Tip

Cut back on the caffeine for a few weeks.  Try to get your energy from the food you eat and not the stimulants and sugar in your lattes.  Plus, with less caffeine, you will get a better night sleep, which is proven to aid in weight loss.  (If you’re a Starbucks junky like me, try cutting back to 2-3 cups a week and substitute decaf for the regular stuff.)

If you follow these tips for the next few weeks you will see dramatic results in your body, mind, and spirit.  Good luck and I wish everyone a very healthy and happy new year!

Vegan Stat of the Week:

97% of egg-laying hens are confined to battery cages.  Even if you’re not vegan, please be conscious of the food you buy, where it comes from, and how it’s maker or gardener is treated.  The easiest way to do this is to get to know the folks who sell you your food.  Make friends with your local farmers and don’t be afraid to ask questions!

Also, if you want to try a safe and vegan detox, check out http://kaengraeng.com/. I forgot to mention that.

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By Lucy Danziger, the Editor-in-Chief of SELF magazine

Some people are lucky: They seem to be born with a naturally high metabolism and slender physique that requires little exercise and calorie counting to maintain. My mother, God bless her, is one such person. I am not! So it’s a good thing I love to run, bike and swim. But when SELF asked experts about the habits that slow metabolism, I was surprised by some of their answers—and guilty of a few no-no’s myself (see number 1…and 2…and…). Fortunately, these habits are also totally fixable. Start paying attention to them today, and you’ll become one of the lucky ones—or at least look like one—in no time!

1. Scrimping on shut-eye

Catching zzz’s may help you stay slim, reveals research presented at the annual American Thoracic Society meeting in San Diego. In the study of more than 68,000 women, those who slept seven hours weighed 5.5 pounds less than women who slept five hours or less. Pulling frequent all-nighters may slow your metabolism, impairing your body’s ability to utilize food and nutrients as energy so they get stored as fat instead, scientists say.

2. Stressing out

When you’re on edge, you’re likely to sleep less and eat more, which can affect your thyroid, a gland that produces hormones which regulate metabolism, body temperature, heart rate and more. If your thyroid’s not producing enough of those hormones, it can slow your metabolism and other body functions, leading to weight gain, depression and fatigue. Take time for yourself daily to keep both your thyroid and metabolism humming at optimal levels.

3. Skipping breakfast

People often tell me they hate breakfast foods; I tell them, find something you can eat within an hour of waking up! Missing a morning meal is the worst thing you can do. It slows metabolism and depletes your body of the fuel it needs to function optimally, explains celebrity nutritionist Joy Bauer, R.D. But what you eat matters as much as the fact that you eat something. Simple, unrefined carbohydrates—as in a breakfast muffin or pastry—signal the brain to release serotonin, a neurotransmitter that brings on calm when you most want to be up and at ’em. Also, your body digests simple carbs quickly, sending blood sugar soaring and then plummeting, resulting in an energy crash. Try to start each day with a breakfast that contains at least 5 grams of protein, which activates the production of norepinephrine, a neurochemical that increase heart rate and alertness. The nutrient also digests slowly, so blood sugar and energy levels stay stable. Try an omelet made with 4 egg whites, 1/2 cup chopped broccoli, 1/4 cup chopped onion and 1 oz lowfat shredded cheese; it delivers an impressive 22 g protein per serving.

4. Staying seated

Get out of that chair! Staying on your feet revs metabolism and doubles your calorie burn during workdays, a study in Diabetes reports. Sitting for a few hours switches off enzymes that capture fat in the bloodstream, but standing up and getting active reignites them. Surrender your seat when possible (e.g., during phone calls) to start reaping benefits.

5. Eating junk food

I love a French cruller as much as the next gal, but it turns out doughnuts can be double diet trouble. Not only do sugary, fatty treats add calories and fat to your daily tally (a Dunkin’ Donuts cruller packs 250 calories and 20 g fat), but they can also encourage your body to store more fat. Junk food might stimulate a gene that encourages your body to store excess fat, causing you to gain weight over time, a study in The FASEB Journal reveals. (In the study, mice without the troublemaking gene had 45 percent lower body fat after eating a high-fat and high-sugar diet for 16 weeks compared to critters with the gene who ate the same diet.) Quell a sweet craving with berries or an orange: They’re high in vitamin C, a nutrient that can help you sizzle up to 30 percent more fat during exercise, suggests research from Arizona State University at Mesa.

6. Falling into a workout rut

I hear it all the time: “I’ve almost reached my goal weight, but those last 5 (stubborn!) pounds just won’t come off.” Sound familiar? Weight loss can stall along the way partly because you get smaller. As you shrink, there is less of you to provide energy for, so you actually start to need fewer calories. These plateaus can last weeks, so rather than get frustrated, try new workouts or ways to eat healthy to keep your metabolism going strong and your body burning even more calories than before.

7. Dodging the weight room

Although cardio sessions turn up the heat and burn big-time calories (which is why I run, bike or swim most mornings and still enjoy dessert!), lifting weights helps you build calorie-burning lean muscle, says Jeffrey Garber, M.D., author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Overcoming Thyroid Problems (McGraw-Hill). And with more lean muscle, you extend the burn to when you’re just sitting at your desk or in the car. Add weight-bearing exercises like planks, lunges, squats and tricep dips to your workouts three times a week, and you’ll see toning results like you’ve never experienced before!

Good luck, healthy girl!

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By Jeff Yeager, The Daily Green

(Photo: Robin Macdougall / Getty Images)

If you are what you eat, then I should weigh-in at under $1 a pound.

That’s because, as a general rule of thumb, I try to only buy foodstuffs that costs under a buck per pound. Under $1 a pound, year-round — that’s my grocery shopping mantra.

It’s not just because I’m a world-class penny-pincher and smart shopper; believe it or not, it’s also about eating healthier. When you look at the USDA’s “food pyramid,” many of the things we should be eating the most of — grains, legumes, fruits, and vegetables — happen to cost the least.

It’s often the stuff that’s bad for us (at least in large quantities) like red meat, fatty dairy products, and processed foods high in trans saturated fats, that cost the most, on a per pound basis.

To prove my point, I’ve put together this list of 50 healthy foods that I’ve purchased at least once in the last six months for under $1 a pound.

So rev-up your shopping cart, but be careful: There’s a Green Cheapskate loose on aisle five!

  • Apples – One a day keeps the cheapskate away.
  • Asparagus – HUGE store special at 99 cents a pound during Easter week. I bought 10 pounds, blanched it, and then froze it.
  • Bananas – Potassium for pennies.
  • Barley – A tasty alternative to rice and potatoes.
  • Beans – Canned or dried. Kidney, pinto, navy, black, red, and many more.
  • Bok choy – Steam and serve with a little soy sauce.
  • Broccoli – Yes, a store special. Usually closer to $2 per pound.
  • Bulgar wheat – Try it in pilaf or a tabouleh salad.
  • Cabbage – Green and red. I like mine fried.
  • Cantaloupe – No, sorry, I can’t; I’m already married.
  • Carrots – Raw or steamed. Rich in carotenes, a healthy antioxidant.
  • Celery – Stir-fry it for a change.
  • Chicken – Whole or various parts, on sale.
  • Chickpeas – AKA garbanzo beans — mash ’em up as a healthy sandwich spread.
  • Cornmeal – “Polenta” is all the rage these days, but I loved it 40 years ago when Mom called it “cornmeal mush.”
  • Cucumbers – Try peeling, seeding, and steaming with a little butter and salt.
  • Daikon radish – My new favorite raw veggie.
  • Eggs – Don’t overdo them, but eggs provide high quality protein and still cost about $1 per pound. (Plus, there are many eggscellent things you can do with the shells.)
  • Green beans – Frozen, but fresh are sometimes on sale for under $1 a pound in-season.
  • Greens – Kale, mustard, turnip, and collard greens are rich in vitamins and a good source of fiber. Here’s how I cook ’em.
  • Grapes – Store special at 99 cents a pound.
  • Grapefruit – Bake with a little brown sugar on top for a healthy dessert.
  • Lentils – Perhaps the perfect food — healthy, cheap, and versatile. Think soups, salads, sandwich spreads — and those are only some of the “s” possibilities.
  • Liver – Chicken livers usually cost under $1 a pound, and sometimes beef and pork liver can be found in the DMZ (“Dollar Maximum Zone”).
  • Mangoes – High in fiber and vitamins A, B6, and C.
  • Milk – Yep, on a per-pound basis, milk still costs well under $1 a pound.
  • Napa cabbage – Delicious steamed or raw in a salad.
  • Oatmeal – The good old-fashioned “slow cooking” kind … that takes all of five minutes.
  • Onions – Try baking them whole in a cream sauce.
  • Oranges – Frequent sale price when in-season.
  • Pasta – Store special at 89 cents a pound — I nearly bought them out!
  • Peanut butter – Special sale price, but stock up because it usually has a long shelf life.
  • Pork – Inexpensive cuts of pork frequently go on sale for 99 cents per pound or less; sometimes even ham during the holidays.
  • Potatoes – White and red, Baked, mashed, boiled, broiled, steamed.
  • Pumpkin – Yes, you can eat the same ones you buy as holiday decorations, and they usually cost under 50 cents a pound.
  • Rice – White for under $1 a pound; brown, a little more expensive but better for you.
  • Rutabagas – Hated them as a kid; can’t get enough of them now.
  • Sour cream – 99 cents on sale, but long shelf life, so stock up. My cucumber awaits.
  • Spinach – Frozen (but Popeye doesn’t care).
  • Split peas – Add a hambone and make the ultimate comfort soup. Try it in the crock-pot!
  • Squash – Try baking acorn squash with a little brown sugar.
  • Sweet corn – Canned or fresh on the cob, in-season. (Try this recipe for summer corn fritters.)
  • Tomatoes – Canned are often better than fresh to use in cooking, and occasionally you can find fresh on sale for under a buck, in-season.
  • Turkey – A popular bargain-priced, loss-leader around the holidays — buy an extra bird and freeze it for later.
  • Turnips – Make me think of my grandparents, who always grew them.
  • Watermelon – Whole, in-season melons can sometime cost less than 20 cents a pound if they’re on sale and you find a big one.
  • Wine – Well, at least the stuff I drink — a 5-liter box (approximately 11 pounds) for about 10 bucks, on sale. (BTW, the beer I drink is even less expensive per pound.)
  • Yams/sweet potatoes – One of the healthiest foods you can eat, and usually available year-round for under $1 a pound.
  • Yogurt – 8-ounce containers on sale, two for $1.
  • Zucchini – OK, they’re a type of squash (above). But I love them so much they deserve their own place on the list. Plus they look great in pantyhose.

Here are a few disclaimers about my list-o-50:

No, I don’t live on another planet or in a part of the country where the cost of living is deflated. In fact, I live and shop in the Washington, D.C., metro area, which has one of the highest costs of living (and groceries) in the country.

No, I’m not saying that all of these items are available in every store, at all times. But if you shop carefully, you can always find at least some variety of these foods around which to plan your meals.

Many of the items on the list (e.g., most root vegetables, bananas, beans, etc.) can usually be purchased for under $1 pound even when not on sale or in-season. Other items on the list were “store specials” and typically would cost more than $1 a pound, and/or they were in-season so cost less.

No, none of the items on my under $1-a-pound list are organically grown. The pros/cons of that debate aside, for most people with a limited budget, the choice isn’t whether or not to buy expensive organic, it’s whether or not to eat highly processed crap like fast food or eat inexpensive healthy foods like those on my list. (See the dirty dozen foods with the most pesticides to maximize organic purchases.)

No, I’m not saying that by eating only these foods you’ll have a complete, healthy diet. But they certainly can be the backbone around which to plan healthy, inexpensive menus for your family.

No, I don’t burn up a lot of time and gas by running around to a lot of different grocery stores, and I rarely use coupons. I shop only once every week or two, and I usually shop at only one or two stores.

I plan my meals around the-best-of-the-best weekly store specials (aka the “loss-leaders”), the sale items that are usually on the front page of the weekly circular most stores publish. If you’re not a creative cook like me, try a website like Delish or Epicurious, where you can enter the ingredients you have to work with and get all kinds of recipes.

Now look at all the money you’ve saved!

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