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Eating Healthy on $12 Per Day Food Stamp Budget is Impossible and How the Next President May Make it Worse

Next week presents so many possible changes for our nation as we mark our ballots. Election day could end with a new president lined up to lead the country. A new president impacts huge issues like the soldiers overseas, foreign affairs, and of course the budget. As you vote next week, you will also be determining smaller issues that affect all of us. Who we vote in as our Commander-in-Chief may change what’s served on a large percentage of Americans’ dinner tables.

Frequently called food stamps, our government has a food assistance program called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP. The program is income based and designed to help those who are financially struggling. According to, one in seven US families are using the SNAP program. Findings from the Food Research and Action Center state that many families struggle to purchase enough nutritious food before the month’s allotment runs out. Many users cannot afford proper foods for healthy meals and actually have to turn to food pantries to supplement their food needs.

If one out of seven families are currently needing the SNAP program and the current benefits are found to be too little to support a family, what can one expect from our primary candidates on this issue?

Valerie Jarrett is the Senior Advisor to the President Obama. She explained in The White House Blog where he stands on the issue of food assistance.

“…When President Obama took office, he enhanced and expanded the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. The investments we made kept 3.9 million Americans, including 1.7 million children, above the poverty line in 2010. They prevented child hunger from rising, even as poverty and unemployment levels increased in the wake of the economic crisis.”

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities reported on what former Governor Romney may intend to do about the SNAP budget is he were elected. Richard Kogan and Paul N. Van de Water wrote that Romney would cut entitlement and discretionary program budgets. These cuts would mean a reduction in the funds allotted for SNAP.
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3 Free Weekly Meal Planner Worksheets to Organize Healthy Homemade Food

I am a big proponent of meal planning. It’s something I’ve been doing in my own home for four years, and it’s one of the first things I recommend to anyone trying to be more healthily, trying to manage their grocery budget, or wanting to ensure they eat more food at home. It’s a simple task that takes a few minutes of my time every Sunday, keeps me in check at the grocery store, and keeps me from stressing that “what’s for dinner” question every night of the week.

The answer? It’s on the front of the refrigerator.

Thanks to Laura Likes Design, we’re sharing three meal plan worksheets that you can print off and use in your home. With spaces for three meals a day, seven days a week, you’ll never have to wonder what you’re having at breakfast, lunch, or dinner. And we’ve built in space for a grocery list, too! You can take the worksheet to the store with you to help stick to the plan.

Design 1, including a sample weekly meal plan to show you how easy it is to stay on track! Click here to download this PDF.

How does a weekly plan save you money?

You stick to the list! You aren’t aimlessly dropping things in your shopping cart hoping to wind up at home with enough stuff to throw together a meal. Everything that goes in your cart has a purpose. You buy, and therefore spend money on, only those things you need.
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Howie Mandel Poses as a Health-Conscious Grocery Clerk on ABC’s “What Would You Do?”

Imagine this: you’re at the checkout line at the supermarket, but instead of the clerk giving a pleasant hello and ringing up your items, he tells you that your food choices are unhealthy. He then breaks down exactly what kinds of foods you should get and tries to put back the unwholesome ones. What would you do?

This is the scenario on tonight’s episode of What Would You Do? It airs Friday, October 5, at 9/8 central on ABC. The segment will feature comedian Howie Mandel as the grocery store clerk who dons a wig and nerd glasses to fool customers in to thinking he is a real employee.

Customers at the store look baffled as the undercover Mandel tells them they have failed at their shopping. “Healthwise, I don’t think that’s gonna work,” he says to one perplexed mom. “Will you get her something with more fiber?” he says to a co-worker.

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Frozen Meals Just as Time Efficient as Drive-Thru, but Markedly Healthier

Busy is often an excuse people give for making poor meal choices. Many will hit the drive-thru because they were too busy to pack a lunch. Or others will order pizza or grab pre-made food from under the heat lamps because they simply don’t have time to make dinner.

It’s true that our lives are too busy sometimes. However, there really are healthy options that are as quick and convenient as far less nutritious ones. You may be surprised to know you can find a great meal in your freezer section. A balanced meal can be achieved from frozen food, but the trick is knowing what to avoid and what to look for while shopping.

Our resident nutrition expert, Mary Hartley, RD set some guidelines to follow when choosing a frozen meal.

For a 250-gram serving, you want to look for:

  • Calories: 300 – 450
  • Trans Fat: 0
  • Fat: < 3.5 g
  • Saturated Fat: < 1 g or < 15% of total calories
  • Fiber: > 5 g
  • Sodium: < 600 mg
  • Sugar: < 2 g
  • At least 10% of the Daily Value for at least three: vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium

Hartley also advises that you avoid certain ingredients in addition to the guidelines. “Personally, I strongly dislike and avoid questionable artificial sugars: saccharin, aspartame, acesulfame-K. I [also] can’t see any reason to eat sodium nitrates or food dyes,” said Hartley.
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Our First-Ever Food Awards Reveal the Healthiest Groceries

We’re never been quiet when we find a new product we love. We make it a point to try out the newest “health” food being marketed and uncover brands with a smaller ad budget and a bigger nutritional bang. But we’ve never given you one collective list all at once like we’ve done in our first-ever food awards!

We’ve spent the summer developing nutrition criteria, scouring every shelf of the grocery store, reading labels until our eyes-crossed, and swapping lunch calories for taste-testing calories all in the name of helping you put the best food possible on your grocery list.

What we’ve come up with is a list of 13 popular food categories at the grocery store with a clear winner in each: bread, cereal, hot dogs, yogurt, snacks, deli meat, pasta sauce, dips, frozen meals, dressing, granola, beverages, and soup. While the general rule of thumb is to only shop the perimeter of the grocery store, if you’re willing to read labels then there’s plenty of good food stocked down the aisles.

View the Slideshow: 2012 Food Awards

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