News Roundup: Food Costs

Preparing meals and eating healthy may seem difficult on a budget, but recent research has shown that the idea of healthy food being more expensive is not necessarily true. This line of thinking is mostly based on assumptions. Not only is healthy food affordable, but government programs such as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) are beginning to nudge recipients towards healthier options.

This week’s news roundup brings a collection of articles related to the cost of food, how to shop healthy on a budget, and challenges our perception that a healthy lifestyle has to be expensive.

The Cost of Food Influences Your Perception of How Healthy It Is.SHAPE. “According to a new study published in the Journal of Consumer Research, something really funky is going on with how consumers view the health level of a food relative to its price. Basically, the researchers found that the higher the price of a food, the more likely people were to think it was healthy.”

Why Healthy Food Doesn’t Have to Cost More. Consumer Reports. “When we have little or no information about a product's nutritional value, we tend to rely on price as an indicator of its healthfulness. This may be in part because the notion that healthy foods are always more expensive appears to be widespread.”

Could You Cut Your Food Bill by a Third? BBC. “If you're feeling the pinch, there are easy ways to keep more pounds in your pocket next time you head to the shops. You can save yourself more than 50% on many popular foods, or one-third on your weekly shop. With just a few changes to your buying, cooking and eating habits you can cut down your costs without cutting the flavour and nutritional value of your food.”

Food Stamp Restrictions May Encourage Healthy Eating, Discourage Grocers. NPR. “Cookies, cake, potato chips, ice cream, soda and even energy drinks — these are some of the foods and beverages deemed to cause obesity, cavities and other health problems and thus would not be eligible for purchase with food stamps, under a "junk food" bill wending its way through the General Assembly. Monday, it passed out of the House by a vote of 55-39.”

How can Mindfulness Meditation Benefit my Physical Health?


As previously discussed on the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog, there are many mental health benefits to practicing mindful meditation. Increased resiliency, better sleep, slowed cognitive decline associated with aging, and improved math and social skills in children, are just a few of the mental health benefits. This may come as no surprise, considering that mindful mediation has long been used to calm the mind and improve focus and attention.

In more recent history, research is starting to show that mindful mediation also yields physical health benefits for the body as well (e.g. strengthened immune system). Although this type of research is still in its infancy, there are some promising results so far. Below, we discuss what the research tells us about the physical health benefits of mindful mediation.

Reduced Blood Pressure

One study published in 2011 showed that mediation helped reduce blood pressure for young adults at risk for hypertension. Participants in the study were divided into two groups. One group received a weekly seven-step course training in meditation for 3 months. The second group, a wait list control, would not be offered the seven-step training until the end of the 3-month period.

The results showed that participants who were immediately offered the mediation course experienced a decrease in blood pressure when compared to those who hadn’t received the intervention yet. The reduction in blood pressure was also directly correlated with a decrease in in psychological stress and an increase in coping.

Reduced Acute Respiratory Illness (e.g. the flu)

In 2012, researchers examined the effect of a mindfulness mediation program or an exercise program on reducing instances if Acute Respiratory Illness (ACU), such as the flu. Participants were divided into one of three groups: mindfulness mediation, exercise, or control. The mindfulness mediation group received mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) training over an 8-week period. The exercise group participated in an 8-week physical activity program that consisted of group and at-home moderate-intensity exercise sessions. Lastly, the control group was monitored and received no intervention.

At the end of the 8-week period, the results showed that the mindfulness mediation group had less instances of ARI, as compared to the exercise and control groups. The authors of the study theorize that the MBSR training led to increased awareness of physical, emotional, and cognitive manifestations of stress. Which, in turn, led to a healthier mind-body response to stress.

Reduced Severity of Symptoms for Women with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

For this study, women with IBS were assigned to one of two groups: mindfulness meditation or a support group. Women in the mindfulness mediation group received 8-weekly training sessions involving intentionally attending to present-moment experience and cultivating non-judgmental awareness of body sensations and emotions.  The support group attended 8-weekly meetings with other women who also had IBS.

At the end of the 8 weeks, the mindfulness meditation group had reduced severity of symptoms from IBS as compared to the support group. The mindfulness mediation group also experienced improved quality of life and reduced stress.

For more on mindfulness mediation and free guided practices for beginners, check out

Game Time Tips


The Super Bowl is synonymous with food. Well, maybe booze AND food. And we’re not talking about health food, of course. On Super Bowl Sunday, Americans eat 1.3 billion chicken wings and 11.2 million pounds of potato chips. We drink 325 million gallons of beer.  This calorie-fest combined with several hours of sedentary behavior (i.e. sitting on the couch and watching the game) is not exactly conducive with the healthy eating habits many of us have or aspire to have.  Although Super Bowl Sunday will most likely always be a day of indulgence, there are things we can do to help curb some of the worse unhealthy eating behaviors. Below, we offer some tips to help us all have a healthier Super Bowl Sunday. Don’t worry, we can still have our wings (and beer).

Legal Substitutions

For those of us making our own Super Bowl party dishes, we can use this as an opportunity to add in some healthy ingredients to our dishes. For example, these healthy chipotle chicken sweet potato skins have less calories and saturated (unhealthy) fat. Swapping out sweet potatoes for regular potatoes and chicken for bacon adds more protein, fiber, vitamin A, Potassium, and vitamin B-6.

This healthier spinach artichoke dip contains less calories and saturated fat than traditional spinach artichoke dip. By adding white beans and reducing the amount of cream cheese, this dish keeps its creamy texture that people love…and packs more protein and fiber than the its regular recipe.

Take Home Tip: Healthy ingredient swaps make a difference!

Scan the Playing Field

One way to keep from over-indulging on the food buffet is to control our portion sizes. According to mindful eating expert Brian Wansink, it is best to survey all food options first, then make our plate. This helps us identify which foods we really want and which foods we could do without. People who follow this technique tend to consume more appropriate portions than people who simply make their plate as they go along the buffet of options. This technique works whether you are eating at a restaurant buffet or at a home Super Bowl party.

Take Home Tip: Survey the options first, then make a plate.

Trick Plays

Instead of breaded, fried wings, soaked in sauce, try baked or grilled wings. Changing the cooking method from deep frying to grilling or baking is a simple way to reduce excess calories from saturated fat. These ginger garlic shrimp with tangy tomato sauce are also a good addition to the lineup. By using marinade instead of breading, the shrimp retain a savory flavor without the added calories.

Take Home Tip: Bake or grill meats instead of frying them.

1st Snap…Peas

Now that we’ve identified some healthier versions of chicken wings, lets focus on building a healthy, yet filling plate. At least half of our plate should be fruits and veggies. One quarter of our plate should be lean protein and the other quarter of our plate can be whatever we want! Normally this last quarter would be filled with whole grains, but hey, it’s Super Bowl Sunday and trying to eat “perfectly” will likely result in deviating from the plan entirely and over-indulging. Everything in moderation.

Research shows us that we eat for the volume we want, not the calories we want. This is why it’s so important to load our plate up with lean protein, fruits, and veggies. For example, try this white bean dip or these mini turkey burgers with gorgonzola. These foods will help us to feel full and satisfied versus eating high fat and high carbohydrate foods that will likely cause an energy rush followed by an energy crash.

“In other words, volume trumps calories. We eat the volume we want, not the calories we want.”

― Brian Wansink, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think

Take Home Tip: Load up with fruits, veggies, and lean proteins.

Avoid Holding Penalties (Alternate Beer with Water)

Calories from mixed drinks and beer can really add up.  Cutting out alcohol is not an option for most people during the big game. Instead, we recommend to swap out light beer for regular beer. According to Fooducate, a 12-ounce regular beer has 150 calories, whereas a light beer has only 110 calories. Accordingly, a regular beer has 13 grams of carbs compared to a light beer, which has only 5 carbs. By switching to light beer we save around 40 calories and 8 carbs with each beer. Most importantly of all, don’t forget to drink water in between each alcoholic beverage. This will not only help increase satiety (the feeling of being full), but it also helps to prevent dehydration.

Take Home Tip: Stick to light beer. Alternate alcoholic beverages with water.



Super Food Series: Part 7


Eggs are a gem for anyone who is trying to reach and maintain a healthy weight. Just one large egg contains 78 calories, 6 grams of protein, and 5 grams of fat…about half of which is unsaturated (healthy) fat. It also includes 13 essential vitamins and minerals. Nutrition research suggests eggs can play a role in weight management, muscle strength, a healthy pregnancy, brain function, eye health, and more. As a bonus, eggs are cost-effective too (around 20 cents per egg)!

High Quality Protein

Eggs are a source of complete protein, which means they contain all 9 essential amino acids. This is important because essential amino acids are those proteins that our body cannot make on its own and, therefore, we must consume them as part of our diet. This type of high quality protein is optimal for building and maintaining muscle as well as reducing hunger and facilitating weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.

Pregnant Women

Eggs are rich in choline, which is an important part of brain and spinal cord development for a developing baby. Most pregnant women do not consume enough choline, so eggs are a cost-efficient solution to this. Just make sure to cook the eggs thoroughly, to reduce the risk of food-borne illness, such as salmonella.

Should I discard the yolk?

No way! Most of the vitamins and minerals in an egg are found in the yolk. About half of the protein is found in the yolk and many of the fat soluble vitamins like vitamin D, E, and A, are also found in the yolk. Therefore, the yolk is essential in aiding your body with the ability to absorb fat soluble vitamins.

But, I Heard that Eggs Are Bad for My Cholesterol

New research shows that dietary cholesterol, the cholesterol found in food like eggs, may not negatively impact blood cholesterol levels as much as previously thought. The 2015 Dietary Guideline Recommendations state that saturated-fat and trans-fat are the most detrimental to blood cholesterol levels, as opposed to dietary cholesterol. Since eggs are lower in saturated-fat and have zero trans-fat, it’s safe to say that they can be enjoyed as a part of a healthy diet without worries of upping blood cholesterol levels.


There are so many ways to include eggs in your diet. You can hard boil them for a quick snack or poach or scramble them for breakfast. You can make a meal out of them by making an omelet, frittata, or quiche, for breakfast, lunch or dinner!  You can pump up the protein content of your salad by adding hard boiled eggs.  Another great idea is to bake an egg inside an avocado for a nutritious, filling, and delicious breakfast or snack on the go. Check out Pinterest for more inspiration. 

What is Gluten and Why are so Many People Going Gluten Free?

Are you gluten free? Chances are that you’ve either thought about going gluten-free or you know someone who has already adopted the gluten-free lifestyle. Gluten is the protein found in grains, such as wheat, barley, and rye. Those with celiac disease experience damage to the intestines when they ingest gluten. This is often accompanied by diarrhea, constipation, abdominal pain and bloating, and nausea or vomiting, to name a few symptoms.

According to a recent poll, as many as one third of Americans say they would like eliminate gluten from their diet. This is interesting, since less than 1 percent of people have celiac disease, according to the National Institutes of Health. Yet, many people continue to view gluten unfavorably despite having no apparent sensitivity or intolerance to gluten.

While a gluten-free diet is a necessity for someone with celiac disease, it may not be beneficial for others who are not gluten intolerant. If not done properly (with the help of a doctor or dietician), a gluten-free diet may be lacking in many vitamins and minerals, such as folate, iron, thiamin, niacin, fiber, and riboflavin. Furthermore, studies show that people on a gluten-free diet tend to consume a higher amount of calories from fat, and less from carbohydrates.

Many of the positive benefits that people (who are not diagnosed with celiac disease) experience while on a gluten-free diet can be attributed to the fact that a gluten-free diet cuts out a lot of processed food and “junk” food. Someone who is looking for the same benefits, such as more energy and weight loss, could adopt a Mediterranean style diet.  The Mediterranean diet is consistently promoted by health professionals as one of the healthiest and most balanced diets available. For starters, it’s a well-balanced style of eating that is rich in fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood.  Other foods like dairy, red meats, and sweets are not entirely eliminated, but consumed less often. For more about the health benefits of the Mediterranean diet, visit the Army H.E.A.L.T.H. blog.