5 Ways to Curb Stress Eating

Stress Eating

Do you eat when you’re stressed? Follow these tips to help avert that habit. (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Stress is something everyone experiences.  Some of us have more of it than others and we all know that when we have too much stress for too long it can be bad for our health.  While reducing stress is always the best solution, it isn’t always possible which is why learning to manage whatever level of stress you are under is what really matters.

April is National Stress Awareness Month and since stress eating is a real problem for many people, we thought this provided a great opportunity to talk about how stress and food can combine in unhealthy ways.  Unfortunately, stress is one of the most common causes of emotional eating, overeating, and unexpected weight gain.  There are several reasons for this.  Research has shown that eating the kinds of foods we crave when we are stressed, those that are high in carbohydrates, sugars, and fats, causes a chemical reaction in the body that produces more serotonin, the chemical that makes you feel good.  Additionally, when we have high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, our body can interpret that as a sign that we are living through a famine.  This can trigger a variety of biological processes that make us crave foods that we shouldn’t eat, eat more than we need, and store more of what we eat as fat.

So, how can you fight back and avoid succumbing to stress eating?  Here are 5 ways to better manage your stress that you can do instead of stress eating that will decrease your stress without increasing your waistline.

1.     Relieve the Pressure

When our stress level is high we can sometimes feel the pressure building within us making it seem like we are a volcano getting ready to explode.  Alleviate that pressure by doing things that help disperse some of the pent up energy stress can cause like playing loud music, screaming (in private, of course), or doing something active.

2.     Vent

Just like a pressure cooker on a stove, sometimes you just need to let some of your stress out and venting to a friend or loved one can be a great way to do this.

3.     Take a Break

Sometimes stress can leave us stuck, unable to do anything else until the situation that is causing the stress is resolved.  Unfortunately, this is not always the best way to deal with a stressful situation.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is to remove yourself from the situation for as little as a few minutes.  Sometimes just a change of scenery can have an immediate stress relieving effect.

4.     Stretch

Stress has a significant impact on your body and can cause tension to build up in your muscles leaving you feeling tight and achy.  Taking even 5 minutes to stretch out your major muscle groups can have a lasting impact on your stress level.

5.     Get Some Sleep

Unfortunately, one of the things we often need the most when our stress level is high is the thing we are least likely to allow ourselves to get – enough sleep.  Sleep is a powerful weapon against stress and it can also help keep you from gaining weight.  For this reason, if there is one thing you do this month to try and keep a handle on your stress, it should be committing to getting a good night sleep.

 

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Arizona Food Prices are Up Slightly in the First Quarter of 2014

image003 6.22.13 PMArizona retail food prices at the supermarket are up in the first quarter of 2014, according to the latest Arizona Farm Bureau Federation Marketbasket Survey. The informal survey shows the total cost of 16 basic grocery items was $52.40, up $.78 cents or about 1.5% more than the fourth quarter of 2013.

Compared to this time last year, the 2014 first quarter Marketbasket survey shows that Arizona’s food prices have increased about 5 percent. Comparatively, the American Farm Bureau Federation’s national survey was $53.27, up $1.73 or about 3.5 % higher than the survey conducted a year ago, March 2013.

“It’s a supply issue influencing higher food prices in 2014,” said Arizona Farm Bureau’s Communication Director, Julie Murphree. “Prices rose on our meat proteins with the exception of chicken. Some of the price pressure is because of tight cattle and pork supplies. But other basic items have shown increases too. Because I believe lean meats are an important part of a balanced diet, I’m cutting back on treats so I can still plan for meat purchases in my weekly grocery shopping.”

Of the 16 items surveyed in Arizona, eight decreased and eight increased compared to the 2013 fourth quarter survey.

In Arizona, off-the-shelf prices for boneless chicken breast showed the greatest decrease in price down 40 cents to $4.17 a pound; toasted oat cereal down 32 cents to $2.76 a 8.9 ounce box; shredded cheese down 30 cents to $4.85 a pound; apples down 27 cents to $1.23 a 5-pound bag; orange juice and vegetable oil down 20 cents to $2.93 a half-gallon and 2.06 for the 32 ounce bottle respectively; white bread down 15 cents to $1.18 for the 20 ounce loaf and deli ham down 6 cents to $4.59 a pound.

“Remember Arizona Farm Bureau’s Fillyouplate.org has searchable recipes, many featuring recipes from our generational Arizona farm families,” said Murphree. “Eating at home as a family can help you manage your food budget better.”

Sirloin roast showed the largest price increase up 81 cents to $6.49 a pound. The other items that increased in price were flour up 42 cents to $2.47 for a 5-pound bag; ground beef up 41 cents to $3.87 a pound; salad mix  up 34 cents to $2.89 a pound bag; milk up 30 cents to $2.69 a gallon: potatoes up 21 cents to $2.90 a 5-pound bag; eggs up 13 cents to $2.27 a dozen and bacon up 6 cents to $5.05 a pound.

The year-to-year direction of the Marketbasket survey tracks with the federal government’s Consumer Price Index report for food at home.

“In the mid-1970s, farmers received about one-third of consumer retail food expenditures for food eaten at home and away from home, on average. That figure has decreased steadily and is now just 16 percent, according to the United States Department of Agriculture’s revised Food Dollar Series Department statistics,” explains John Anderson, American Farm Bureau Economist.  The USDA’s new Food Dollar Series may be found online.

Using the “food at home and away from home” percentage across-the-board, the Arizona farmer’s share of this quarter’s $52.40 Marketbasket total would be $8.38.

The Farm Bureau Market Basket Survey is unscientific, but serves as a gauge of actual price trends across the state. Arizona’s bargain shoppers statewide should find individual items at prices comparable to the Farm Bureau survey averages and certainly cheaper with discounts and in-store specials. Arizona Farm Bureau seeks to identify the best in-store price, excluding promotional coupons and special deals.

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2014 Market Basket Survey Results

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Arizona Farm Bureau’s 18 Money Saving Tips to Stretch Your Food Dollars:

  1. Sort your pantry and organize to clearly know what’s available. This should be a regular effort in order to make sure you’re using everything you have, not buying unnecessary items and can determine what you really need.
  2. Create a week-long menu. From the planned menu create your shopping list based on local grocery store circulars you receive in the mail or newspaper.
  3. When planning your menu, think of ways to maximize the use of the “Stretch Your Food Dollar” menu as a springboard to create your own menu. Gather ideas for meals based on the items down in price from Arizona Farm Bureau’s “Stretch Your Dollar” menus on fillyourplate.org. Let the Farm Bureau’s menus inspire your creativity!
  4. You’ve created the list; stick to it. If you can stick to your list, you’ll curb impulse spending on items you don’t really need.
  5. Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Studies suggest you might spend 10 to 15 percent more on your food bill when you’re hungry.
  6. Don’t take the kids grocery shopping. As with an empty stomach, kids can influence your impulse shopping.
  7. Stick to the basics. While basic food items like dairy, meat, fruits and vegetables can sometimes seem expensive, you’re gaining more value per unit and certainly more health benefits. The fewer processed food items you purchase, the more you’ll save.
  8. Regularly survey the weekly grocery store circulars. This will build your knowledge of prices for products you regularly use and give you a sense of which grocery stores tend to have the lowest prices. Take advantage of weekly advertised specials, especially for nonperishable staples.
  9. Be wary of the coupon trap. Use coupons only for those items you normally buy. Don’t let coupons cost you money by buying items you don’t really need. A sale has no value to you if it means you’re spending beyond your budget. Do take advantage of “ad-matching” since lots of savings can be found here.
  10. Assess the unit price. This shopping tool lets you compare prices between brands and between sizes. Located on a shelf tag in front of the product, it provides costs in like units for the item. Generally, information is given in cost per ounce, per pound or per count.
  11. Shop the edges of the store, and if items at the ends of the aisles reflect a super deal buy. As aisle-end items are dramatically marked down, they might be a valuable substitute on your grocery list. But they’re budget busters if they become purchased food items you don’t use in your food preparation.
  12. Use grocery store club cards; also compare prices to store brands. Store club cards can generate great savings. Plus, while you might love a certain brand, also compare a popular brand to the store brand for price comparisons and possible savings.
  13. Peak season is prime time to buy fresh produce. The peak of the harvest for fresh fruits and vegetables offers you the best prices and the best quality. Take advantage of this and buy often. To always know what’s in season, go to fillyourplate.org and select the tab “Arizona Produce in Season.”
  14. When not buying fresh, consider buying frozen. Most frozen vegetables are picked fresh, immediately flash frozen, are less expensive and will keep longer.
  15. Buy in bulk, but don’t buy more than you will use. Bigger is not always better. Larger-sized packages usually cost less on a per-unit basis. But it’s not a better buy if it’s too large to use before it becomes stale or spoiled.
  16. Move in on “family pack” savings. Meat departments often have a section that offers larger-sized packages at cents-off-per-pound savings. Repackage these larger sizes into smaller quantities at home and freeze.
  17. Be flexible at the meat and produce counters. This is one area to be flexible with your list. This allows you to take advantage of unadvertised “in store” specials and switch from one item to another.

Use open dating codes, especially on perishables to maximize shelf life at home. Open dating is used on perishable and semi-perishable products to let you know at a glance if the product is fresh. Most stores use a “pull date” – the last day the item is offered for sale. This still allows a few days for using at home. For stores that use a “pack date,” especially with meats, inquire how long the product will remain fresh at home

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20 Ways to Use Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Don’t miss these delicious ways to prepare Brussels Sprouts (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Despite its close ties to other popular vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts are not generally found at the top of the list of our favorite vegetables.  This under-appreciated veggie is one of our Vegetables of the Month for April and we hope that getting to know it a little better might inspire you to use it to help fill your family’s plates this month.  Here is a look at where Brussels sprouts came from and some delicious ideas for including them in your April dishes.

Considered a “leafy green,” Brussels sprouts are a member of the same family as cabbages and actually resemble miniature versions of their more popular cousins.  Although the history of the Brussels sprout is not entirely clear, it is believed that they were originally cultivated in ancient Rome and have been grown since the 1200’s in Belgium where they are very popular.  They take their name from Brussels, one of Belgium’s largest cities and they were traditionally grown across Northern Europe because they thrive in colder climates.  They spread from Belgium to the Netherlands and then do through the rest of Europe before becoming known around the world.

Brussels sprouts are not only cousins to cabbage, they also belong to the same family as some of the other more popular leafy greens like kale, collards, broccoli, and kohlrabi.    They provide a good source of vitamins A and C and provide both dietary fiber and folic acid.    Additionally, Brussels sprouts, like broccoli, contain two specific chemical called sulfuraphane and indole-3-carbinol, which are believed to help prevent cancer.

Brussels sprouts can be prepared in a variety of ways including boiling, sautéing, roasting, grilling, steaming, and stir-frying.  To retain the highest nutritional profile, steaming or stir-frying is the best ways to prepare them.  Overcooking can result in an unpleasant taste and smell which most people do not like.  To get the best flavor, roasting is the best method of preparation.  As you can see in the recipes provided below, Brussels sprouts go well with bacon, pistachios, brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, and mustard.

This month, give Brussels sprouts a second chance to become a family favorite.  Here are 20 delicious dishes you can use to try them out.

  1. Roasted Brussels Sprouts 
  2. Shredded Brussels Sprouts
  3. Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Garlic, and Shallots
  4. Breaded Brussels Sprouts
  5. Brussels Sprouts with Browned Garlic
  6. Caramelized Brussels Sprouts with Pistachios
  7. Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
  8. Sweet and Sour Brussels Sprouts
  9. Parmesan Brussels Sprouts
  10. Roasted Potatoes, Parsnips, Carrots, and Brussels Sprouts
  11. Romano Topped Brussels Sprouts
  12. Chile Rubbed Chicken Breast with Kale, Quinoa, and Brussels Sprouts
  13. Chicken with Brussels Sprouts and Mustard
  14. Kielbasa with Brussels Sprouts
  15. Brussels Sprouts Gratin
  16. Brussels Sprouts Salad
  17. Penne with Brussels Sprouts and Bacon
  18. Pan Fried Brussels Sprouts
  19. Roasted Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, and Jerusalem Artichokes
  20. Spicy Brussels Sprouts
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What to Do in Your Garden this Month

prune garden trees

Make sure you prune the excess buds from your fruit tree for the healthiest fruit production (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

April is National Gardening Month and we want to encourage everyone to get their hands dirty and experience the joys that can come from participating in producing your own food.  While you may not think backyard gardening is a possibility here in the desert, you would be wrong.

You can absolutely grow food in your yard to supplement your family’s food supply no matter how dry the weather or hot the temps.  The key is to know what to grow, when to plant, and how to handle the hottest months.

In honor of National Gardening Month, here are some tips for what you can do this month to start or tend your own backyard garden.

  • Plant citrus trees.  Growing your own citrus can help you stretch your family’s food dollar while also providing a healthy source of fruit.  Plant a variety of trees that have staggered ripening timeframes so that you don’t end up with all your fruit ready to eat at the same time.    Trees that are 2-5 years old are the best for transplanting.
  • If you have existing fruit trees that grow apples, peaches, pears, or apricots, now is the time to thin the budding fruits to enable larger fruit to grow and to decrease the chances of branch breakage.
  • Don’t prune fruit trees at this time unless you need to remove dead or dying branches.
  • Don’t be concerned if you have an early drop of fruit, this is the natural thinning process that can be augmented by unseasonably warm weather.
  • Transplant herbs that grow well during the warm spring season here in Arizona like basil, lavender, sage, and rosemary.
  • Prune herbs and add compost to their soil.
  • Plant seeds or transplant seedlings for warm-season loving vegetables like green beans, carrots, green onions, radishes, cucumber, lima beans, squash, and cantaloupe.
  • Apply fertilizer and soil amenders to vegetables that have already gone in the ground.
  • Watch for pests like aphids that show up as the weather begins to warm.  Take steps to protect your vegetables like using shade cloths on tomato plants.
  • Pay attention to the weather and adjust the amount of water you are giving the garden accordingly.  Pay particular attention to unseasonably hot days which can cause rapid dehydration.
  • Watch for wilting leaves and drooping plants which are both signs that your plants are not getting the water they need.
  • Make sure you are providing your fruit trees with enough water to keep the soil moist which promotes fruit growth.
  • Adjust your watering schedule as the temperatures rise.  Remember, plants grow better with consistent access to water which means that watering deep is more important that watering often.  Be sure you are providing enough water to wet the soil to a depth of 2 feet.

 

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What’s in Season in April?

in season garlic

Take advantage of delicious in season produce like fresh garlic this month (photo credit: BigStockPhoto.com)

Spring has us firmly in its grasp which means the farmers markets and grocery store bins will be overflowing with a whole host of new locally grown produce as the spring planting season begins to bear fruit.   Our desert climate means different growing seasons than much of the rest of the country and provides us with near year round access to a wide range of fruits, vegetables, meat, poultry, and dairy products grown right here at home.  In order to get the freshest, most flavorful food products on the market, you can purchase those products grown or raised right here at home.

Here is a list of what is in season this month and ideas for delicious recipes featuring each of these locally grown in season items.

Arugula

Asparagus

Beets

Cabbage

Carrots

Celery Root

Cucumbers

Garlic

Leeks

Lemons

Lettuce

Onions

Peas

Potatoes

Radishes

Spinach

Strawberries

Summer Squash

Zucchini

Zucchini Blossoms

 

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