It’s usually around this time of year that people stop to think about their health goals. Not only is the new year right around the corner, but with turkey and pumpkin pie followed by eggnog and gingerbread men, many people are left feeling a bit guilty about letting their healthy habits slide over the past few weeks.


And while health goals commonly have to do with weight loss, your health is also about integrating self-care into your life, staying on top of your mental health, and getting adequate sleep. Maintaining optimal health isn’t only good for your well-being, it also affects your ability to achieve your other goals. By becoming the best version of yourself, you will be setting yourself up for success in everything you do.


I try to revisit my health goals several times throughout the year, but when things get busy, this task sometimes gets pushed aside. Furthermore, if I’m going through a tough time, I typically end up working out less than usual, and I often find myself scrounging for cookies at night to relieve my stress (which isn’t actually effective, by the way). I always regret this a few days in because I feel awful, I look awful, and my productivity at work suffers.

But no matter what, I always spend a significant amount of time at the end of the year reviewing my habits, finding areas in which I can improve, and celebrating the things that I have done really well over the last year.

In this article, I will go into detail about why it’s important to focus on your health goals. Then, I will give you 23 examples of health goals that you could set for the new year.

But first, let’s look at what a health goal really is.

What is a Health Goal?

Your health is one area of your life that it is important to set goals, as these goals outline your ambitions for your wellbeing. By making health goals and taking steps to reach them, you’re able to obtain a better balance of not only your diet and exercise, but also in the subcategories of the health arena, including weight loss, eating whole foods, avoiding being sedentary, taking proper breaks from working, and having the self-awareness to realize when you’ve adopted a bad habit that could be detrimental in the long run.

It’s important to realize that your health and well-being are the product of a combination of your everyday habitsand not simply one aspect of it. All of your lifestyle choices become interlinked, so in order to improve one facet of your health, you have to step back to look at the big picture and your life balance.

Why is it Important to Focus on Your Health Goals?

Your health has an impact on every other area of your life. It is also something that you have the ability to strongly influence. Even if you have a genetic predisposition to a certain disease, you can take preventative action that could reduce your chances of being impacted by this risk factor.

However, research has found that people who know they have a family history of a disease often don’t believe their own susceptibility to developing the disease is any higher than average. On the other hand, some perceive inherited risk as being unavoidable, which can ultimately lead to death. What these two groups have in common is that neither of them are proactive in setting health goals to help reduce their chances of developing the disease in question.

However, the truth is, if you have a genetic predisposition to developing a disease, your genetic makeup only contributes to the development of the disease. It may not be the single cause of developing the disease, so having a genetic predisposition in addition to compounding lifestyle and environmental elements (that you can control) can either greatly increase or decrease your risk of getting the disease. This means that setting health goals can be mitigating factors in your genetic predisposition and help reduce your risk if you follow through with them.

Your health goals can range from being quick, five-minute habits to exercising for a few hours on a regular basis. There are a lot of things you can do to improve your health, and when you put them all together, they will compound to help you get the most out of life through your daily healthy habits.

Now that you know why it is important to set health goals, let’s look at 23 health goals that you could achieve in 2020.

23 Health Goals to Achieve in 2020

1. Get Adequate Sleep

A lot of us feel like there are not enough hours in the day–trust me, I’m one of them. But in order to be able to use the time that you do have efficiently, you need to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night. This is a basic need that will impact all other areas of your life.

If you have trouble falling asleep, here are some tips to help you get the slumber that you need. It is also important to know the basics of sleep hygiene so you can be sure to set yourself up for success.

2. Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Set a specific goal in this domain that makes sense to your eating preferences. If you don’t want to go completely vegetarian, that’s certainly ok. You can still incorporate lean meats and dairy into your daily eating routine. But set a goal amount (perhaps 80%?) of your diet that you think you could realistically make plant-based. If you need to, start small and slowly cut things out. If you set this goal, pay special attention to limiting processed foods.

3. Abstain from Alcohol, Smoking, and Illegal Drug Use

Nearly 21 million Americans have an addiction of some sort, however, only 10% of this population seeks treatment. Many people who suffer from depression or anxiety turn to harmful substances such as alcohol, nicotine, or drugs as a coping mechanism. However, each of these options is extremely harmful for your health.

Drinking alcohol increases your chances of developing diseases such as cancer, liver disease, and other chronic conditions. It can also negatively impact learning and memory, accelerate the aging process, and disrupt healthy sleeping patterns.


Smoking is the number one cause of preventable death worldwide due to a wide variety of diseases that it may cause, and avoiding illegal drug use will result in better overall health–both mental and physical.

4. Reform Your Dessert

If you crave something sweet after dinner, you certainly aren’t alone. Somehow a plate of vegetables isn’t quite as appealing as a bowl of ice cream or a piece of cake. But sometimes eating dessert can be a slippery slope. If you get into the routine of having a brownie and ice cream every night, it will just be second nature to indulge in what you may have formerly considered to be a “treat”.

Choose something light that offers you a bit of nutrients. One of my favorite things to have for dessert is strawberries with freshly whipped cream on top. Being able to incorporate pleasures like reasonably healthy desserts into a nutritionally balanced diet is one of the most effective ways to develop a realistic approach to managing your weight and staying in great health.

5. Take the Time For Self-Care

Make sure to put yourself first by practicing self-careDoing so allows you to take intentional time away from stress so you can be more resilient when you’re facing challenges. Know what your boundaries are and set functional limits in order to operate at capacity in all of the areas of your life.

6. Eat Breakfast Every Day

We’re all rushing out of the door in the mornings, but you have to take the time to fuel your body in order to do your best work each day. Make breakfast the night before if you have to or get up ten minutes early to pack something to take with you in the car. Make sure that your breakfast includes protein and whole grains in it so you can stay full and satisfied throughout the morning. There are so many benefits to eating breakfast, including increasing your concentration and metabolism and decreasing your cholesterol.

7. Get a Pedometer

I know the standard goal is to hit 10,000 steps a day, but I want you to aim for 15,000. You can do this by:

  • Parking as far away as possible from your office (if you’re unable to walk there)
  • Going for a walk on your lunch break
  • Getting up to talk to a co-worker rather than emailing them a question
  • Taking a quick walk around the office at least once an hour

Push yourself and create challenges for yourself to always be beating yesterday’s numbers.


8. Don’t Take Two Days Off in a Row

No matter what goal you’re focusing on, whether it’s hitting the gym or doing an overhaul of your diet, you may take a rest or a “cheat” day, but don’t do this twice in a row. You need to maintain your momentum to make your goals into habits, and this requires consistency and dedication. Research shows it takes approximately 66 days to turn an action into a habit, so you don’t want to break that up too much.

9. Keep a Food Journal

Not only will keeping a food journal help you become aware of how much you’re actually eating throughout the day, it will also make you second guess yourself every time you reach for that bag of chips at 3:00pm. If you know you have to write something down, you’re more likely to take pause before eating it–especially if it’s a snack that’s open and you would typically eat it out of boredom.

10. Get Involved With a Supportive Community

If your goal is to start running, join a running club. If you want to start a Paleo diet, join an online group of people who follow this diet and share recipes with each other. Having a supportive group of people who are encouraging of your goals is critical to success. Finding a community of people who all share your common goal will give you a place to go during possible moments of weakness, and it can allow you to help other people on their journey to achieving the goal, which is motivating and rewarding in itself.

11. Be Selective of Your Rewards

If you run three miles one day and want to reward yourself for making such great progress, don’t turn to a brownie sundae to do this job. Don’t choose rewards that counteract the success that you just gained. Rather, tell yourself you can’t catch up on the latest episode of your favorite show until you complete your run for the day. Or find another motivating factor that will allow you to feel rewarded without undoing your hard efforts.

12. Unplug Yourself

Putting away your phone or laptop isn’t just good for your mental health, it’s good for your physical health as well. Sure, you will develop deeper relationships with actual people if you interact with them in real life, but aside from that, when you’re on your phone or laptop, you’re more than likely sitting or being sedentary in some way. Do not spend a significant amount of time using electronics each day.

13. Learn Your History

Find out what diseases run in your family so you can be aware of what you may be at a higher risk of developing in the future. This way, you can either take specific steps to reduce your risk, or you can begin getting screenings earlier than you normally would.

14. Do a Self-Check Mid-Meal

Often, we have a habit of finishing everything on our plate, even if we’re full, possibly because there is a sense of guilt associated with wasting food after you’ve prepared it. In fact, research shows that people tend to eat 92% of whatever they put on their plate. But if you’re satisfied after eating just 50%, that’s a great opportunity to wrap up the rest and have a meal waiting for you for another time.

Practice portion control and mindful eating by paying attention to your internal signals of feeling satisfied instead of waiting for an external cue to stop eating, such as your plate being clean.

15. Age Gracefully


I’m sure you’ve heard someone say that age is just a number, but if you’re starting to notice some physical signs of aging (such as wrinkles, age spots, etc.), it can be a tough pill to swallow that your youth is behind you.

Keep in mind that there are some really great things about getting older. In fact, people over 40 often report being happier, less stressed, and more confident than they were 20 years ago. There are a lot of reasons to embrace your age, and in doing so, you will demonstrate to others that your life experience is a strength rather than something to be ashamed of.

16. Increase Your Physical Strength

You will have to make this goal more specific depending on your current strength level, but most of us could use some more lean muscle on our bodies. When you have strong muscles, you reduce your risk of injury and make it easier to maintain a healthy body weight. Keep track of how much weight you can lift as you’re trying to increase your strength so you can watch your progress.

17. Reduce Your Risk of Disease

Make sure to attend all preventative care appointments that apply to you. Aside from your annual checkup with your primary care physician, get a dental cleaning every six months, get all of the routine tests and exams for your age, and get vaccinations to boost your immune system. Stay one step ahead of your health.

18. Stop Eating Out

I know it’s easy (and sometimes the fastest option) to grab lunch at a drive-through in the middle of the day or pick up dinner on the way home from work. But, not only does this drain your bank account, it can seriously impact your health.

The amount of sodium, calories, and fat in restaurant meals is…usually a mystery. Yes, you can often find some information online, but each restaurant’s servings may vary and the nutrition facts that the restaurants give are often an estimate. You can assume that anything you eat from a restaurant has more sodium, fat, and calories than something that you could make for yourself at home. Which leads me to…

19. Plan and Prep Your Meals

Sundays are a great day to plan and prep your meals for the week. Plan out your meals and then go to the store to buy what you need (and only what you need) to prep them. Not only will this save you time during the week, but it also gives you the ability to have full control over what goes into your body. Prepping your meals ahead of time will ensure that you eat a balanced diet and get the nutrients that your body needs.

20.Practice Yoga

Yoga is great for your health because it promotes relaxation and helps you develop a mind/body connection. Practicing yoga also helps increase your strength and flexibility and helps you maintain a healthy metabolism. Finally, focusing on your breathing can help improve your respiration, energy, and vitality.


21. Walk Everywhere Within a Mile


If you’re headed out to run an errand and it’s less than a mile away, leave your car at home and walk there (unless you’re planning on doing a big grocery trip or will otherwise be returning home with a car load of things). The more walking you can incorporate into your day, the better your health will be, as it can help you lose weight, get some fresh air, reduce your risk of developing several diseases, and improve your mood.

If your neighborhood isn’t walkable, walk from store to store in a shopping center if you have to make several stops. While you may be tempted to drive from one end of the shopping center to the other, it’s healthier to choose to get some extra steps into your day.

22. Educate Yourself

It would be ideal if you have the time and the funds to hire a dietitian and a personal trainer, but many of us don’t. If this is the case, take the time to do some self-education to gain a basic level of knowledge behind the biological processes that occur to help you meet your goals. Some things to research could be:

  • The importance of getting a good night’s sleep
  • The connection between your diet, physical activity, and weight loss
  • How your diet impacts your metabolism (and how your metabolism works)
  • The principles of healthy eating
  • The proper form of exercise and recommended levels of physical activity

23. Maintain a Positive Mindset

Your mental health is certainly a big part of your overall health. You’re continually faced with challenges and temporary setbacks in life–these are inevitable–but having a positive attitude will keep you motivated to stick with all of your other health goals.

If you can learn how to cope with life’s challenges and move forward with a positive attitude, you will be able to move forward more easily with life after experiencing a hardship. You can even learn to see challenges as opportunities to grow. A large part of your ability to stay healthy comes from how you deal with and manage stress.

Final Thoughts

I hope that you find some of these health goals to be habits that you want to incorporate into your life. But keep in mind, it’s often overlooked just how closely related your goals may often be. Most improvements that you make in one area of your health will have a positive impact on another area.

For example, if you’re overweight and you start training for a 10k, the extra calories that you’re burning through increased activity will help you lose weight. Improving your diet by focusing on eating plant-based foods can also help reduce your cholesterol levels. Everything has a domino effect. So if one goal seems a little far-fetched, change your focus to other related goals that will have a positive impact on your long-term challenge. This will help your bigger goals become more of a product of your habits rather than something that is completely out of reach.


Choose some of these health goals to start in 2020, and if you come back and look at this list in six months, you may find that you’re meeting more goals than you originally thought.


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The Use of Digestive Enzymes in Specific Digestive Disorders


As a companion piece to our Q&A with M. Mamadou, PhD, in the September 2013 NMJ Supplement, we asked Dr Mamadou to outline some specific digestive disorders that can benefit from the use of supplemental digestive enzymes. Read the full Q&A here.

Supplemental digestive enzymes can be very helpful in alleviating digestive disorders. Some specific conditions in which supplemental digestive enzymes can be used include the following.

Pancreatic Insufficiency
This condition refers to the inability of the pancreas to produce enough digestive enzymes to help break down the foods in the intestine. Sometimes, the pancreas may produce the enzymes, but those enzymes are destroyed for various reasons before they perform their function.

The end result in cases of pancreatic insufficiency is malabsorption, diarrhea, high susceptibility to diseases, and other serious health conditions. Thus, under such conditions, the normal therapy is to have the patient take enzymes. The enzymes currently used are mostly enzymes derived from porcine pancreas. Although that practice has worked, there is trend to use supplemental enzymes derived from plants or fungal fermentations. The advantages of these enzymes is that they are stable to the acid in the stomach and do not require any additional ingredients to protect them from the acid as do the porcine enzymes. Furthermore, many people and their healthcare providers use fungal enzymes due to some recent animal disease concerns associated with enzymes derived from animals.

Lactose Intolerance
When lactose is not digested in the small intestine, it causes diarrhea and flatulence. Lactase is the enzyme responsible for breaking lactose down. Although everyone has this enzyme as a baby, some people lose it as they stop breastfeeding and as they grow older. For people who lack lactase, drinking or eating any milk product containing lactose results in serious discomfort. This condition of discomfort associated with the lack of the enzyme lactase is called lactose intolerance. Supplemental digestive enzyme products containing effective lactase enzyme can remedy the conditions associated with lactose intolerance.

Casein and Gluten Intolerance
Casein and gluten are 2 major proteins derived respectively from milk and wheat. Some people cannot tolerate casein and/or gluten in their foods. The consumption of these food items creates major health issues, ranging from inflammation to neurobiological disorders. In fact, these 2 proteins are the focus of major research in neurobiological disorders, such as autism, schizophrenia, attention deficit disorder (ADD), and others. Studies have found that in some people, casein and gluten are partially digested. Some of the resulting fragments from this partial digestion are called peptides and act as opioids and are thus termed opioid-like peptides. As the name implies, they act on the brain centers as opioids do, thus creating various mood and behavior issues. As milk and wheat components are found in many food items, the inability to digest them and the consequent health challenges constitute a major concern for patients and their parents. It should be noted that most patients experience the symptoms as kids in terms of autism, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and ADD.

Many studies have documented the association of these opioid-like peptides derived from casein and from gluten to conditions such as autism and schizophrenia. As a consequence, efforts have been made to incorporate supplemental proteolytic enzymes that break down proteins such as casein and gluten in people with autism and other neurobiological disorders associated with digestive impairment.

In the natural and integrative medicine sector, I have seen many practitioners and even parents adopting enzymes to help in the treatment. Some well-conducted studies have documented the use of enzymes in these cases. Thus, this is another area of application of supplemental enzymes to correct a gastrointestinal disorder that directly or indirectly impact the brain function and overall quality of life.

Although casein and gluten have been extensively studied in relation to their opioid-like peptides, other proteins may also be culprits if not properly hydrolyzed in the gut. This is one of the reasons that including supplemental digestive enzymes could help prevent or reduce the risks of digestive and other health challenges originating from the gut.

Supplemental digestive enzymes could help prevent or reduce the risks of digestive and other health challenges originating from the gut.

Food Allergies
An allergy is by definition an immune reaction elicited by a foreign protein in contact with the body’s immune system. The gut's sophisticated immune system, along with digestive enzymes, helps suppress any allergen-inducing capability contained in the food proteins we consume. However, in cases of insufficient digestive enzyme function in the gut, some proteins can induce an immune reaction that could be very severe. As a result, many people avoid foods that they are allergic to. Sometimes, people may not be aware of the culprit food until after consumption. Supplemental digestive enzymes high in proteases are very helpful in controlling food allergies. As a result, many people go back and eat the foods they were allergic to. The fact is that as long as a protein is completely broken down as in digestion, it loses its capacity to induce any allergic or immunogenic reaction.

Celiac Disease
This condition results from the body’s inability to hydrolyze wheat proteins. As a result, there is an immune reaction that leads to inflammation and injury to the intestinal cells. This condition should not be confused with the gluten intolerance described above that has been associated with neurobiological disorders such as autism. Celiac disease destroys the intestinal cells and thus impairs the functionality of the brush border enzymes, as well as the ability of the cells to perform their absorptive function. Introducing supplemental digestive enzymes containing highly active proteases and peptidases may help with the condition.

Microbial Control
The digestive system receives many bacteria through the foods and beverages we consume. Some of these bacteria are pathogenic or potentially pathogenic. In the stomach, the acid helps kill some of these bacteria; this is another reason that acid in the stomach is good and has a preventative role.

Recently, some researchers have shown that enzymes taken under specific conditions can help prevent infection by bacteria. Many bacteria use some molecules to attach themselves to the surface of a cell before they penetrate the cell and take over its metabolism, thus infecting the cell. These researchers have found that by using enzymes to prevent attachment of the bacteria, they were able to stop infectivity by some pathogenic intestinal bacteria. This is an example of enzyme-controlling bacteria that could induce serious digestive infectious diseases. More research needs to be done in this area to determine the various formulations and conditions under which enzymes could effectively control microbial infection, considering the fact that various bacteria have various infectivity mechanisms.

Colon Health
The colon is like a reservoir or fermentation tank that receives all foods not digested and absorbed in the small intestine. The health of the colon is a function of the taxonomy of the probiotics and their ecological balance, as well as the nutrients they receive. The nutrients received by the probiotics depend largely on the digestive and absorption processes in the small intestine. Thus, besides maintaining good flora in the large intestine, it is important to maintain good digestive function by supplementing with enzymes.

If too much food is not digested and absorbed in the upper small intestine, not only will the body be undernourished, but the organisms in the large intestine could be overwhelmed, and the gut bacteria balance could shift toward the deleterious organisms. Moreover, the composition of undigested foods that reach the large intestine could play an important role in disturbing the ecological balance in the colon.


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About the Author
M. Mamadou, PhD, is the chief science officer of Phytomedic Labs. He earned his doctorate from the University of Cincinnati and has been actively involved in enzyme-based formulations for health and wellness. His present research activities focus on isolating new phytochemicals and enzymes for dietary supplements. He has taught and conducted research at several universities and has provided consulting and research services for many health and nutrition companies, including EnzymeScience, Inc, a key sponsor of the Natural Medicine Journal.

Stress less and enjoy the holidays more with our tips for managing your hectic holiday schedule.
 Talk to anyone about the holidays, and underneath the anticipation and excitement lurks a bit of apprehension. Most of us look forward to the holiday season, but there is no denying that the list of responsibilities can be long and overwhelming. Here are seven tried-and-true tips for reducing holiday stress so you not only survive, but also truly enjoy this time of the year.

1. Start Early
Tackling big tasks early ensures you’re not rushing around at the last minute. Spend time making a to-do list, categorize each task as either time-sensitive and more flexible, and then assign due dates. Breaking down the tasks to one or two per week will make your schedule more manageable. Starting early also means you can buy gifts for friends and family online, leaving plenty of time for delivery!

2. Delegate
Repeat after us: You don’t have to do it all. Give family members tasks to complete: present wrapping, food prep, decorating. Don’t worry if it’s not done perfectly – the goal is to give you some breathing room and include your loved ones in the preparations.

3. Fake It Until You Make It
To look refreshed and awake – even when you’re not – don’t neglect your skincare routine. Use a good facial scrub to sluff off the dry winter to cleanse and brighten your skin tone, and follow up with coconut oil for energized, healthy-looking skin. And don’t forget your eyes! doTerras Immortale' it contains essential oils that help fight visible signs of fatigue.

4. Practice Self-Care
Unfortunately, the holiday season is also cold and flu season. Remember to wash your hands frequently to avoid illness. If you do catch a bug, ease your symptoms with Umcka Elderberry Intensive Cold Plus Flu Syrup and doTerras Breathe Vapor Stick, and get as much rest as you can in between all the holiday prep. Don't forget to keep up on extra Vitamin C and Vitamin D!

5. Create a Few Traditions (but Make Them Easy!)
Family traditions are the bedrock of a happy holiday. Knowing there are certain things you do together as a family every year can create a sense of anticipation and stability. If your extended family travels to your home during the holidays, pick one or two of your favorite activities and elevate them to traditions to enjoy while everyone is in town. Choose simple but enjoyable activities that will appeal to everyone and won’t create extra work for you. A trip to the local ice-skating rink or a board-game tournament can be just the thing to let everyone unwind.

6. Keep It Simple
What are your most treasured holiday memories from when you were a kid? Most likely they have little to do with perfectly matching table decorations and much more to do with your mom’s signature holiday dish, your dad’s funny songs or your aunt’s snarky family stories. Avoid falling into the trap of setting your own (and others’) expectations too high, and concentrate on what really matters: time spent with the ones you love.

7. Practice Gratitude
The holidays are a chance to focus on the things we have – friends, family, a roof over our heads, food on our tables – rather than the things we don’t. By thinking about your good fortune and sharing these thoughts with others, you can shift your stressed-out perspective to one of mindfulness, peace and gratitude.

*When using any products, carefully read each label to ensure correct dosing. Use as directed. Keep out of reach of children.

I watched this amazing video by Evan Carmichael this morning about expanding their consciousness. Please watch it.


If you are ready to take the next steps in expanding your mind and are truly ready to up-level your get out free e-guide on mind expansion at






The statistics are sobering; more than two-thirds of the American population is overweight or obese, and one in three children is now overweight or obese. To make matters worse, the number of obese Americans keeps climbing.

As a result, many people want to start eating healthier foods, but some think that to eat healthy, they have to spend more money. Believe it or not, you can eat healthy on a budget. I do it every day.

Here are some tips you can use to eat healthy on a budget.

The Benefits of Eating Healthy

My body quickly responds when I don’t eat healthy, or follow my fitness routine. My energy goes down, my mood changes, I’m less productive at work, and I start catching every little cold that comes my way. I need to eat healthy, and get enough exercise, for my overall health and well-being. I fall off the wagon from time to time, but I always return to eating healthy and following my workout routine. Once you make the transition to eating healthier foods, you will feel better too.

Eating healthy foods lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, being overweight or obese, and certain types of cancer. Avoiding these conditions saves you from heartache and sickness, and also saves you money with lower healthcare costs. Transitioning to a healthy diet also increases your value to employers. You’ll have more energy, an excellent attendance record, and increased productivity.

Eating Healthy at Home

Cooking and eating at home can help you maintain a healthy diet, and is cheap, fun, and much healthier than eating out.

Do most of your grocery shopping in the perimeter of the grocery store. Avoid the middle aisles, including pre-packaged food, frozen meals, and sweets, and spend most of your shopping dollars on fruits and vegetables, fresh meats, seafood, and dairy. If you have to visit any aisle, pick the one with organic foods, beans, and grains, including rice, farrah, and bulgar.

Another great option for busy families is to use a meal delivery service that offers healthy options. I have frequently used HelloFresh because of the choices they offer. You can also plan your meals ahead and freeze enough for the entire month. MyFreezEasy will give you meal plans and show you how to successfully cut meal prep time and cost.

If you want to eat healthy on a budget, start with these foods:

1. Fruits and Vegetables

Put fruits and vegetables on top of your grocery list. Buying fresh fruits and vegetables is less expensive and healthier than buying pre-cut, bagged, and canned produce. You have to do more prep work, but in the long run you can save money, and you know exactly what goes into food preparation. Fruits have a natural sugar that gives you longer-lasting energy than the refined sugars in snack foods. Fruit is also a great source of fiber.

Incorporating more fruits and vegetables into your diet can be challenging, but it helps to understand your weak points. For example, I have a serious weakness for bread; I reach for bread whenever I’m craving something to eat. I try to use this craving to my advantage.

If I want bread as a treat, I first have to eat some vegetables. I usually go for a dark green salad, drizzled with olive oil and red wine vinegar. I munch some carrots, or chop up a cucumber into rice wine vinegar. After I’ve eaten my veggies, then I can have some bread. I typically find that I no longer want the bread, or that I don’t want as much bread, after I’ve filled up on vegetables.

You can also slip in more fruits and vegetables by eating them as snacks. Instead of pulling out a bag of chips, eat some carrots, fresh broccoli with low-fat ranch dressing, or an apple. You can save money on your fruits and vegetables by purchasing in-season produce.

Epicurious has a wonderful map that shows in-season fruits and vegetables in your area, and you can refer to it before you head to the store. Frozen fruits and vegetables often go on sale, and thanks to modern flash-freezing, they’re just as healthy as fresh produce. Additionally, search for bargains on fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets, which often offer lower prices than grocery stores. You can find a lot of unusual items at farmers’ markets that you cannot find in regular stores.

2. Whole Grains

If you want to eat healthy and lose weight, work more whole grains (considered one of the top superfoods) into your diet. Whole grains have not had their bran and germ removed by the milling process.

According to the Mayo Clinic, eating whole grains lowers your risk of heart disease. Whole grains are chock-full of fiber, which helps keep your digestive system healthy and moving, and expands once inside your stomach, to help you feel full. A weight-loss program should include a high-fiber diet. You can easily work many good sources of fiber into your meals. These small changes don’t have to cost you any extra money. Moreover, when you eat less, you save more money on groceries, too.

If you eat white flour bread, switch to whole grain breads. Instead of buying Saltine crackers, choose whole grain crackers. Eat a lot of white rice? Switch to brown rice. You can easily make these changes, and they won’t cost you a dime.

You can also work more inexpensive, raw grains into your diet. You can buy many grains, like bulgar, couscous, farrah, quinoa, and rice in bulk at larger supermarkets, and natural food stores like Whole Foods. Buying grains in bulk is a wonderful way to save money. Stores that offer natural and organic products, like Whole Foods and New Seasons, and local health food stores, offer a wide variety of grains for the budget-conscious.

3. Proteins

Steak and pork chops are pricey, and loaded with saturated fat, a direct contributor to heart disease. We need to eat protein every day, but we don’t need to eat an excessive amount of it. Adult men need 55 grams of protein per day, while adult women need 46 grams. Pregnant or lactating women need 71 grams of protein per day.

It doesn’t take much to get the protein you need every day. One egg contains 6 grams of protein.  One cup of cooked lentils gives you 18 grams of protein. Protein hides in a lot of places you might not expect.

Here are some cheap and healthy ways to add protein to your diet, without splurging on unhealthy steak or pork chops:

  • 1 cup of almond milk: 8 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of dried beans: 16 grams of protein
  • 2 tablespoons of peanut butter: 8 grams of protein
  • 2 slices of whole grain bread: 8 grams of protein
  • 1 ounce of walnuts: 4 grams of protein
  • 1/2 cup of cottage cheese: 16 grams of protein
  • 1 cup of tofu: 16 grams of protein
  • 5 ounces of Greek yogurt: 15 grams of protein

4. Popcorn

I love popcorn. This popular whole grain snack is low-calorie, high in fiber, and cheap. The loose kernels cost less than pre-bagged popcorn, and buying them enables you to skip the extra calories from the butter, as well as the high salt content, of prepackaged popcorn.

When I make popcorn, I pour several tablespoons of kernels into a brown paper lunch sack, and fold up the bag. I put the bag in the microwave for a minute or two; when it’s done, I drizzle some olive oil and a little high-quality salt over the popcorn. Delicious!

More Ways to Save Money and Eat Healthy

  1. Make your own dips, sauces, salad dressings, soups, and spreads for wraps and sandwiches. When you make these items at home, you can reduce or eliminate the sodium and fat and cut calories found in pre-packaged products. The items are inexpensive to create, and they add spice to your healthy eating plan. When you make these items as you need them, they will be fresh, and you reduce food waste.
  2. Look for creative ways to add fruits, vegetables, and alternative grains into your diet. Instead of eating plain egg whites, make an egg-white omelet with spinach, shallots, and mushrooms. Experiment by making spicy chicken lettuce wraps, gazpacho, peppers stuffed with quinoa, and broiled polenta with tomato sauce.
  3. Try alternative grains. Quinoa, called a “super grain” because of its high protein content, can be used as a savory, or can make a delicious breakfast, when served with bananas and honey. Try quinoa, buckwheat, millet, and other alternative grains to give your body a break from traditional white flour products. Rice pasta and other gluten-free products also offer a unique alternative to foods traditionally made with white or whole wheat flour.
  4. Keep a close eye on the calorie, fat, and sodium counts in canned or packaged foods. The organic aisles in the supermarket offer a bounty of foods made with fewer preservatives, and less sodium. Stock up on organic black beans, low-fat refried beans, whole-grain pasta, and other staples when they go on sale. Consider investing in canning equipment, to can your own fruits, vegetables, and fish (i.e. home canning recipes). When you can your own foods, you know exactly what goes into them, and they taste much, much better than canned foods from the grocery store.
  5. Create a meal plan. Before you shop for healthy, budget-conscious food items listed here, create a meal plan. If you have a specific idea of what you plan to cook, and carry a shopping list at the grocery store, you will spend less money, and stay on track with your healthy eating plan. In addition to creating a meal plan, keep a journal of the foods you eat. The journal helps you monitor your food intake, improve your diet, and stick with healthy foods long-term.

Tips for Making Healthier Restaurant Choices

Before meeting friends or family at a restaurant, have a healthy snack at home. You can stave off cravings, and reduce hunger, by eating an apple or a banana 30 minutes before you leave. This tip also works well during the holiday season, when food-laden parties abound.

You can save money, and stick to your health goals, by following these additional tips when dining out:

1. Do Your Homework on Restaurant Options

Most restaurants have their menu readily available online and some even have nutrition charts posted on their websites. You can also call the restaurant, and ask if they have healthy or low-fat meals available.

Depending on the size and popularity of the restaurant, you may find online reviews with healthy meal suggestions. Two great websites to review include Yelp and Urbanspoon. Restaurant and fast food meals often include high amounts of fat, salt, and calories. Even when restaurants reveal calorie counts for meals, USA Today reports that they often underestimate these numbers by as much as 20%.

2. Look for a Smaller Portion Section on the Menu

By now, most restaurants know that many people watch what they eat, and have thus added a special section to their menus, which makes finding the right food easier than ever.

For example, T.G.I. Friday’s offers a “Right Portion Right Price” menu for those who want to eat healthy, while also saving money. Richard Snead, president and chief executive officer of Carlson Restaurants Worldwide, parent of T.G.I. Friday’s restaurants, said “This is a category issue stemming from consumer demand. The category needs to listen.”

If the menu doesn’t highlight heart-healthy or low-fat options, order grilled chicken or broiled fish. Avoid fried foods and cream-based salad dressings, sauces, and soups. Your server can provide more details about healthy options on the menu.

You can also ask for a child-sized portion at many restaurants. Some restaurants, including Olive Garden, allow diners to order a lunch portion for dinner. Most restaurants offer oversized portions, so order a lunch-sized portion or a children’s meal to save money and stay on track with your healthy eating plan.

You can also save calories, and a bit of money, by halving the food at a restaurant. Ask for a to-go box, and divide the food into two portions before you begin eating. This ensures that you don’t overindulge, and that you have leftovers for lunch the following day. Decline the server’s offer of a bread basket, and fill up on salad instead.

3. Go to Independently Owned Restaurants

Restaurant chains such as Denny’s, Chili’s, and Big Boy serve gigantic portions. You can get reasonably-sized meals at smaller, independently-run restaurants. You also might get a healthier meal, since many smaller restaurants, especially those in bigger cities, source their fresh produce locally whenever they can.

Also, because many of the smaller restaurants use fresh, local produce, the food tastes better. Larger chains often don’t take the time or go through the trouble and expense to source food locally; they use lower-quality ingredients, and rely on salt and fat to improve the taste of the food. Avoid all-you-can-eat restaurants, where healthy food choices are supplanted by foods high in calories, fat, and sodium.

4. Practice Moderation

Restaurants serve you more food than you actually need. Try to practice moderation whenever you dine out, and don’t feel pressured to eat everything. Resist bread, soup, and dessert, and eat more salad, instead. Ask your server if a dish can be prepared with oil instead of butter, and substitute a plain baked potato, a dish of fruit, or a salad for French fries.

5. Try Mediterranean Restaurants

Mediterranean restaurants are a budget-conscious dieter’s best friend. Hummus, tabbouleh, whole wheat pita bread, Greek salads, and rice are heart-healthy standard fare. The food is high in protein, and inexpensive, especially if you order appetizer portions instead of full meals. Always verify calorie counts online or in a restaurant before ordering your meal.



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