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August 5, 2009 > Eat Healthy and Save Money

Eat Healthy and Save Money

Washington Hospital Lecture Offers Tips for Budget-Conscious Meal Planning

Fast food may be cheap, but you could end up paying later with your health. Eating nutritious foods doesn't have to break the bank if you plan your meals and shop wisely.

"Eating healthy is possible on a budget," said Maggie Villagomez, a registered dietitian at Washington Hospital. "With a little planning, you can create well-rounded meals that are nutritious and affordable."

She will present "Budget-Conscious Lunch and Meal Planning," on Tuesday, August 11, part of Washington Hospital's free Evening Lecture Series for Women. The lecture is from 6:30 to 8 p.m., at the Washington Women's Center, 2500 Mowry Avenue, in Fremont. To register, call (800) 963-7070.

"So many people grab fast food at lunch, or even dinner, because it's inexpensive and easy," Villagomez said. "But with meal planning, you can easily make a healthy, delicious lunch from leftovers."

She will first provide an overview of a healthy diet, which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. Then she will offer tips for planning meals that will help you stay on track at the grocery store and eat better for less.

"You should have your meals planned before you ever step foot in the grocery store," Villagomez said. "That way, you will know what you need and you won't end up with a bunch of stuff that isn't a complete meal."

She said it's important to make a list of items you intend to buy and stick to it. "I recommend making your grocery list while you are planning your meals," she added.

Other tips include shopping the perimeter of the store first and taking advantage of coupons and store specials.

"Foods like produce, meat and dairy are located on the store perimeter," Villagomez said. "Starting there and using a list will help you avoid impulse buys and junk food you don't need."

She recommends taking advantage of farmers' markets, held in nearly every community during the summer. They are a great resource for locally grown fresh produce, which tastes better and costs less when it's in season.
Control Portion Sizes

"You can also save money by reducing the amount you eat at each meal, and it's better for your health," Villagomez said. "Portion sizes have gotten way out of control in this country, so people often don't realize they are putting too much food on their plates."

Other ways to reduce food costs include stretching out expensive ingredients like meat and using meatless sources of protein, she said. Eggs, nuts and beans are great sources of protein for a fraction of the cost of beef, chicken and fish.

"If you plan right, you can get more than one meal out of a package of meat," she said. "I will also show that not all meals need to have meat in them to be filling and hearty. Alternative sources of protein in smaller quantities can be very satisfying."

Beans are not only a good source of protein, but also vitamins, minerals and fiber, according to Villagomez. And unlike other protein sources, beans are low in fat. Navy, kidney, black and pinto beans are great for soups and casseroles, she added.

At about 40 cents a piece, eggs are an excellent sources of protein as well. One egg contains more than six grams of protein and several other important nutrients, according to Villagomez.

She will also show how ingredients can be mixed and matched to create a number of meals, and will provide a cooking demonstration and sample recipes.

"I can't stress enough that the key to healthy eating for less is planning ahead," Villagomez said. "That way you know exactly what you are going to do with everything you buy and nothing goes to waste."

For more information about other classes and programs offered by Washington Hospital, visit

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