What Role Does Food Play In Your Life? Learn from a Nutritionist!

What Role Does Food Play In Your Life? Learn from a Nutritionist!

Despite our best intentions, it can be tough to always eat healthy. Those donuts in the break room look so darn good. Hunger pains have us heading to the fast food drive through. Or we’re simply too tired after a long day to cut up that salad for dinner.

We asked Judy Kolish, a dietitian for Blue Cross and Blue Shield, to answer some key questions about the role food plays in life, health, and happiness. She also offers some tips on how to eat healthier on a budget and which foods you really should buy organic.

Q: What’s the secret to eating healthy, even on a budget?

The first step is to check with your local grocery to see what’s on sale this week. You can get the sale flyer or look online. Then plan the week’s meals based on what’s on sale. Many grocery stores even provide healthy recipes that use the food that is on sale. Of you can look online for recipes that combine the sale items with whatever you have in your pantry. That way, you will be using what you already have and you won’t buy food you don’t need.

The next step is to set a budget for groceries. Once you know how much you have to spend, you can figure out what to buy. Budgeting is a big part of financial well-being.

Finally, shop for vegetables that are in season. They will be cheaper and fresher.

And then there are those tried and true things we all have heard before about how to eat healther and save money on food:

  • Pack a healthy lunch and bring it to work. You’ll save money and be less tempted to buy that slice of pizza.
  • Don’t go to the grocery store when you are hungry. You will make too many impulse buys and chances are you won’t choose the healthy food.

Q. Do I have to buy organic for it to be healthy? Organic food costs so much more!
That’s true. Organic produce can cost more. If you can’t afford to buy all organic produce, at least try to buy organic versions of the fruits and vegetables on the “Dirty Dozen” list. That list is put out by the people at the Environmental Working Group. The non-organic varieties of the fruits and veggies on that list are the ones most likely to have been sprayed with pesticides. They are:

  • Apples (The chemicals can even be found in juices, so choose organic apple juice as well.)
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Sugar snap peas (imported)
  • Potatoes

Q: What are some budget-friendly healthy food choices?
Meat is almost always more expensive than beans, lentils, and tofu. Most people look at meat as the center of the meal. It doesn’t have to be. Choosing other forms of protein saves money.

Q: What can you do to eat healthier and on a budget if you don’t have time to cook?
It can be hard to cook dinner if you work all day and come home tired and hungry. The answer is to cook ahead if you can. Maybe you have time on the weekend. You can make the meals for the week so you’re not stressed about what to have for dinner and you’re not tempted to head for the drive-through on your way home.

Q: I have started an exercise program. How should I change my eating to make sure I lose weight?
To lose one pound a week, you have to cut your total calorie intake (the number of calories you eat vs. the number of calories you use) by 3,500. You can cut calories by burning more or by eating less. It’s best to download an app or check online for charts that show how many calories you burn doing certain exercises. You also can use an app to add up the calories in the food you eat.

It is important not to cut your calorie intake by too much. Food is the fuel your body needs to function. It’s like giving your car gas. If the car doesn’t have gas, it isn’t going to move.

Q: I hate to diet. I’m always so hungry!
Here’s the good news: You don’t have to diet to lose weight. And you don’t have to feel hungry! The key is to eat healthy food more often and to eat mindfully.

Q: What does it mean to “eat mindfully?”
The first step is to learn to listen to our bodies. Instead of eating lunch because it’s noon, we need to pay attention and decide if we are hungry. Most people in America never actually feel hungry. So we need to learn what it feels like so we can recognize it when we really are hungry. And then there’s the other part of that: being able to recognize when we are full, so we stop eating.

Q. What role does food play in overall wellness?
We should be talking about more than wellness. That means just physical wellness—getting enough exercise, eating right, sleeping enough. Instead, we should be thinking about well-being. There are five pillars of well-being:

  • Career
  • Community
  • Social
  • Financial
  • Physical

We interviewed a bunch of kids to find out their thoughts on healthy and unhealthy foods.  How do their answers measure up to our nutritionist's advice? A few of her ideas about how to eat healthy might surprise you—like dieting by eating more often!  

It’s all connected. If you go to work every day but hate your job, are you really going to be motivated to eat an apple and go to the gym? A lot of time people only think about the physical changes—eating right and exercising more. But you can’t get to physical changes if those other things are interfering.

This process makes it possible to ask: What affects my well-being? If I’m struggling financially, then I think I can’t afford to eat healthy food. Once you know what the real issue is, you can move toward action.

What's your secret to saving money on healthy foods?