A new study from North Carolina State University and the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, only covers 43-60 percent of what it costs to consume a diet consistent with federal dietary guidelines for what constitutes a healthy diet. The study highlights the challenges lower-income households face in trying to eat a healthy diet.
“The federal government has defined what constitutes a healthy diet, and we wanted to know how financially feasible it was for low-income households, who qualify for SNAP benefits, to follow these guidelines,” says Lindsey Haynes-Maslow, co-author of a paper on the study and an assistant professor of agricultural and human sciences at NC State.
This can be a tricky question to answer, as federal dietary guidelines vary based on age and gender. SNAP benefits also vary, based on household income and the number of adults and children living in the household. For the purposes of this study, the researchers used average monthly SNAP benefits for 2015.
To address their research question, the researchers looked at the cost to follow federal dietary guidelines based on the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s monthly retail price data from 2015 for fruits, vegetables, grains, protein, and dairy. They calculated costs under a variety of scenarios. For example, what would it cost to comply with dietary guidelines if one only ate produce that was fresh, not frozen? What if one only consumed fruits and vegetables that were frozen? What if a household followed a vegetarian diet? The researchers also included labor costs associated with shopping and preparing meals, based on 2010 estimates produced by other economics researchers.
“We found significant variability in the costs associated with following federal dietary guidelines,” Haynes-Maslow says. “For example, it was most expensive to consume only fresh produce, and it was least expensive to consume a vegetarian diet.”
To place this in context, consider a four-person household that has one adult male, one adult female, one child aged 8-11 and one child aged 12-17 – all of whom qualify for SNAP benefits. They would need to spend $626.95 per month in addition to their SNAP benefits if they ate only fresh produce as part of their diet. That same household would need to spend $487.39, in addition, to SNAP benefits if they ate a vegetarian diet.
“Many low-income households simply don’t have an additional $500 or $600 to spend on food in their monthly budget,” Haynes-Maslow says.
The researchers did find that SNAP is sufficient to meet the healthy dietary needs of two groups: children under the age of 8 and women over the age of 51. However, SNAP was insufficient to meet the needs of older children, younger women, or men of any age.
“Even though SNAP is not designed to cover all of the cost of food – it’s meant to be a supplemental food program – this study makes it clear that there would be many low-income households that would not be able to cover the gap needed to eat a diet consistent with federal dietary guidelines,” Haynes Maslow says. “Even without including labor costs, a household of four would need to spend approximately $200-$300 in addition to their SNAP benefits to follow the dietary guidelines.”
8 Common Food Myths Debunked
There are hundreds of common myths and misconceptions about food which may influence your diet choices. However, some foods commonly believed to be unhealthy are actually just fine and some popular “healthy” foods are actually harmful. Here are eight common food myths debunked:
1. Low-fat Foods are Always Healthier.
Some types of fat are unhealthy, but others are an important part of a healthy diet. When foods are made low fat, the fat content is usually replaced with sugar or sodium to improve the taste. This definitely does not make it healthier, but many people associate fat with weight gain and heart attacks. Therefore, they choose “low-fat” foods even though the foods have an unhealthy amount of sugar or sodium.
2. You Need to Eat Dairy for Healthy Bones.
People tend to confuse dairy with calcium, so it’s a common myth you need dairy for strong bones. It’s true that dairy has lots of calcium, but plenty of other foods do as well. You can eat greens, broccoli, oranges, beans, and nuts to get enough calcium to keep your bones healthy.
3. Eggs Raise Your Cholesterol Levels.
Your cholesterol levels are mostly influenced by saturated and trans fats, and eggs contain very little of both. Eggs contain lots of important nutrients, so cutting them out of your diet to lower your cholesterol levels can actually be harmful. It won’t affect your cholesterol and it will prevent you from getting all the health benefits eggs have.
4. All Food Additives are Bad for You.
Some people believe all food additives are made of harmful, toxic chemicals. While some aren’t very healthy, most are completely fine. The panic over food additives mostly stems from a lack of understanding. For example, many people believe the additive carrageenan is toxic because it’s been proven to cause inflammation in lab animals. However, studies show human bodies don’t absorb or metabolize it, so it flows through the body without causing any harm.
5. Restricting Salt Prevents Heart Attacks.
Lowering your salt intake can reduce your blood pressure, but there’s no scientific evidence supporting the idea that restricting salt reduces your risk of a heart attack or stroke. If your doctor tells you to cut back on salt, you should listen. However, it’s a myth everyone needs to lower their salt intake to be safe and healthy.
6. High Fructose Corn Syrup is Worse than Sugar.
Many foods are labeled “No HFCS” as if this makes them healthier and many people buy these items because they’re so afraid of high fructose corn syrup. It actually is very similar to sucrose, or table sugar, in many ways. The composition of high fructose corn syrup is almost identical to that of table sugar and both have the same number of calories. They both have similar effects on insulin and glucose levels. Neither are particularly healthy, but one isn’t worse than the other.
7. All Organic Food is Healthy.
Organic food is free of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, and other additives found in most non-organic foods. Choosing organic produce can reduce your chemical exposure, but junk food labeled “organic” is still junk food. You can buy organic chips, cookies, or crackers, but they’ll still have as much sugar and empty calories as their non-organic counterparts.
8. Coffee Makes You Dehydrated.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which means it does dehydrate you. However, coffee has a very mild dehydrating effect and all of the water it contains will make up for any fluid you lose. Coffee also contains lots of antioxidants, so you don’t have to worry about drinking a cup or two every morning.
10 Healthy Snacks for Athletes
As an athlete, you aren’t going to get anywhere close to a good performance on an empty stomach. On the other hand, eating the wrong food and too much of it before a game isn’t good either. Your pre-game meal should at best be decorating your shoes because you might puke everything out what you ate.
The ideal thing to do is to consume a pre-game snack which would address your needs for energy such as easily digestible carbohydrates along with the additional goodness of essential nutrients. As far as lifestyle is concerned, athletes are sometimes tempted to steer off track and indulge in unhealthy habits. It’s a grab-and-go situation because of the feeling of hunger all the time.
If you are an athlete, the best way to abide by a healthy lifestyle is to remain focused on your goals and, of course, your diet. To avoid the temptation of unhealthy snack choices, here are 10 beneficial snacks for athletes like you irrespective of what your game is.
1. Homemade trail mix
A combination of nuts such as cashew, peanuts, almonds, and walnuts along with simple carbs like granola, pretzels and dry fruit can provide you with a good dose of protein. This combo also provides healthy omega 3 fatty acids which contribute to fat burn, energy, and muscle recovery. The benefit of these snacks is they remain fresh throughout the day.
2. Sports Nutrition Bar
Sports nutrition bars are fast and portable snacks, making it easy to grab-and-go. However, they can also be expensive. Not all sports nutrition bars can suit your purpose because they could be loaded with sugars and high calories. What you can do instead is to find out which one works best for you in terms of a healthy sportsperson’s diet.
3. Peanut Butter and Honey Sandwiches
Peanut butter is an all-time favorite for many, but you need to be careful of allergies. This combo snack packed with nutrients would provide your fats and proteins along with the goodness of fiber. Honey is beneficial for athletes as it also contains antioxidants and a load of vitamins and nutrients.
4. Pretzels and Hummus
As a healthy snack for athletes, this combination could as well be your favorite party food. This goes on to show that eating healthy is not boring at all. Pretzels and hummus are portable snacks that can be carried around anywhere. They are packed with protein, fiber and a variety of other essential nutrients
5. Whole Grain Bagel with Nut Butter
As a treat packed with crabs and protein the whole grain bagel with nut butter is one of the best choices for athletes. This combination is low in sugar as well. Versatile snacks like these create variety as you can choose the ingredients from different nut butters like almond, sunflower, and peanut. The combination of high protein and carb content also acts as a pre- or post-workout snack.
While many think describing fruit as a sack seems weird because it is more of a food choice, you’ll be surprised how fruits can provide you a power punch of vitamins and ready electrolytes even during a game. This is why you may have noticed tennis athletes chomping on bananas in between sets. Bananas are packed with potassium and prevent cramps. Bananas also contain a ready source of electrolytes necessary for one’s game. Apples are also high in natural sugar and fiber. Popping a handful of grapes will also give you fuel to up your game.
7. Salmon Sandwich
Did you know the benefits of salmon during work-outs are that it provides you with an abundance of nutrients primarily rich in omega 3 fatty acids and promotes muscle recovery? In addition to an amazing dose of omega 3s, you get vitamin B, Selenium, antioxidants, potassium, weight maintenance, and of course, proteins.
8. Grilled Chicken Breast and Cottage Cheese Sandwich
The ingredients of the grilled chicken breast include a healthy low fat dose of excellent protein and a number of less celebrated nutrients which are extremely helpful for your body. By far one of the most important elements of chicken breast is Leucine, which in turn is one of the three main BCAAS (branch chain amino acids) highly essential for health. Leucine contributes toward healing and health of skeletal muscle tissue. Apart from these foods, there is a load of healthy snacks you can choose that are both nutrient-rich as well as pleasing in taste.
9. Non-Fat Plain or Greek Yogurt
It’s a no-brainer to conclude that athletes need strong muscles and healthy bone structure. So, yogurt is a rich source of calcium, which is essential for healthy bones and also reduces the risk of osteoporosis. But did you know, as per some experts, calcium also plays a pivotal role in muscle metabolism? Since yogurt encourages the growth of good bacteria, which also help your body fight many diseases, it’s a good snack for athletes.
10. Raw Vegetables
You might not have paid a heed on the nutritious value of raw vegetables, but these are highly essential for athletes like you. You can easily get ahold of baby carrot sticks cut-up in individual packages with broccoli and cauliflower that are readily available in supermarkets. Then, just mix them and prepare a light salad dressing.
Snacks for Athletes
Since you are an athlete living in a fast-paced world, it would be difficult on concentrating more than three meals per day. Instead, nutritional experts advocate eating small healthy meals per day which can provide enough fuel for improved workouts and exceptional health. Besides nutrition, you can also abide by healthy habits that would make you a better athlete.
Four Calming Techniques to Improve Your Mental Health
If you are like me and the other nearly 325,000,000 trillion people in the U.S., you have experienced stress. From raising kids, dealing with your boss or handling a health issue, you can feel overwhelmed. But there’s good news! Learn how to create peace and take control of your life.
Determining the Type of Stress
Most people do not realize stress, a response to stimuli comes in two varieties which is good stress and bad stress. Bad stress or distress happens when your perception of an event is threatening. According to Stress Management Society, “Through the release of hormones, such as adrenaline, cortisol…the caveman gained a rush of energy…”. This onset of biological and emotional reactions resulted in the need to fight or flight.
Good stress or positive stress is the opposite response. It is marked by feelings of happiness and a sense of confidence. Your thoughts are focused and the energy is motivating.
Four Paths to Calm
Now that you know more about stress, you can start to manage it. Try these tips to make stress ignite your creativity and passion. Make stress work for you.
1. Keep It in Perspective
So, how do you transform your bad stress into good stress? Change your perception. If your job causes you to relocate, consider it a career opportunity. If the throbbing in one of your molars means you need a root canal, don’t panic. Discuss it with an emergency dentist Calgary. Consider it an investment in your health.
2. Calm the Monkey
Your mind races with thousands of thoughts all day. Anxiety builds as you obsess about future concerns. What if this happens, what if that happens? Stop!
Just breathe. As you mindfully count from 1 – 10, inhale and exhale slowly. Feel your heart rate decrease.
The Buddhists used this breathing method for quiet meditation to conquer the Monkey Mind or frenzied mental condition. In Mindfulness: Taming the Monkey Mind by Mitchell Wagner, the author states, “It is not possible for the mind to be open…when it is consumed by anxiety.”
3. Choose the Right Foods
What do yogurt, pistachios, and spinach have to do with relaxation? They contain key ingredients which affect your mood.
According to Organic Facts, pistachios have “6 grams of protein per ounce…”. Protein contains an amino acid which produces serotonin, a regulator of hunger.
Spinach & Avocado
The folate found in this green leafy vegetable produces dopamine, a chemical producing feelings of pleasure. Folic acid improves memory in adults experiencing stress. Avocados are also high in folate and vitamin E.
This comfort-inducing snack is filled with probiotics. It delivers healthful live bacteria in the gut linked to good mental health.
Strawberries, Raspberries, & Blueberries
These fruits are high in vitamin C which helps fight stress.
4. Become a Yogi
Yoga is a tradition dating back 300 years ago. Yoga is low impact and is a synergy of mind, body, and soul.
The International Journal of Yoga published “Exploring the therapeutic effects of Yoga and its ability to increase the quality of life” and found “Yogic practices enhance muscular strength…reduce stress, anxiety…”. Bikram, Hatha, and Kundalini are some of the best forms of yoga for beginners.
Invest in Stress Management
Consult with your doctor. Read books and attend local exercise classes. Stay up-to-date about trends.
Stress is a part of life. Learn stress management. Anticipate the unexpected and choose a strategy challenging you to do your best. Then, sit back and relax.
A Growing Interest in Food and How Our Food Culture is Changing
People have always loved food. It’s tasty, it’s an enjoyable thing to share with friends and family, and of course, we simply need it to survive. However, in the past couple of decades, our love affair with food seems to have grown quite a bit. Gone are the days when meat and potatoes were considered a square meal, at least in many social circles. People are finally beginning to examine the effects diet has on health and well-being, and this change can’t happen quickly enough.
Some states are beginning to see a decline in obesity rates, but there is still plenty of work to do if we want a healthy, thriving society. People are also getting more interested in food in general. Not everyone is on a mission to get healthy. Some simply want to capitalize on a growing demand for chefs. Culinary schools are expanding to meet with rising enrollment numbers as people choose food-based careers or simply decide to educate themselves so they can prepare food at home.
1. A Healthier Lifestyle
Research from the Organic Trade Association found that Americans are buying more organic products than ever before. Concerns about health and the environment have led to more people choosing organic. The economy is all about supply and demand, so this rising call for more organic items has led to a number of new businesses, including Thrive Market, an online resource offering hundreds of organic and all-natural items at an affordable price.
Aside from the organic factor, there are other reasons Americans are becoming more interested in bettering their health through food. To put it simply, many people are growing sick and tired of being sick and tired. In recent years, alternative diets and lifestyles have begun rising in popularity, including veganism, paleo and gluten-free.
As buzz surrounding these diets grows, people find reasons to believe that they can empower themselves through an alternative lifestyle. In turn, this leads to more alternative products appearing on store shelves, which leads to a greater awareness and so on. Therefore, by making smart choices with the foods they buy, people are actually having a positive influence on society as a whole.
2. Food-based Media
Cooking shows have been around for decades, but in the past twenty years, they’ve really begun growing in popularity. From televised contests for home cooks to lavish competitions featuring some of America’s finest professional chefs, there’s no shortage of food-related entertainment to enjoy. Perhaps this factor has contributed to America’s growing foodie culture.
3. A Difficult Economy Means More People are Cooking at Home
As people struggle in a difficult economy, they are beginning to look for ways to save money. Therefore, cooking meals at home rather than eating out is becoming increasingly more popular. Research from Peapod and ORC International shows that 72 percent of Americans cook from home four or more nights each week, and more than a third made a resolution to cook more in 2017. It was also found that millennials were more than twice as likely to make this resolution than older folks. But, it’s no secret that millennials are struggling financially and eating out can be really expensive.
However, the world has changed since the baby boomers were young, and these changes are likely to stick around. Therefore, it can be assumed that cooking skills will be important for today’s young people as well as future generations to come.
If you’re developing an interest in food, you’re on the right track to a healthier life. Even if nutrition isn’t your main motivation, you’ll still have a deeper connection to what’s on your plate if you go through the process of cooking it yourself. That connection can make every meal a more mindful experience, which is precisely what the act of eating should be. You’ll also be able to track your caloric intake much easier if you’re aware of every ingredient, giving you a better chance of staying at a healthy weight.
Study Suggests Why Food Assistance for Homeless Young Adults is Inadequate
Though young homeless adults make use of available food programs, these support structures still often fail to provide reliable and consistent access to nutritious food, according to the results of a new study by a University at Buffalo social work researcher.
The findings, which fill an important gap in the research literature, can help refine policies and programs to better serve people experiencing homelessness, particularly those between the ages of 18-24.
“It may be tempting to think of food pantries, soup kitchens and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as the solution,” says Elizabeth Bowen, an assistant professor in UB’s School of Social Work and lead author of the study with Andrew Irish, a UB graduate student in the School of Social Work, published in the journal Public Health Nutrition. But these supports are not enough. “We’re still seeing high levels of food insecurity, literal hunger, where people go a whole day without eating anything.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines food insecurity as “multiple indications of disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake.” Hunger is a “potential consequence of food insecurity [that] results in discomfort, illness, weakness or pain.” In Bowen’s study, 80 percent of participants were considered to be severely food insecure.
“There has been recent research about housing and shelter use for homeless young adults, as well as work on drug use and sexual risk behaviors for this same population, but I found that not much had been done on the issue of food access,” says Bowen. “It’s hard to even think about housing and health needs if we don’t know how people are eating, or not eating.”
It’s not surprising see a relationship between homelessness and food insecurity, but Bowen warns of oversimplifying what is in fact a more nuanced problem.
“This research is important because we’re establishing a clear indication of food insecurity in this population, which we did not previously have,” she says. “If we’re going to design programs and services that better address food insecurity, along with addressing housing, education and employment, we need to know about the access strategies: How and what are homeless young adults eating? Where are they finding food? What do they have to do to get it? And how does that affect other parts of their lives?”
For her qualitative study, Bowen conducted in-depth interviews with 30 young adults between the ages of 18-24 who were experiencing homelessness in Buffalo, New York.
“Working with this small group gives us insights into the lived experience,” says Bowen. “It’s a way of setting a knowledge foundation and understanding of the topic in the context of people’s lives, and what goes on with their health, housing, relationships, education and trying to get out of homelessness.”
In Bowen’s study, 70 percent of young adults were receiving SNAP benefits, also known as food stamps. But actually getting these benefits can be difficult.
SNAP covers dependent children under their parent’s benefits until the child’s 22nd birthday. But the program administers benefits based on the parents’ address and assumes that parents and children of a single family are living together.
“This is clearly a problem for young people experiencing homelessness since many of them are under 22 and obviously aren’t living at the same address as their parents,” says Bowen. “The young people in this case can’t get SNAP on their own because they’re already listed on their parents’ open application for those same benefits – and the burden of proof is on the young person to demonstrate they don’t live with their parents.”
Documentation is required as proof that the family is no longer together, according to Bowen, but in many cases getting the necessary paperwork is difficult because of strained family relationships.
“That’s one avenue for a policy change,” says Bowen.
But even with revised eligibility guidelines, food stamps sometimes are not enough, particularly for homeless young people who have no way to store or prepare food. Bowen notes that this problem would be greatly exacerbated by a change proposed in the 2019 federal budget to convert part of a household’s SNAP benefits from electronic benefits to a box of canned goods and other commodities.
Homeless young adults’ food access challenges are further compounded by the fact that young people are sometimes reluctant to use resources like soup kitchens, or have trouble accessing these places due to transportation barriers and limited hours. This finding mirrors prior research showing how young adults are not comfortable in places meant for the general homeless adult population, according to Bowen.
For instance, where shelter is concerned, an 18-year-old in the city of Buffalo is considered an adult and would go to an adult shelter, which can feel discouraging and unsafe.
“What I found in this study is that people were saying the same things about places to get food. They know about these soup kitchens, but the places feel institutional and stigmatized to young people,” says Bowen. “If we want to develop food programs to be engaging to young people we have to think about breaking down some barriers. For example, because of food insecurity among students, many college campuses are now offering food pantries. I would like to think about how to integrate food pantries and other services into places where young people are going anyway.”
Lower Blood Sugar Levels with These 7 Superfoods
Being cautious about your health doesn’t have to be a dull and agonizing check off your to-do list. You can make it fun by trying new foods and recipes throughout the week. It’s not hard to cover all the basics, especially if you eat a variety of colors and flavors every day.
Lowering and stabilizing your blood sugar is an essential demand when you want to prevent diabetes from occurring or progressing. Add these seven superfoods to your meals, (or eat them as a snack through the week) and watch the level of your health transform with ease.
1. Sweet Potatoes
This rooted superfood is an excellent choice as a main dish, side dish and even a snack on a lazy day. They are packed with fiber, have a low glycemic index, and are easy to cook. The best way to prepare a sweet potato is to roast/bake it in the oven. They go great paired with leafy greens or even just topped with a dash of cinnamon (which is also a superfood).
Another rooted superfood is Turmeric. You might have heard of this spice when visiting restaurants with Caribbean or Indian cuisine. It’s said to have the best medicinal history of preventing disease and illness in many cultures around the world. Curcumin, the active ingredient in Turmeric, can prevent inflammation and the activation of cancerous cells.
Wild blueberries are one of the best power fruits to hit the list. Not only are they packed with soluble fiber, but they also offer a good source of insoluble fiber. Having both of these properties allows this superfood to flush out your system which, in turn, improves your blood sugar levels. Anthocyanins are one of the specific types of antioxidants found in blueberries giving them their vibrant blue color. You can find blueberries at your local grocery store and farmer’s market just about all year-round depending on where you live. Freeze them for smoothies, eat them for a snack, or add them to muffins and pancakes for breakfast.
Organic oats are another easy meal you can whip up to reduce your risk of diabetes. Oats pack large amounts of magnesium and fiber. These two components help the body produce insulin and adequately regulate your blood pressure. Oats are super versatile to cook with and easy to make on any day, making them fit well into any schedule. You can boil them for breakfast and add fruit, or add them to muffin and cookie mix. Surprisingly, there are recipes that use oats as an alternative to using flour.
While making dietary plans to lower your blood sugar, you should highly consider adding kale to your grocery list. This super leafy green is one of the best non-starchy vegetables available. It’s super nutrients build up your immune system, burn fat, and regulate blood pressure. It’s easy to add to a salad, eat with fresh fruit, or throw in your smoothie for breakfast.
Another versatile food to eat is the heart-healthy avocado! It offers the right amount of fats, improves cholesterol levels, and has enough carbs to keep you feeling full. You may think it’s a vegetable, but it’s technically a fruit. It goes great paired with strawberries or as a topper for toast. Cooking with avocado is a breeze. Plan to make pasta, guacamole, salads, and sandwiches with it. The only downfall to eating avocado is the painful wait for them to ripen. Worry not – placing avocados in a brown paper bag can speed up the process.
Last, but not least, on our superfoods list is the bold and bright cranberry. Most people only know about cranberries when it comes to holiday dinners, but there are other ways to indulge in this power-packed fruit. Since cranberries have high antioxidant levels, they reduce cholesterol and lower blood pressure.
Much like the other foods listed, you can have this in salads, smoothies, or by themselves for a snack. The best part? You never have to feel guilty about munching on these tangy treats.
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