STATE — With food prices significantly rising, more New Jerseyans are feeling the pinch in their pocketbook as they visit the local grocery store or restaurant. But the American Heart Association stresses that eating healthy needs to remain a priority in order to live longer, stronger lives– and can actually save you money in the long run.
“Some people think that the dollar menu at the local fast food joint is the best choice for their budget,” notes William Tansey, III, MD, spokesperson for the American Heart Association and cardiologist with Summit Medical Group in Short Hills. “But the truth is that fast food-as well as processed food-is often high in calories, saturated fat and sodium and low in the important nutrients your body needs to function properly, which can lead to obesity-a major risk factor for cardiovascular diseases.”
Obesity is linked to high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. The estimated annual cost of obesity-related diseases is $147 billion a year, which accounts for nearly 17 percent of medical spending in the United States, according to recent research done by John Cawley at Cornell University and Chad Meyerhoefer of Lehigh, indicating that the nation’s weight problem may be having close to twice the impact on medical spending than previously estimated. Half of that cost is financed through Medicare and Medicaid.
Millions of Americans are consuming too many empty and fat-laden calories and not exercising enough. And today’s youth are becoming heavier at an alarming rate, with nearly12 million children and adolescents ages two to 19 are considered obese. As these children grow older, they have a much greater risk of developing and dying from chronic diseases in adulthood.
The American Heart Association offers these ten budget-friendly tips that can help you and your family live heart-healthy lives:
- Limit red meat in favor of healthier and less expensive sources of protein. Fish, like tuna, has omega 3 fatty acids that are good for the heart. Nuts and beans have a lot of protein as well, but make sure you review the salt content and eat appropriate portions since nuts tend to be high in fat.
- Enjoy frozen vegetables and fruit. They are just as satisfying, and typically just as healthy, as fresh produce. Just check the nutrition facts to confirm that no extra sugar or salt was added.
- Avoid eating out,as most restaurants come with extra large portions and extra large price tags. And options at fast food restaurants are typically loaded with excess fat, salt and sugar.
- Eat before you go shopping. Going to the grocery store on an empty stomach will leave you more likely to buy on impulse. And make sure to look for the Heart-Check Mark, which indicates the product has met the American Heart Association suggested nutritional guidelines.
- Grow a garden! Not only will you save on vegetables like cucumbers and tomatoes, but you’ll stay active with this new hobby. And regular exercise is another important part of managing heart disease and stroke.
- Scout your local newspaper for coupons before you go shopping. It may cost $1-2 to purchase the Sunday paper, but your savings will likely exceed this amount.
- Shop for seasonal produce – fruits and veggies are less expensive during their peak growing times, and they’re also tastier!
- Look for the generic brands. The ingredients are usually the same as the brand name versions, but they’re much more affordable.
- Make your own pre-packaged snacks by buying a large container of raisins, nuts or pretzels and separating them into individual portions yourself. By checking the nutrition facts, you can gauge how many to eat at one time based on the fat, salt, and sugar content.
- Plan your meals each week. By planning ahead, you can check the nutrition facts of a meal before you decide to make it and create a detailed grocery list for easy shopping. Planning also helps avoid impulse shopping.
Looking for budget friendly ideas? Visit www.heart.org/gettinghealthy.
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