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How the economy is making you fat

Michele Borboa, MS is a freelance writer and editor specializing in health, fitness, food, lifestyle, and pets. Michele is a health and wellness expert, personal chef, cookbook author, and pet-lover based in Bozeman, Montana. She is also...

Recession weight gain

If the ailing economy has you consoling yourself with extra helpings of jumbo muffins, creamy pasta and other high-carb, high-calorie foods, you aren't alone. A November 2008 ZoneDiet.com survey of over 1000 people (both men and women) reports that nearly one-quarter of those polled say the economic downturn has increased their interest in comfort food. Experts say the economy is also contributing to weight gain and poor eating patterns. If you've been avoiding the scale for the past year for fear of the consequences of your comfort food cravings, keep reading for tips to eat healthfully on a budget and break those stress-induced unhealthy eating patterns.

Ways to eat healthy on a budget

Those "bargain" boxes of processed foods aren't always the most budget-friendly buys. Many healthy foods are more economical and offer the added bonus of helping you lose weight and feel great. Here's how you can save money and eat well.

1. Buy frozen fruits and vegetables

Dr Sears says, "They are cheaper, don't go bad, and have a higher nutrient content than fresh items." Keep in mind, however, fresh seasonal produce is usually economical — compare prices between the same amount of fresh versus frozen and buy the best value - then just make sure you eat it!

2. Eat whole foods

According to Erickson, opting for whole foods rather than processed goods can result in you eating less (and paying less for food) because whole foods take longer to digest. He adds, "Processed food has no substance, absorbs into the system quickly and quickly diminishes energy levels." When you energy levels are down, your hunger signals go up. Erickson continues, "Limit processed foods that come in a box because they provide nothing proactive to your nutritional status or wallet. Mother nature goes to the extent of packaging her food in it's own stay fresh and biodegradable packaging."

3. Choose inexpensive proteins

Inexpensive doesn't mean unhealthy if you make wise choices. "Inexpensive sources of excellent low-fat protein include egg whites, canned tuna and whole cooked chickens that can be carved into small pieces for any meal," explains Dr Sears. Protein is going to keep you satisfied longer and help maintain healthy insulin levels. (The truth about protein in your diet)

4. Change your carbohydrate perspective

Though high-carb comfort food gets a bad rap, complex carbohydrates — found in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, and nuts — are actually economical and an essential component of a healthy diet. When choosing carbohydrate-rich foods, just make sure they are whole-grain based (i.e. whole wheat pasta and bread, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, etc.) and considered whole foods, like baked sweet potatoes instead of mashed potatoes from a box. Always opt for complex carbohydrates that are high in fiber. (How fiber can help you lose weight)

5. Shop at membership wholesale clubs such as Costco

If you have a family to feed or have room in your pantry and freezer for bulk items, Erickson recommends buying healthy staples at Costco or another wholesale club. He says, "Old fashioned oatmeal, frozen blueberries and strawberries, salmon burgers, nuts, olive oil, tuna fish, meats, fish, poultry and a fabulous produce section can all be found at membership warehouses. Purchasing larger quantities takes more money up front — however, you save in the long run." And eat healthy, too.

More ways to eat healthy and save money

Top 30 diet tips
10 Frugal cooking tips
10 Tips for healthy eating

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