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Heart Smart Living
Heart Smart Living

Cardiologist, author, and heart health expert Dr. Sarah Samaan offers advice on how to live a heart smart life.

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Heart Smart Shopping on a Budget

Grocery receipt.“Doctor, I just can’t afford healthy food.” It’s a common lament in these financially stressed times, but in truth, cutting back on spending does not mean giving up on good health. The food we eat has a tremendous impact on our health and well-being, and a direct bearing on our ability to meet the demands of work and home. Why give up on something so important?

Fast food may be the easy choice when you’re hungry, but if you are committed to creating healthy meals for yourself and your family, it will take a little advance planning. That’s why it’s a great idea to have a well-stocked pantry and freezer. Keeping the fixings for a fast dinner on hand will make it that much easier to bypass the drive through lane on your way home from the office.

Here are some quick-start suggestions to add to your shopping list:

  • Frozen vegetables: a perfect choice when you’re looking for budget and heart-friendly foods. They retain virtually all the nutrients of their fresh counterparts, without the risk of spoilage, are often already chopped up for you, and can easily be added to a little chicken or tofu (at $1.50 to $2.50 per pound) for a super fast stir-fry.
  • Beans and brown rice: a traditional standby in the South, and one of my favorite vegetarian meals. There’s virtually nothing cheaper. The only drawback: you’ll need to plan ahead if you want to use dried beans.
  • Peanut butter with a little jelly: prepared on whole grain bread, it makes a cheap and portable heart smart lunch in about one minute flat.
  • Tilapia: retails from about $2.00 to $5.00 per pound. This lean, light fish cooks up beautifully with a simple tomato sauce. Recipes abound on the Web, and most take about 10 to 15 minutes, which is probably the same amount of time you’d spend at the drive-through. Here’s a simple one that weighs in at less than 200 calories per serving, with an impressive 24 grams of protein.
  • Apples, oranges, and bananas: portable healthy standbys. Apples weigh in at about one dollar per pound, while a pound of oranges is closer to 65 cents (if it’s a good year) and bananas will set you back less than 50 cents per pound. Watermelon is even better, at 20 cents or less per cup of fruit.
  • Lettuce, sweet potatoes, celery, carrots, and cauliflower: all cost less than $1.00 per pound. Sweet potatoes roasted in the oven with a little olive oil and spices are one of my favorite side dishes, and require little effort.

Plan ahead, get a little creative, and you’ll find that heart smart cooking can be easy as pie, and a good bit cheaper.

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Tags: Diet and Heart Health

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About the Author


Dr. Samaan is an acclaimed cardiologist, writer, and heart health educator.