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

As winter warms into spring, those New Year’s resolutions to eat healthy and exercise may seem like a distant memory. According to Judy Kolish, a dietitian for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Illinois, the key to keeping those resolutions throughout the year is to understand the role food plays in life, health, and happiness.

Q: How can I eat healthy, even on a budget?
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 also important to shop for in-season vegetables. They will be cheaper and fresher.

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.

Some of the things your mother and grandmother always said about how to save money on food and eat healthier are really true. For example:

  • 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 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. I would like to buy organic food, but it costs so much more! Is there a way to save on organic food?
It’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, compiled by the Environmental Working Group. 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
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Sugar snap peas (imported)
  • Potatoes

Q: What are some budget-friendly healthy food choices?
Tofu, beans and lentils 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: 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 by 3,500. You calorie intake is the the number of calories you eat vs. the number of calories you use. 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. You actually can eat more! The key is to eat healthy food in small portions more often. If you eat mindfully you will be giving your body the nutrition it needs, reduce your calorie intake and not feel hungry.

Q: What does it mean to “eat mindfully?”
The first step is to learn to listen to our bodies. Instead of looking at the clock and eating lunch because it’s noon, we need to eat only when we are hungry. Most people in America never actually feel hungry. So we need to learn what it feels like to be hungry so we can recognize it. 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:

  • Community
  • Career
  • Social
  • Physical
  • Financial

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!