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Filling and frugal food for the health conscious family

Many families in the United States today are faced with what appears to be a serious quandary; that of either eating healthy foods or eating foods that they believe will save time and money. After all, they no longer live in an era in which one income is sufficient and one person can spend an entire day in the kitchen. What more folks are beginning to understand, however, is that convenient and discounted foods are not necessarily the best value.

In fact, foods that will keep you feeling satisfied are those that are more nutritious, such as those that are high in protein, fiber and healthy fats. What many people do not realize is that meals containing these types of nutrients, although they take time to prepare, are often as cost efficient as most processed or fast foods. Many of these meals can be made in advance and frozen, then simply heated in the oven on any occasion when time is in short supply. To embrace this change takes just a bit of simple knowledge and planning.

Protein

In addition to providing energy, protein is responsible for constructing and maintaining body tissues. It is also crucial in the creation of enzymes and hormones. Protein is able to satisfy hunger for quite some time as well. While protein is highly associated with big cuts of beef and chicken, there are many forms of protein which are not provided from animal sources. For those who are not interested in typical meat and eggs proteins, other excellent sources of protein are beans, nuts and whole grains. These can be found at reasonable prices, and are easy to infuse into snacks and meals. For instance, tossing some almonds onto a salad or adding black beans to the family taco bar can be economical and simple ways to add protein to a meal that may have been lacking nutrients. Meals such as these are able to feed a family for between six and seven dollars, a fraction of the price of eating out. In addition, most beans, nuts and whole grains are good sources of fiber, so they essentially do two jobs within the body.

Fiber

While it is widely known that fiber within the diet assists in removing toxins from the intestines in the form of regular bowel movements, there are several other health benefits to consuming the recommended daily amounts of fiber. There are, in fact, several studies which link consumption of fiber with reduced risk of developing certain health problems such as high cholesterol, high blood pressure and even cancer.

In addition to protein sources of fiber aforementioned, fiber can be found in several fruits and vegetables, with berries being the source most relied upon. One crucial misconception about fruits and vegetables is that they are best when they are fresh and generally more expensive. The truth is that most canned and frozen fruits and vegetables provide just as many nutrients at a fraction of the cost. For those who are not especially fond of the taste of fruits or vegetables, they can be blended into smoothies so they taste better, or blended in with other food so fussy little eaters will not be intimidated by large piles of unrecognizable food. For example, pasta meals can contain a form of ground meat (if preferred) coupled with blended vegetables over whole grain pasta. With one pound of meat, one box of pasta and a few cans or bags of blended vegetables is another meal that is under ten dollars and can satisfy an entire family.

Healthy Fats

For quite some time now, many Americans have lived with the fallacy that low fat or fat free diets contribute to overall health. What research has shown in recent years, however, is that what matters is the type of fat consumed. While some fats, such as saturated fats found in fatty meats and dairy products should be eaten in moderation and other fats, such as trans fats found in processed foods should be completely avoided, there are two types of fats which do good things within the body.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats work for heart health and against diseases, especially in the control of cholesterol. Monounsaturated fats can be found in olives and olive oil, nuts, avocados and dark chocolate while polyunsaturated fats are present are fish, walnuts, sesame seeds and pumpkin seeds. While these foods are more consistent with snacking than meals, they are a cost effective method of keeping hunger at bay. Most of these food choices also provide additional vitamins and antioxidants. This can be the most difficult change to make within the diet, as dairy is a huge part of meals for most families. Remember that when done in moderation, it is an easier adjustment than attempting to change eating habits suddenly.

Planning

When making the change to a healthier and less expensive lifestyle, one critical but often overlooked component of success is planning. A person can go into the world with the best of intentions, but without carrying a lunch, hunger will eventually overcome willpower. Instead of being able to feed a family of four for ten dollars (which is realistic with comparison shopping and coupons), this money can easily be squandered on two fast food meals for one. By sending each family member off in the mornings with a good whole grain based breakfast, and arming them with nutrient rich lunches, they will not be tempted to eat poorly. With the right mindset and a bit of extra preparation, all families can experience filling and frugal eating.