Meals away from home account for at least half of the money Americans spend on food. But saving money – while eating healthier – is easier than you might think.The American Heart Association has developed healthy tips, recipes and guides to make it even easier to do both by preparing more meals at home. And what better time for your family to start making healthier food choices than March, which happens to be National Nutrition Month?
“With busy, on-the-go lifestyles, many Americans have lost touch with their kitchens and thrown in the towel on eating healthy, which is key to prevention of heart disease and stroke,” said Dr. Rachel Johnson, Ph.D., MPH, R.D., Chairperson of the American Heart Association Nutrition Committee and Bickford Professor of Nutrition at the University of Vermont. “Eating at home can improve a family’s diet – and it’s easier on the pocketbook, too.”
About one-third of Americans are overweight or obese, including nearly 13 million children. Childhood obesity has become a major health concern, causing health problems in children that previously weren’t seen until adulthood such as high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. Parents are key to helping overcome this national epidemic.
“Healthy habits start at home,” Johnson said. “We want to help people establish a healthier way of life so they can be around to enjoy their families. Parents and grandparents can pass down a healthy legacy to their children and grandchildren – and we can help the next generation of Americans lead better, longer and healthier lives.”
Here are some tips to help you and your family start eating healthier:
- Enjoy meals together. When everyone sits down together to eat, there’s less chance of children eating the wrong foods or snacking too much.
- Get kids involved in cooking and planning meals. Everyone develops good eating habits together and the quality time with the family will be an added bonus.
- Eating healthier at home starts with the ingredients you use. Many favorite recipes can be made healthier by substituting ingredients.
- When you use oils for cooking, baking or in dressings or spreads, choose healthier oils — which include canola, corn, olive, safflower, sesame, soybean and sunflower oils.
- Limit added sugars in your family’s diet. Sugar-sweetened beverages are the largest source of added sugars for most of us, so reduce or cut out soda, sports drinks, energy drinks and fruit drinks as well as enhanced waters, sweetened teas and sugary coffee drinks. Drink more plain water instead.
- Try to reduce the amount of sodium you eat. If using packaged foods, compare food labels, and choose the product with the least amount of sodium. Use herbs and spices to add flavor when cooking, instead of salt.
- Eat more vegetables and fruits, whether fresh, frozen, dried or canned. Add them to dishes your family already loves and use them as healthier sides, snacks and desserts. If you choose canned, watch for added sodium and sugars.