Save Time, Money With A Little Menu Forethought
By COSHANDRA DILLARD
It's a common scenario in American households -- busy lives yield rushed meals. It coincides with an upward trend of obesity rates and a sharp increase in how much we spend eating out.
According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant sales are projected to top $631 billion in 2012, compared to $379 billion in 2000. The average American household spent $2,505 on food away from home in 2010.
Saving money and knowing what is in your food are reasons local nutrition and fitness experts have advocated planning, and preparing, meals in advance. For weight loss, meal planning is especially important, as it is a way to closely monitor what you are consuming.
Greg Maschal, operations manager at East Texas Medical Center's Olympic Center, said meal planning is a good way to keep hunger spikes at bay.
"One thing that we always recommend is to try to have your three main meals throughout the day but control the portion sizes and have three snacks throughout," Maschal said. "That way, it keeps your metabolism nice and steady."
He added, "It's great to be organized and structured with your diet. As far as meal planning goes, I think it's good to plan out a meal before you go shopping and you don't end up wasting a bunch of food that way."
Maschal said it is easy to reach for unhealthy snacks, especially in the mid-afternoon, if individuals have not prepared or at least planned what they'd have for a snack.
"What happens is you reach for something that's easily accessible and that's usually potato chips or something quick and easy," he said.
Prepared food such as sliced vegetables, fresh fruit or nuts will satisfy someone until the next meal. Maschal said be leery of canned items, as they may be loaded with sugar and/or sodium.
Meal planning is especially important for those who work out late in the evening. It's easy to skip a meal because it's late or for people to eat too much because they didn't grab a snack before.
"Food is energy," Maschal said. "If you don't eat anything before you exercise, then you're not going to have enough energy to exercise and your exercise session will be a lot less efficient. I would always recommend having a small snack that contains carbohydrates, maybe some protein, 45 minutes to an hour prior to your workout. Then, try to eat a meal 30 minutes to an hour after exercise to replenish things that you've lost throughout your workout."
Healthy eating takes some effort,
it can be tempting to buy what is cheap.
"The unfortunate side of the way our food industry is right now is that a lot of the healthy items, such as fruits and vegetables, aren't the most cost-effective choices," Maschal said.
Jennie Hammerbacher, a nutrition education coordinator at Northeast Texas Public Health District, has said that while buying lean meat has a bigger price tag than fatty meat, it is a better bargain. Large tubes of ground beef have a higher fat content and shrivel up cooked, leaving less meat to consume.
Another way to keep meals healthy and inexpensive is to have meatless day by focusing more on legumes and whole grains, Brooke Buffington, a
at Brookshire's, has said.
For the most success at a balanced diet, Maschal said allow some room for error.
"It's great to plan and have goals but if you aren't able to follow your plan 100 percent, don't beat yourself up about it," he said. "You need to leave some room for flexibility. That's a big reason why a lot of people drop out of exercise or quit their diet plan:
They miss a meal or eat something they shouldn't have or don't eat what was on their schedule, so they beat themselves up about it and feel guilty."
Fruit such as apples and oranges
Nuts such as almonds and walnuts
Vegetables such as cucumbers slices and carrots sticks
Seeds such as sunflower or pumpkin
Lean chicken, beef and/or fish
Beans and other legumes
Vegetables including leafy greens
Fresh fruit or canned fruit without added sugar
Whole grain pasta