With childhood obesity rates tripling in the last three decades, and with one third of adults being obese, it’s more important than ever before to address America’s weight problems.

Yet, our modern culture may make it more difficult.  30 years ago we use to walk more, we didn’t sit in front of a screen for hours on end, and we ate more healthy foods with more reasonable portion sizes.

Let’s talk about those challenges and some simple, family nutrition solutions.

Use a Shopping List to Avoid Impulse Buying

For most households, there is little time for grocery shopping because we’re so busy working and taking care of kids when we’re not working.  When the shopping does happen, it’s usually not with a list and, instead, is more about impulse buying.  And impulse buying can lead to eating lots of processed foods and giving into sugar and high-calorie cravings.

Upload an grocery list app for your phone

The key to better eating at home is to shop once a week with a list.  It keeps you away from impulse buying, and focuses on eating together.  Plus, one of the newest studies says that sit-down meals at home can help your family to lose weight, simply because there is more thought going into the meal.

Here’s some tips to get your grocery list ready –

  1. Make a weekly menu of dinner meals
  2. Make your grocery list based on those meals  – add in cereal, eggs, milk, lunch items, snacks, and pantry staples
  3. Go to the store with your list in hand

Consider doing your shopping early in the morning on the weekend so that you can avoid the weekend crowds, have the rest of the weekend free, and enjoy more time with the kids during the week.  You’ll also save on gas money by doing one trip.


Make Smart Use of Restaurant Calorie Counts

With the reality being that many two-income families are on the go, the lack-of-time factor looms large.  If you do find yourself eating out, seek eateries that list calories and nutritional data on the menu board.

You are going to start to see more restaurants listing this information due to a little-known provision in the Affordable Healthcare Act that will soon require chain restaurants to publicly post this data.

As you look at the menu, your object will likely be to reduce your calorie count and increase your fruits, veggies, and grains.  Far too often the protein and dairy is more than we need when eating out, so look for vegetarian or small portion sizes of lean protein to cut the calories and fat.

Also, get your children involved.  Point out the calories.  Talk about what are too many calories – here’s a calorie calculator to estimate your daily calories.  And, ask them if they can find entrées under 500 calories with fruits or veggies included.


Support Access to Healthy Food 

Eating healthy on a budget can be more difficult for lower-income populations because of lack of access to healthy food – particularly fruits and vegetables.

This issue has grown in concern as food deserts and food costs have increased.  Not surprisingly, as a result obesity rates often are higher in these under-served populations.

Food deserts are areas in which either junk food has proliferated instead of healthy food, or there is virtually no access to any food for miles.  In many areas of the country, lower-income neighborhoods are filled with quick-markets full of low-nutrition, processed snacks but very few fresh foods; in these neighborhoods, an apple or banana may be a rare find, except at the local K-12 school.

The answer to this problem is multi-pronged.  It includes local government encouragement of healthy food access, federal food stamp programs that reward purchasing of fresh produce and healthier foods, and support of sustainable local economies that provide a more well-rounded community, including locally produced food.

Here’s a TED talk by Ron Finley of LAGreenGrounds.org who talks about his journey of helping his community obtain healthy, fresh food:

But, having the budget to buy fresh produce can be a challenge even for those who live near lots of access.  So, here are three easy tips for saving money on fresh produce that all of us can use:

  1. Buy fruits and vegetables in season.  They are easier to find and are usually less expensive.  Your local farmer’s market is a great resource, especially for organic or low-pesticide options.
  2. Save with fruits and veggies in bulk — such as a pre-filled bag of potatoes or apples, instead of one by one.
  3. Keep it simple.  You’ll pay more for pre-cut.  So, for example, buy whole carrots and then cut them yourself.

More budget friendly produce tips are found at choosemyplate.gov.  And if you want to find out how to help an under-served community near you with the food desert problem, a great organization to check out is Wholesome Wave.

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