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A quick and easy dose of fruits

Strawberry

Yogurt Shake


Ingredients:
½ cup unsweetened pineapple juice
¾ cup plain low fat yogurt
1½ cups frozen, unsweetened strawberries

Directions:
Add ingredients, in order listed, to blender container. Puree at medium speed, until thick and smooth.

Source: www.cdc.gov/nutrition

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Good health on a budget

 

Summer is a time of delicious abundance. Bright berries, leafy greens, dark red tomatoes, deep orange melons and sunny yellow squash spill from the summer cornucopia. Vegetables and fruits like these are loaded with essential vitamins, minerals and fiber needed for good health. When swapped for higher calorie foods, they can help you shed unwanted pounds.

So why aren’t you eating more of them?

“Take a look at your plate at mealtimes,” said Dr. Jan Cook, medical director of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts. “Aim to fill half of it with vegetables and fruit.”

If that’s not how you’d describe your meals, it’s fine to work toward this healthy goal one plate — or just one extra portion of veggies and fruit — at a time. And if you worry that buying more fresh produce will take too big a bite out of a tight food budget, try these eight tips to help stretch your dollars:

PLAN FIRST, SHOP SECOND. Always start with a grocery list. Before deciding what to buy, go through the fridge and cabinets to see what you have on hand. Then check store ads and clip coupons.

BE FLEXIBLE. Sticking to a grocery list helps keep you on budget. Yet veering off course for seasonal produce or unexpected store sales can keep money in your wallet. Avoid overbuying by substituting sale items for previous plans.

BUY BIG — THEN SPLIT IT. “Big bags of staples like apples, oranges, onions and sweet potatoes may help you save money, especially if you split bulk purchases with friends or family,” said Whittier Street Health Center nutritionist Kerry Mendes, M.S., R.D. Always compare unit prices, shown per ounce, pound, or pint on store shelf labels, to see if you can do just as well or better buying by the pound. Look closely at bagged produce, too, to make sure you’re not getting stuck with overripe or bruised items.

STAY CHILLED. Frozen produce is just as healthy as fresh. Stock up on favorites during sales or buy less costly store brands for your freezer.

STACK UP. Canned produce stacks easily and can save costs during sales. Healthy choices are low-sodium vegetables packed in water and fruit packed in water or its own juices.

COOK OFF. Sometimes, grocery stores and farmers’ markets discount fruits and vegetables that are blemished or teetering on overripe. Pare away bad spots before popping them in the pot.

RELY ON THE ALPHABET. SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, once called food stamps) and WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) are accepted by many stores for purchases of frozen, canned or fresh produce.

SEARCH OUT BARGAINS. Bargains on fresh produce abound at the Boston Haymarket near Faneuil Hall and the outdoor stalls in Chinatown. The Fair Foods Two-Dollars-A-Bag program offers anyone in need a changing selection of surplus fresh produce and other foods. Check online or call the organization for nearby locations (www.fairfoods.org or 617-288-6185).

Or shop local farmers’ markets, where the Boston Bounty Bucks program stretches $10 of SNAP benefits into $20 of food. Open on specific weekdays during summer and fall, farmers’ markets pop up outside at Boston Medical Center (Fridays), Copley Square (Tuesdays, Fridays), South Station (Tuesdays, Thursdays), Codman Square (Thursdays) and Fields Corner (Saturdays) in Dorchester among other sites.

Check http://thefoodproject.org/bountybucks for program information plus convenient market locations, days and times. Before shopping, find the Market Information Table at local farmers’ markets to ask how Bounty Bucks are handled.

Enjoy the abundance

Now that you’ve stocked up, how can you fit more fruits and vegetables into meals and snacks?

Set a family challenge. Instead of watching “The Voice,” try judging “The Food” by challenging picky eaters to taste-test — and rate — one new vegetable or fruit per week. Put out small quantities to avoid waste. Low-cal salad dressings and flavored yogurts make great dips for those suspicious of trying new veggies and fruits.

Do a makeover. Give your plate a makeover that packs more produce into your daily diet. Go online at www.fruitsand veggiesmorematters.org/give-your-plate-a-makeover to learn delicious ways to help meals and snacks measure up.

Play hide and seek. Stir-fries, smoothies, and soups are perfect spots to shoehorn in that extra serving of vegetables and fruits.

Try a new dish. Wake up snoozing taste buds by cooking a new dish. Check out the African Heritage Diet Pyramid from Oldways, which emphasizes traditional healthy favorites like collards and other leafy greens (oldwayspt.org), or try internationally inspired recipes from the Harvard School of Public Health Nutrition Source (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/recipes/home-cooking/index.html).

In addition to eating healthy — remember to stay active!

There are lost of fun events in and around Boston to help you stay fit this summer — including Circle The City 2012: Boston’s 1st Open Streets, Open Parks.

Take part in several free sports and fitness clinics, bikes, walks, yoga, dance, environmental education, music, kids’games, healthy food and much more.

Visit www.emeraldnecklace.org/circle-the-city to learn more.