With summer vacations in the rearview mirror and children heading back to school, September can be a time for change. While you may find yourself adjusting to a new schedule, especially as daylight hours get shorter, consider using this time to make other changes to your routine. One meaningful change that can affect your entire family is your eating habits and how you shop for groceries.
Write a Meal Plan
Healthy eating starts at home and having a meal plan helps immensely. As Ben Franklin put it, “failing to prepare means preparing to fail.” Mapping out a week of meals in advance makes it more likely you’ll eat healthier, and also takes the stress out of figuring out what to make for dinner after a long day. To get started, click here for an interactive weekly planner you can easily fill in and print out in just a few minutes.
Explore any of the following websites to discover healthy meals that work for you and your family and adhere to your specific dietary needs:
Create a List, Check it Twice
Create a grocery shopping list and stick to it. Use your meal plan above as a guide for your grocery list and supplement your list with healthy snacks. Organize your list by category to make the most of your time at the grocery store. Click here for an interactive grocery list with foods organized by category.
Sticking to your list may also help you save money by avoiding impulse buys. Don’t forget to include all members of your household in the planning process to help get everyone on board.
Healthy eating is all about balance and moderation, so don’t deprive yourself. Pick up one or two indulgences a week, such as your favorite ice cream or potato chips. Spread out and savor the treat throughout the week, as opposed to eating it all in one sitting, and stick to only buying your absolute favorites.
No matter where you choose to shop, the grocery store offers as many unhealthy temptations as it does flavorful, nutrient-rich foods. Below are tips and information from the USDA’s Choose My Plate website to help you fill your shopping cart with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and dairy that are the best quality at the lowest price point.
Fruits and Vegetables
- Buy “in season” produce – it’s usually less expensive and is also at peak flavor.
- Buy only what you can use before it spoils.
- When buying canned, choose fruit canned in 100% fruit juice and vegetables with “low sodium” or “no salt added” on the label.
- When buying frozen vegetables, buy without added sauces or butters.
- Make half your grains whole grains. Whole grains include: whole wheat, brown rice, bulgur, buckwheat, oatmeal, whole rye.
- Check the ingredient list and pick items that have a whole grain listed first.
- Brown rice and whole-wheat pasta are budget-friendly whole-grain options.
- Choose hot cereals like plain oatmeal for breakfast.
- Try switching to whole-wheat crackers or popping your own popcorn.
- Some great low-cost choices include beans and peas.
- To lower costs, buy the family-size or value pack and freeze what you don’t use.
- Choose lean meats like chicken or turkey.
- When buying ground beef, aim for 90 percent lean or greater.
- Don’t forget about eggs. They’re a great low-cost option and are easy to prepare.
- Choose low-fat or fat-free milk. They provide just as much calcium, but fewer calories than whole and two percent milk.
- Buy the larger size of low-fat plain yogurt instead of individual flavored yogurts. Add your own flavors at home by mixing in fruits or spices such as blueberries or cinnamon.
- Always check the sell-by date to make sure you’re buying the freshest dairy products.
For more information about healthy eating, order the Fund’s Principles of Good Nutrition Toolbox Talk or Nutrition & Fitness for Laborers: Weight & Your Health pamphlet. These and other publications are available to LIUNA signatory contractors and affiliates in our online Publications Catalogue.
[Emily Smith is the Fund’s Senior Benefit & Wellness Specialist.]