Thursday, May 8, 2008

Planning: The Key to Better Health, More Energy and More Cash in Your Pocket

By: Meghan Van Camp, RD, LD - UCF Wellness Center Dietitian

We know you are busy and do not have a lot of free time. We know you “feel” out of control a lot, and planning seems like a luxury you just can’t afford. We are still suggesting you “STOP”. Slow down just for a few seconds. Take a deep breath and take a moment to think about this. A little bit of planning each week can help you eat healthier, increase your energy and save cash in the process. The summer is the perfect time to concentrate on building healthy habits because a lot of students have lighter class load, less stress, and more time. Making healthy habits now will make it easier to maintain in the fall when classes are piled on, inter-murals start back up, UCF football invades campus, and Greek life is in full swing.

The first step is to make a grocery list. Browse though your pantry and refrigerator and see what food staples you need such as milk, bread, eggs, whole grain pasta, granola bars, peanut butter, fruits, yogurt, and vegetables. Then sit down with your planner/PDA and plan out a dinner menu for the nights you are home to cook and decide what you want to pack for lunches you can take with you to work or class. Most importantly, do not forget breakfast foods. Always eat breakfast before leaving home or prepare something you can take on the road. Breakfast starts your metabolism for the day and without it you usually overeat later in the day to make up for it. So once you have made a grocery list make sure it looks balanced by having a variety of each food group. Lists will help keep you organized and limit impulse buys. We are all familiar with impulse buys, they are the cupcakes at the end of the aisle that we do not need but we want. Impulse buys usually do not provide us with any nutritional value but can take a chunk out of our food budget.

Next step is to go to the grocery store every 7-10 days. Here are some helpful tips for the grocery store:
-Be sure to be comfortably full when entering the store, because a hungry shopper spends about 17% more money on groceries.
-Shop the perimeter first. The foods that line the outside of the market are usually fresh ingredients. This is where you get your fruits, vegetable, fresh baked whole grains, fresh meats, and low fat dairy. Once you have filled your cart with fresh foods then go into the aisles to get needed items such as canned beans, cereal, brown rice, nuts, and dried fruits.
-Buy generic store brands. Over a year’s time this can save you up to 40% on your food budget. -Try the generic and if you decide you prefer the name brand then at least you gave it a chance. Most people can not tell the difference with generic items.
-Frozen vegetables are a great idea for students. You don’t have to worry about wasting money if your schedule changes and you don’t have time to cook when you thought you would. They are there when you need them and they are very nutritious.

Try to get into the routine of making grocery lists, regular food shopping, and cooking more at home. This will improve your health, help you lose unwanted weight, and give you more money in your bank account. Remember the more “fast food” restaurant meals you eat…the more weight you will put on. If you are not able to plan for a full week then try for a few days first. Once you get the hang of it, you can expand the time you plan for. So start planning today and feel better tomorrow.

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