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

The promise of a new year is fading into the doldrums of a lingering winter. It’s easy to let those New Year’s resolutions to eat healthy and exercise more fade away, too. But it doesn’t have to be that way! 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.

Q. What if I can’t afford to eat healthy food? Organic food costs so much more!
That’s true. Organic produce can cost more. So 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. The Environmental Working Group says the non-organic varieties of these fruits and veggies 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: Are there other ways to eat healthy, even on a budget?
Yes! It takes some organization , but you can do it.

First, check the grocery store website to see what’s on sale this week. Then plan the week’s meals based on what’s on sale. Look online for healthy recipes that use the food that is on sale and combine that with whatever you have in your pantry. That way, you will be using what you already have and you won’t overbuy.

It’s really important 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.

It’s also important to shop for in-season vegetables. They will be cheaper and fresher.

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

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

Q: What are some budget-friendly healthy food choices?
Beans, lentils, and tofu are much cheaper than the cost of meat. Most people look at meat as the center of the meal. It doesn’t have to be.

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 a Sunday. 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 run through the drive-through on your way home.

Q: How should I change my eating now that I have started an exercise program? Does it mean I can eat more calories, or should I cut back 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 add up the calories in the food you eat.

It is important not to go overboard and 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!
This is a surprise for most people, but 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!