Nutrient-packed beans a hearty addition to diet

chow_030416-164065142We’re thinking of incorporating more beans in our meals, primarily to reduce the amount of meat we’re eating (and buying), but also because they’re supposed to be very good for you. But my husband, who has type 2 diabetes, is worried about adding more carbohydrates. Is this a bad idea?

Actually, beans are a great option for everyone, perhaps especially for people with diabetes.

A 2012 study in Nutrition Journal tested the effect that pinto beans, black beans and dark red kidney beans have on blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes when eaten with white rice, which is known to cause blood sugar spikes. The researchers tested participants’ blood sugar every 30 minutes for three hours after the participants ate either white rice alone or rice with one type of the beans. Even though the meals with beans contained more total carbohydrates, the participants’ blood sugar was highest at each interval after they ate the rice alone than when the rice was paired with beans.

If your husband is concerned, though, encourage him to keep a close eye on his blood sugar levels after eating a bean-based meal. If he notices significant differences and is on insulin, he should discuss any changes in dosage with a health professional.

That said, beans are a healthful option that deserve a place at the table for just about everyone. In the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, beans are considered a unique food: They can be considered as either a meat substitute or a vegetable. They are high in both plant protein and fiber, as well as B vitamins, iron, folate, calcium, potassium, phosphorus and zinc.

The fiber in beans can be significant. Adults should eat anywhere between 22 grams to 34 grams of fiber a day, depending on their caloric intake — most Americans don’t get nearly that amount. Neither do Americans consume enough beans and other legumes, eating only about half the recommended amounts of 1.5-3 cups a week for men and 1-2 cups for women. Adding a bean-based meal or two to your weekly menu could go a long way to helping you meet those recommendations.

If you use canned beans, consider buying those that are lower in sodium. Or, rinse the beans before using them — that alone will reduce the sodium quite a bit.

If you start with dry beans — an economical option — first rinse them in cold water, picking out any pebbles or stems. Cover the beans with three times their amount of water and either soak for six hours, or bring to a boil and soak for at least two hours. Soaking overnight or after boiling makes them less likely to give you gas. Then, drain the beans and cook them in fresh water according to package directions.

If you currently don’t eat a lot of beans, you may want to add them gradually to your diet. This will allow your body to get used to them and reduce the chance of gas and other gastrointestinal distress.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Carolyn Gunther, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Community Nutrition Education.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Plan ahead to save at grocery store

200246019-001My grocery bill seems to be getting more and more expensive. I noticed it especially when we stocked up the weekend before school started. What are some ways we can cut expenses but still have enough to eat?

The cost of food does inch up over time, but not as much as you might think. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s official figures, average costs for food for a family of four in June 2010 ranged from $134.50 to $265.90 a week, depending on whether you were being “thrifty” or “liberal” in your spending, compared with $149.50 to $296.80 in June 2015. Note that these estimates count food costs only, not cleaning products or other items that you probably also pick up at the grocery store. They also assume that you’re buying foods for a nutritious diet and that you’re eating all meals and snacks at home.

That said, here are some ideas from the USDA and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to save dollars at the grocery store:

  • It’s often said, but it works: Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Going to the grocery store when you’re hungry can lead to impulse purchases that add up at the cash register.
  • Plan ahead. Look at your grocery store’s weekly circular for sale items that you can build meals around. The circular is often available online if you don’t see one in a local newspaper or with other advertisements delivered to your door.
  • Better yet, look through the dark corners of your freezer and pantry for items you may have forgotten about and determine how you can use them for meals in the coming week. Making use of the food you already have is a no-brainer, especially during weeks when you anticipate having extra expenses on non-food items — like toiletries or school notebooks.
  • Use your week’s menu to build your grocery list — and stick to your list. If you’re tempted to buy something that’s not on the list, think long and hard about it. Do so only if you know you need the item that week or if it’s an especially good bargain.
  • Check prices of sale items to see if you can get the same discount whether or not you purchase the suggested number of items. For example, if a sale item is marked “3 for $6,” you may be able to buy just one of the items for the sale price of $2. This policy varies between stores and among items, but it’s often listed on small print on the price tag on the grocery store shelf.
  • Speaking of price tags, be sure to look at the unit price (price per ounce or other unit of measure) to compare how much you could save over time by buying a larger quantity. Sometimes the unit-price savings are significant, but not always.
  • Take a close look at snack foods or other extras that you “always” put in your cart, examining not only their cost but the nutrition they provide, and determine if there’s a better option. If you typically buy snack crackers, look for those that primarily provide whole grains — or consider whether a bag of apples could take their place.

Chow Line is a service of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, Ohio State University Extension specialist in Food Security.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Chow Line: Stock up and plan for snow day lunches

photo: iStock

photo: iStock

My children always eat their breakfast and lunch at school. Money is tight, and we don’t always have extra food on hand, which is a problem when school is canceled at the last minute because of the weather. I don’t want my children to go hungry just because school is closed. Any ideas? 

First, you’re not alone. During last year’s severe winter, many officials voiced concern about whether some students would have enough to eat at home when schools closed due to weather.

And now, a new national study by the Southern Education Foundation found that 51 percent of children in the nation’s public schools, pre-kindergarten through high school, were eligible to receive free or reduced-price lunches in 2013. This is the first time in recent history that a majority of students in public schools come from low-income families.

When money is so tight that a family has to make hard choices between paying for food or other necessities, it’s a significant challenge to plan ahead for something like meals for snow days. Good for you for thinking of this.

Here are some ideas for keeping an emergency stash of relatively inexpensive foods on hand:

  • Dry beans. Ounce for ounce, dry beans are a bargain. The website “The Simple Dollar” (thesimpledollar.com) recently did a cost comparison, which found that a one-pound bag of dried beans yielded eight cups of cooked beans at an average cost of $1.99, while a can of cooked beans, at an average cost of $1.19, yielded just two cups. If you’ve never used dried beans, you need to be aware that they take time to prepare ­— at least an hour using a “quick-soak” method. The Bean Institute offers step-by-step instructions at beaninstitute.com/recipes/cooking-with-dry-beans. You’ll also likely want to experiment with herbs, spices and other flavorings to add to the cooked beans. It’s recommended that dried beans be stored in an airtight container and be used within a year of purchase for the best quality.
  • Potatoes. Raw potatoes will last several weeks in the pantry — longer if you can store them in a place that stays cool (50-60 degrees F). They’re easy to cook in the oven or the microwave. Top them with some cheese and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned), and your kids will have a hearty meal.
  • Canned tuna, chicken, fruit and vegetables. Canned goods last a long time in the pantry — a year or longer. Keep a few of these staples tucked in a back corner for use in emergencies.

Aside from stocking up, you should be sure you’re getting the assistance you are eligible to receive. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers a list of resources online at snap.nal.usda.gov/resource-library/need-food, including the National Hunger Hotline (1-866-348-6479, or in Spanish at 1-877-842-6273). Ohio also has a Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program hotline, at 1-866-244-0071.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, food security specialist for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

For a PDF of this column, please click here.

Chow Line: Trim costs while buying more produce

chow_010915_488801301Two of my New Year’s resolutions are to eat more fruits and vegetables and to spend less at the grocery store. Other than watching for sales on produce, what are some ideas to help? 

Those are two great resolutions. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines recommend that adults get two to three cups of vegetables and 1.5 to two cups of fruit a day. Keep in mind that it’s important to get a wide variety. Apples and green beans are fine, but you’ll want to spread your wings a bit and eat other types of produce to get the benefits you’re looking for from fruits and vegetables.

And you don’t have to assume that eating more healthfully will be more expensive. A 2012 study by the Economic Research Service, “Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive?” found that healthy foods, including fruits and vegetables, are often less expensive per serving than foods that are higher in saturated fat, added sugar or sodium or that contribute little to meeting the dietary recommendations. So, if you’re smart about buying fruits and vegetables and at the same time buy fewer less-healthy foods, your grocery bill could easily go down.

Here are some ideas to help you achieve your goals:

  • For fresh fruits and vegetables, become familiar with what’s in season. You’re more likely to find good prices on in-season produce, but you first need to know what to look for. For an extensive list, visit the “Fruits and Veggies: More Matters” website at fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org and click on “What’s in season?”
  • Don’t forget the canned and frozen sections of the grocery store. As long as you have the pantry and freezer space, here’s where sales can really help trim costs. Store brands are normally the most economical, but sometimes price reductions on name brands will surprise you, especially if you have a coupon. For health, look for low-sodium canned goods and frozen produce without added sugar or sauces.
  • If you have options on where to shop, check them out. Many people head to the nearest grocery store out of convenience, but better deals could be just down the road. Just be cautious about impulse purchases: Shopping at additional stores provides more opportunities to spend money you didn’t plan on. And don’t be tempted to drive so far that the cost of gas undermines your grocery savings.
  • Be sure to eat what you have on hand before it goes bad. According to a 2014 Economic Research Service report, American consumers throw away 90 billion pounds of food per year, including 9.5 billion pounds of fresh fruit and 12.8 billion pounds of fresh vegetables. That’s not only wasted food, but money down the drain. To reduce waste, plan meals and snacks, and purchase only what your family can eat while it’s fresh. And keep fresh produce as visible as possible — in a bowl on the kitchen counter (if it doesn’t have to be kept cool) or at the front of the refrigerator.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Dan Remley, field specialist in Food, Nutrition and Wellness for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

For a PDF of this column, newly redesigned, please click here.

Eat better while spending less

480928155Every week, I wince at the cost when I go through the grocery store checkout line. How can I save money but still eat healthfully? 

It can seem like a challenge at times, but family and consumer science educators associated with Cooperative Extension and land-grant universities across the country offer tips to help, including:

  • Shop the sales. Look at grocery store fliers to see what’s being offered at a discount. They are often available online in advance to help you plan.
  • Shop on a full stomach. It’s true: You’ll tend to spend less than if you shop when you’re hungry.
  • Plan your meals based on sale items or items you already have on hand. Make a list according to your meal plan, and stick to the list when you shop — unless you see a cheaper alternative while you’re at the store.
  • These days you may find bargain prices on some items in the fresh produce aisle, but don’t forget frozen and canned fruits and vegetables. They are generally cheaper than buying fresh and have comparable nutrients. Try to incorporate more of these items in your meal planning.
  • Bypass convenience foods, such as preseasoned chicken breast and boxed or frozen dinners. Not only do you pay extra for them, but you can control the amount of salt and fat in foods when you prepare them yourself.
  • Check low and high shelves as you walk down the aisles: Often, that’s where you’ll find bargains.
  • Examine unit prices and check if there are lower-cost alternatives. Unit prices — the price per ounce, per pound or other unit — are often listed on the price tag on the store shelf. If not, you can do a quick calculation yourself by taking the price of the product and dividing it by the weight. Larger packages and store brands are normally cheaper than smaller packages and name brands, but not always, especially if there’s a sale or if you have a coupon.
  • That said, use coupons only when they make sense. Always check to see if you could save even more money by buying a store brand instead.
  • When you see an item that you often purchase offered at a significant discount, take advantage and stock up if it’s something that can be stored or frozen for later use.
  • Buying nonfood items at the grocery store can increase costs dramatically. See if you can buy them more cheaply at discount stores.

Need more ideas? Iowa State University Extension’s SpendSmart EatSmart website offers plenty:www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/. Or, see ideas from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program at bit.ly/snapbudget.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences and its outreach and research arms, Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1043, or filipic.3@osu.edu.

Editor: This column was reviewed by Irene Hatsu, state specialist in food security for Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.