Food and Drink

35 Tips for Eating Healthy on a Budget


Budget grocery shopping photoYour diet is your daily medicine, 3 times a day, 7 days a week. What we put into our bodies matters so we want it to be as holistically healthy as possible. But the stresses of budgeting aren’t good for your health either. Luckily, I’ve outlined a huge list of tips that I use day-in and day-out to budget so that I can save cash money and eat healthy all at the same time. 

At the Grocery Store

1. Write a grocery list and stick to it. 

2. Buy staples like flour, seeds, legumes, and dried fruit in the bins in the bulk section. 

3. Cut WAY back on meat and cheese.

4. Buy frozen produce.

5. Avoid processed foods.

6. Skip sugar-sweetened beverages and stick to water.

7. Choose simple recipes.

8. Buy seasonally.

9. Cut back on alcohol.

10. Consider organic couponing offered through Mamba Sprouts, Saving Naturally, and Organic Deals.

11. Buy smaller spice packets especially for spices that you don’t often use.

12.  Be flexible at the grocery store so if something is on sale you can take advantage of it.

13. Track store prices so you know what's a good deal.

14.  Bring a calculator to the store so you’re not surprised at the register.

15. Choose inexpensive produce depending on the season like bananas, squash, cabbage, and sweet potatoes.

16. Stock up on staples when they’re on sale.

In the Kitchen 

17. Plan out your meals each week. 

18. Cook most meals at home. Only eat out 1-2 meals per week. 

19. Make your own bread

20. Double recipes and eat them for a number of meals.

21.  Do some meal prep on Sunday to prepare for the week.

22. Bring your own lunch.

23. Make your own salad dressings.

24. Make your own broths.

25. Enjoy soups throughout the year, they’re filling and inexpensive.

26. Make your own coffee.

Avoid Food Waste

27.  Turn old bread into croutons.

28. Throw leftover produce into a smoothie, stir fry, or pasta sauce.

29. Properly store and freeze leftovers.

30. Plan next week’s meals based on what you already have.

In the gardenIn the Garden

31. Join a CSA

32. Grow your own veggies. 

33. Preserve foods.

34. Grow your own fresh herbs.

35. Compost food waste into garden gold. 

Credit both: iStock/Thinkstock

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Read More: 17 Ways to Eat a Whole Foods Diet

Love Your Caffeine: 8 Tips for a Healthy Coffee Habit


Coffee habit photoExperts at Harvard contend that up to 6 cups of coffee per day is not associated with an increased risk of death from any cause including cardiovascular disease or cancer. People think of coffee simply as a vehicle for caffeine but it’s actually made up of a number of different compounds which may even have positive impacts on your health

But coffee is also a drug, part ritual and part pick-me-up, that has an impact on your central nervous system. Sensitivity to coffee varies widely from person to person based on body weight, heredity, age (as we age liver enzymes are slower to break caffeine down), and whether or not you smoke. Smokers can tolerate more caffeine because nicotine helps to break it down. Most of us can enjoy the pick-me-up of about 100 mg of caffeine with no negatiave effects but once you move to 200-400 mg of caffeine, it can cause us to become anxious.

Here are some tips for a healthy coffee habit: 

1. Choose organic, fair trade, and shade grown coffee. 

Always choose organic coffee because it’s one of the most heavily sprayed crops. Also, coffee ranks up there with oil in terms of lucrative exports, but in many cases producers are exploited by the middlemen who takes in most of the profits. It’s for this reason that you should choose fair trade coffee, which ensures that the producer earns a fair wage. Shade grown coffee is grown the traditional way, without direct sunlight, which preserves canopy trees for migratory bird populations.

2. Choose organic creamer. 

The creaminess of an organic half and half is perfectly paired with the acidity of coffee. But make sure you choose the organic variety that’s free of hormones and antibiotics. Choosing organic also ensures that your creamer is free of pesticide and GMO-laden feed. 

3. Cut the sweet.

It’s best to sweeten coffee with organic cane sugar, raw honey, or organic agave. Avoid any artificial sweeteners which trick your tastebuds into craving super sweet foods. However, it’s best to cut the sweet as much as possible. I rarely take any sweetener in my coffee or cappuccino. 

I heart coffee photo4. Consider espresso. 

However surprising it is, espresso has less caffeine than a drip cup of coffee. If you’re looking to keep it to the 100 mg listed above, espresso has 40-75 mg per 1 oz. serving while generic coffee has 95-200 mg per 8 oz. serving. Check out this list of how much caffeine your favorite beverages contain. 

5. Filter your water. 

When you’re making your morning cup of Joe, consider your water. Using filtered water for your coffee like reverse osmosis can be a good option because it removes most contaminants from water including chlorine, VOCs, endocrine disruptors, pesticides, and other chemicals.

6. Roast your own beans. 

The fresher the coffee, more antioxidant value. Roast up your own beans to get the most bang for your buck. If you can’t roast your own beans, at least grind them and store them in the freezer to keep them fresh.

7. Alternate with tea.

Again, coffee is a drug, so to avoid getting the dreaded headaches and withdrawal moods that go along with a coffee addiction, switch it up with tea a few times a week. Most caffeinated teas have about one third the caffeine of coffee. 

8. Keep it confined to the morning. 

Drinking coffee into the afternoon is well known for disrupting sleep, depending on your sensitivity, so avoid drinking coffee in the afternoon and evening.

Credit both to: iStock/Thinkstock

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Read More: Your Health on Coffee, 7 Ways to Change Your Perception

6 Ways to Love Your Life with the 80/20 Rule


Girl swimming photoWith the New Year comes a slew of extremes that leave even the most perfect of people doomed to fail. Each New Year we set ourselves up for disappoint with an endless list of unattainable goals. That’s why I adopted the 80/20 rule--do the good stuff 80 percent of the time and allow 20 percent to be a freebie. 

Apply to 80/20 principle and love your life as a result:

1. Diet

Eat a whole foods, plant-based, organic diet 80 percent of the time. But for the other 20 percent of the time, don’t be afraid to splurge. I love a scone a few mornings a week along with a daily cappuccino and an extra glass of wine. I let this slide because I eat a healthy vegetarian diet with ample roughphage. This way I’m able to stick to my diet and in fact, it’s hardly a diet at all. It’s a way of life. 

Studies have shown that moderation is the key to success. One study found that candy and chocolate consumers had a 14 percent lower risk of elevated blood pressure and a 15 percent decreased risk of having metabolic syndrome — a collection of symptoms that put people at risk for heart disease and stroke.

2. Exercise 

I practice yoga almost exclusively but I mix it up with vigorous and less vigorous forms of the practice. For example, a few times a week I’ll do Yin Yoga, which involves holding seated poses for a few minutes with very little movement. Four days a week I’ll do Vinyasa yoga, which moves with the breath and is much more vigorous. And I’ll take 1-2 days per week off. Don’ try and give your workout 100 percent of the effort everyday because you’ll end up with injuries. 

3. Positivity 

Happiness comes from an optimistic, positive outlook. But expecting yourself to have this outlook everyday of the week is just too much. Try and be positive about your life at least 80 percent of the time. This way you won’t waste time beating yourself up for those times when you fall in the gutter. 

4. Generosity

Studies have shown that giving makes us happier than receiving. That’s why the happiest people are so often generous. But sometimes you can only think about yourself, especially that 20 percent of the time when you have trouble being positive. You shouldn’t fault yourself when you’re feeling a bit selfish. 

5. Productivity 

Spend 80 percent of your day working toward work or life goals. Follow Stephen Covey’s advice and “Don’t prioritize your schedule, schedule those priorities.” Devote 80 percent of your day to your most important priorities. What things, if you accomplished them, would move the dial for you on your big goals?

6. Overall Picture

Each month take a look at your overall picture to see if you’re moving toward the list above, abiding by the 80/20 rule. Knowing is half the battle and being aware of your progress is how you succeed.


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Read More: 12 Steps Toward Detoxing Your Life

Blame Your Cravings and Over Eating on the Hormone Leptin


Hormones in the brain photoI first learned about the hormone leptin when I was writing about the impact of high fructose corn syrup on the body. It turns out that eating foods with high fructose corn syrup slow the release of leptin, the hormone in the body responsible for making you feel full. This was my first introduction to understanding that your hormone imbalance may actually be contributing to cravings and over eating. 

If you have trouble sticking to a diet, have cravings, or you’re overweight, leptin may be to blame. Leptin is a master hormone that controls hunger and satiety. It’s secreted by fat tissue. Leptin has a major influence on energy balance in the body along with suppressing food intake and weight loss. 

One study found that obese subjects seemed to be leptin resistant meaning they were resistant to the effects that the hormone should have on the body. The body isn’t able to respond to messages of feeling full in the way that it should be able to in normal weight individuals. Leptin regulates the rate of fat breakdown as well through thermogenesis, the process by which the body makes heat (mainly in the muscles). 

Fructose intake has an impact on leptin (Remember what I said about high fructose corn syrup?). In fructose fed rats, leptin receptors found in the hypothalamus did not function properly. Leptin had no impact on fructose fed rats while rats fed normally reduced their intake of food in response to leptin. 

Good sleep also has an impact on leptin and too much caloric restriction seems to reduce the secretion of leptin in the body. 


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Read More: 6 Surprising Ways Your Diet Can Impact Your Mood

6 Inexpensive Superfoods and How to Add Them To Your Diet


Superfoods photoWe’re all looking to add nutrient dense foods to our diets but some of us don’t have endless cash to throw at superfoods flown in from all ends of the Earth. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With a little research, you can enjoy all the antioxidant value of superfoods without paying top dollar.

Try These 6 Cheap Superfoods 

1. Chia Seeds 

I put chia seeds in just about everything. Chia seeds were used as an ancient energy enhancing superfood by the Tarahumara Indians, hidden in the rugged valleys of the Sierra Madre Mountains in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. Add them to beverages, snack foods, cereal, and even baked goods. Chia seeds are rich in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, antioxidants, and fiber. You can purchase a 5.3 ounce bag of chia seeds from Traders Joe’s for $6.  

2. Kale

Cruciferous vegetables seem to have some sort of mystical powers and this latest study makes their strength seem all the more potent. A study at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center and Shanghai Center for Disease Prevention reveals that breast cancer survivors that eat cruciferous vegetables may improve their chance of survival. Kale is my favorite of the cruciferous vegetables. I add it to smoothies, stir fries, and salads. At just $2.70 a bunch for the organic variety at Whole Foods, it’s an inexpensive choice.

3. Sweet potatoes 

Sweet, savory, and downright delicious, nothing beats this winter staple. Sweet potatoes are loaded with fiber, protein, vitamin A, and vitamin C. At $2 per pound for organic sweet potatoes at Whole Foods, you can’t go wrong. Roast them up or make a puree and add to muffins, pancakes, and biscuits.

4. Spirulina

Spirulina is a blue green algae that's a wonderful food especially for those that avoid meat products. Spirulina is a great source of iron, B12, and protein. While Spirulina can seem expensive at $22 for a 1 pound jar of the powder form, a little goes a LONG way. Add to your smoothies or sprinkle on popcorn.

Green drinks photo5. Beets 

Beets are a natural energy supply packed with calcium, iron, as well as vitamins A and C. Beets are also great for satisfying a sugar craving. At $2 per pound they’re a steal of a deal. Roast them up and enjoy on a salad.

6. Beans 

Beans are the poor man’s protein at less than $2 per pound. Beans also contain phytochemicals which protect cells from cancerous tumors. Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reported that women who consumed beans at least twice a week were 24 percent less likely to get breast cancer. Beans can be added to just about anything to amp up the antioxidant value. 

Credit both: iStock/Thinkstock

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Are Gluten-Free Restaurant Items Legit?


Gluten-free imageGluten-free is all the rage right now and for the most part it’s a trendy diet for those that are gluten-sensitive. But then there’s those with Celiac disease, a permanent intolerance to the giadin fraction of wheat protein found in rye and barley. The disease leads to an autoimmune disorder where the body starts attacking its own normal tissue. In addition to autoimmunity, other surface symptoms may appear including diarrhea, iron-deficiency anemia, lactose intolerance, and osteoporosis. It’s an inherited illness that’s determined with both an intestinal biopsy and the patient’s response to a gluten-free diet. 

For those with CD, the disease is real. I know because my good friend has it and I’ve seen the after effects when the disease goes into full gear. This happened when she thought she was ordering a gluten-free item at a restaurant that turned out not to be gluten-free at all. 

Menu items often contain a disclaimer because restaurants cannot guarantee the full absence of gluten. Like this one: “Even with a strict adherence toward maintaining spotless restaurants, we simply have too much wheat and other gluten-containing food products in our kitchens to be able to eliminate the cross contamination on food prep surfaces and even in the air,”  says the Noodles restaurant

The FDA considers food containing less than 20 parts per million of gluten to be gluten-free. A number of restaurants have fallen short. California Pizza Kitchen introduced pizzas that had gluten-free crusts but customers were furious to learn that the pizza itself included other items that were not gluten-free. Texas Roadhouse also had gluten-free items that turned out not to be gluten-free at all.

It’s not only hidden ingredients that can present problems for the highly sensitive but food preparation as well. Proper gluten-free cooking means preparing foods on a separate cooking surface, with clean utensils, and separate vats of oil for frying. But for those with extreme allergies, the gluten can cause problems if it goes airborne.

Have you ordered gluten-free items at a restaurant that turned out not to be gluten-free?


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Read More: Why a Gluten-Free Diet May Not Be Right For You

CDC: Pregnant Women Should Be Careful of Holiday Food Safety


Pregnant pretty womenFoodborne illness is a serious health risk for pregnant women and their unborn babies. Food is the focus of the holiday season but for pregnant women with compromised immune systems, the risk of deadly food poisoning is real. According to the CDC, pregnant women are 13 times more likely than the general population to get listeriosis. 

Listeriosis is a rare but deadly foodborne illness. Listeriosis is a serious infection caused by the bacteria Listeria monocytogenes. Unlike most bacteria, Listeria bacteria can grow and multiply in some foods in the refrigerator. And if a pregnant women contracts the illness, the most serious impact is often on newborns. A baby’s immune system is not developed enough to fend off infection.

And without knowing it, a pregnant women can pass it on to their unborn baby. It’s the third most deadly food-borne illness with 1,600 becoming infected and 260 dying each year. The bacteria is found in soil and water and animals can carry the disease without even appearing to be ill.

Pregnant women can protect against foodborne illness like listeriosis by taking a few simple steps:

  • Wash your hands with warm water and soap after touching raw meat, raw eggs, and unwashed vegetables.
  • Don’t share forks, cups, and spoons with young children because their saliva may contain a virus.
  • Don’t eat unpasteurized cheeses or soft cheeses like feta, brie, and queso fresco unless the label says they're pasteurized. 
  • Beware of unpasteurized holiday beverages like eggnog. 


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Read More: 6 Tips to Avoid Food Poisoning this Holiday Season

Fat or Skinny? It’s Up to Your Gut Bacteria


Fat or skinny photoWhen Rob Knight got sick in Peru in 2008 he went on nearly two weeks of antibiotics to quell his illness. And after returning home to his normal diet and exercise routine he lost nearly 70 pounds. It appeared that an alteration in his gut bacteria had changed his entire health picture. 

“Exercise and diet, which had not worked before, began to work,” says Knight to The Washington Post, a professor of chemistry and biochemistry at the University of Colorado at Boulder who studies the microorganisms that live in our bodies, known as the human microbiome. “I think that reconfiguring my gut microbial community made it possible.”

His experience illustrates a body of evidence that suggests that naturally occurring bacteria, microbes, and viruses in the gut influence metabolism. A study published in Science found that the specific bacteria that you shelter can impact weight. 

Researchers started out testing the gut communities of twins where one was obese and one was lean. Then they transplanted the gut communities in the lean twin and the obese twin into the guts of various mice. The mice that received the obese community gained weight and exhibited some of the metabolic features of human obesity. 

It may be that people that gain weight tend to have more efficient gut bacteria and are better at breaking foods down. 

“If you want to stay lean, you’ll want bacteria that are not very efficient,’’ says Claire Fraser, a professor of medicine and microbiology and immunology at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “If we each eat a bowl of cereal and your bacteria are better than mine at breaking it down, you’ll get 95 calories, while I’ll only get 70, and the rest will pass through. You’re the one who’s going to gain weight.’’

The foods that you eat also contribute to your gut bacteria. For example, high fat and low fiber foods provide different bacteria than low fat high fiber foods.


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Read More: Groundbreaking Study Links Gut Bacteria To Obesity

6 Tips to a Full Kitchen Detox


Sleek kitchen photoWe often think of a detox as a diet that we use for a limited amount of time to quickly push out toxins caused by everyday life. But the most effective detoxes are those that are ongoing. Our diet has the single biggest impact on our bodies of anything that we do daily. Take steps to detox your kitchen and serve up meals that have a positive impact on your overall health.

6 Tips to a Full Kitchen Detox

1. Avoid plastic.

Plastic is horrible for the planet because it doesn’t biodegrade and it’s also bad for your body. Plastic can often include endocrine disruptors like bisphenol A (BPA) which have been shown to cause cancer and reproductive issues. Switch to glass or ceramic whenever possible and avoid the risk of toxic chemicals leaching into your foods. 

2. Switch to filtered water.

Drinking reverse osmosis water removes toxins like pesticides, toxic metals, and endocrine disruptors. I fill up about 4 gallons worth of BPA-free containers per week at the health foods store. And at only 49 cents per gallon, the water tastes great and has little impact on your budget. 

3. Choose a clean diet. 

Fill your kitchen with local and organic fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, seeds, organic whole grains, legumes, and some local dairy. Buy as few processed foods as possible and choose natural sweeteners like maple syrup and raw honey. Here’s how to eat a clean whole foods diet

4. Choose plant-based cleaners. 

Detox your kitchen by avoiding harsh cleaners like ammonia and bleach and switching to plant-based cleaners or homemade cleaners made with baking soda and white vinegar. 

Cooking photo5. Skip the pesticides.

Remove dangerous pesticides from your kitchen. Instead, keep your kitchen tidy and clean up with plant-based cleaners on a regular basis. If rodents and insects have nothing to snack on, they’ll move on. Pesticides can cause a range of health problems like cancer, fertility issues, and hyperactivity in kids. 

6. Avoid food borne illness.

Wash hands and food contact surfaces with warm soap and water. This includes cutting boards, knives, sponges, and counter tops. The elderly, children, and those with compromised immune systems are the most vulnerable to food poisoning or food-borne illness. Here are tips for avoiding food borne illness.


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Read More: 12 Steps Toward Detoxing Your Life

Acid Reducing Drugs Linked to a B12 Deficiency


Acid reducing foods photoPeople who use certain acid reducing drugs for 2 or more years are at an increased risk of a B12 deficiency. B12 keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, helps make DNA, and prevents anemia which can make people tired and weak. A deficiency can also lead to problems with dementia later in life

These drugs are called PPIs and histamine 2 receptor antagonists in both prescription and over-the-counter names like Prevacid, Prilosec, and Nexium. In all, 157 million prescriptions are written for such drugs each year. 

“People who are taking these medications are more likely than the average person to be vitamin B12 deficient, and it’s a potentially serious problem,” said Dr. Douglas A. Corley, senior author of the new study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association and reported in The New York Times. “This raises the question of whether people taking these medications for long periods should be screened for vitamin B12 deficiency.”

Researchers at Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif. looked at the medical records of 25,956 adults who had a B12 deficiency between 1997 and 2011 and compared them to 184,199 patients without a deficiency during the same period of time. The results showed that patients who took PPIs for more than 2 years were 65 percent more likely to have a deficiency. In all, 12 percent of patients deficient in B12 had used PPI’s for 2 years or more compared to 7.2 percent of control patients. 

Currently, “awareness of B12 deficiency with the use of P.P.I.’s is very low,” said Dr. T.S. Dharmarajan, the vice chairman of medicine at the Wakefield campus of Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx, who was not involved in the research on The New York Times. “If physicians read the study, a lot of B12 levels will be ordered in the months and years to come.”

Though vitamin B12 has many important functions in the body, it’s found in mostly animal sources like beef liver, clams, fish, meat, poultry, eggs, and milk. Some breakfast cereal and non-dairy milks are supplemented with it.


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Read More: Vegetarians: Are You Getting Enough B12?

Sara Novak writes about health and wellness for Discovery Health. Her work is also regularly featured in Breathe Magazine and on She has written extensively on food policy, food politics, and food safety.









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