Eating fresh, healthy, organic, local foods sounds great—but what if you're on a budget? Maybe you dream of shopping at Whole Foods, but the cold, hard light of day finds you wheeling down the aisles at ShopRite®.
We feel your pain. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to eat well and actually save money in the process. Your shopping list isn't going to include vegetarian, brown rice sushi rolls from the macrobiotic deli case, but trust us, you'll live.
How often do you swing by the market on your way home from work, tired and starving? While this seems like grandmotherly advice, it's firmly rooted in current research; a new Cornell study shows that people who shop while hungry are more inclined to buy more calorically dense food.1 Keep a piece of fruit or a small Ziploc® bag full of raw nuts in your bag to guard against filling your cart with foods you're craving now but wouldn't buy on a full stomach.
While any processing takes away from a food's maximum nutritional value, flash freezing is a great way to preserve vitamins and minerals when vegetables and seafood are at their freshest. And the convenience of a bag of veggies or a filet of fish in the freezer can't be beat. The price? For seafood, there's no comparison: fresh is much more expensive—when you can get it at all. (If you check at your local grocer's fish counter, you'll find that much of what is being sold in the case as fresh has in fact been previously frozen.) Produce is trickier: frozen is sometimes, but not always, cheaper than fresh, in-season, fruits and vegetables.
This may surprise you, but it's cheaper to get your veggies—organic or not—at the local farmers' market than at the local supermarket. A 2011 study by the Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont is one of several around the country showing that farmers' market prices are consistently lower than those of neighboring grocery stores.2 Who knew? So have a great time shopping with your neighbors and supporting local farmers, and be happy in the knowledge that you're saving money too.
Don't cave in to the snazzy packaging on the supermarket shelves. Make your meal plan and shopping list at home, and then stick to it. Here's the exception: when you shop at the farmers' market or local produce stand, sometimes a gorgeously fresh fruit or vegetable will stand out—one you hadn't planned on. Build some flexibility into your list to account for these unanticipated treasures . . . just decide which meals you want to add them to before purchasing. A good rule of thumb is to stick absolutely to your list of pantry items, but give yourself some leeway with fresh, seasonal foods.
Beans are a great source of protein and fiber, and form the cornerstone of many world cuisines. And they're dead cheap—if you buy them dried. Soaking your own beans is easy, though it does take more planning than opening a can of them. But it's no big deal. Just decide the night before what you're going to eat the next day. If a meal includes beans, then put them in a pot of water to soak and leave them overnight. In the morning, let them cook as you're getting ready for the day.
Costco® and other warehouse stores sell fruits and vegetables at ridiculously low prices—if you're willing to buy, say, 15 pounds of potatoes or 8 pounds of oranges at a time. You're in for some work at home, but at those prices, who's complaining? Also, in many regions it is possible to pair up with another family or two and buy a portion of either a cow or a pig directly from a local farmer. In exchange, you will receive many, many neatly wrapped and labeled packages of meat. An extra freezer is necessary for this, but well worth the investment if you live in a region where such arrangements exist. Another huge benefit of this is that you know the animal was not raised on a factory feedlot. Therefore, the meat will likely be free from the steroids and antibiotics that plague grocery store bargain meat cuts.
Community Supported Agriculture is another way to save money by cutting out the middleman. With a CSA, you pay a flat fee up front. On the East Coast it's typically $400-$500—for a whole growing season of produce! Every week you get a box of whatever came out of the farmer's field. Like buying in bulk at warehouse stores, this calls for some time and creativity in the kitchen. In late summer, we sometimes freak out trying to figure out what to do with all those perfect, ripe tomatoes. What a problem to have!
Over the last few decades, restaurant portions have become gargantuan, and we somehow seem to think that a platter of food is actually a single serving. Most restaurant entrées can easily feed two or three. So when you're out, either share a single entrée, or get half boxed for another meal. And at home, serve smaller portions on smaller plates. It won't take long at all before you're satisfied with sensible portions!
What tips do you follow to cut down on your food budget? Email us at email@example.com.
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Summer is synonymous with looking great, but not just because it's beach/pool/fire escape season. It's also blockbuster season. All summer long, we'll admire the hyperbolically pumped, precision-chiseled, ragingly vascular physiques of the leading men and women that will dominate the silver screen.
When it comes to getting you off the couch, there's no better motivation than these action heroes. The wrathful abs of Gerard Butler, the hard core of Angelina Jolie, and the trim build of Chris Pine are worthy fitness goals within reach, if you're willing to work for them. Keep in mind that the actors have the luxury of dedicated trainers, a personal chef, and have the time and resources to workout whenever, wherever, and however they please.
Read on to find out what's involved if you want to achieve the look of your favorite action hero. Don't forget to thank us during your Oscars acceptance speech.
Workout: Jackman followed a 12-week program divided into halves, the first for bulking and the second for cutting. Phase 1 involved three sets each of regular and close-grip bench presses, incline flies, dips, and push-ups, using an 8-6-4 rep structure at the maximum weight necessary to reach failure. Phase 2 featured the same routine, using lower weights and higher reps, but was followed with cardio training on the treadmill (10 sprints of 50 meters separated by 30-second rests) and rowing intervals (2 kilometers in 7 minutes).
Diet: Phase 1: 6,000 high-protein calories per day consisting of chicken, turkey, fish and vegetables, with snacks of nuts, seeds, and berries, and pre- and postworkout supplementation. Denis Faye, Beachbody's Nutrition and Wellness Expert, also recommends working in some red meat for a more primal diet befitting the character: "Red meat was vilified for a long time, but current research shows that grass-fed beef without steroids or additives is a healthy, nutritious option." In Phase 2, Jackman observed the same diet but cut his calories by 1,500 per day.
Workout: According to Sackhoff, her regimen changes depending on the role, but always involves intense weight work interspersed with cardio, Pilates, or High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) consisting of an 11-minute workout in which 15-second sprints are followed by 15 seconds of walking.
Diet: Sackhoff's athletic frame allows for less disciplined eating, which Sackhoff herself admits. Says Faye, "Your body lives in a cycle of reduction and oxidation. When you drink and eat badly, the oxidation part can get out of control. To fight it, you need antioxidants." These could include vitamins A (eggs, lean meats), C (citrus fruits, berries), E (leafy vegetables, nuts), and K (leafy vegetables, nuts), and all colors of phytonutrients (nonessential components like quercetin, found in fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, and teas). Aesthetically, these nutrients are especially important for women, says Faye, "because right or wrong, men are more socially allowed to grow leathery as they age." It's true. Mickey Rourke's rider forbids antioxidants.
Workout: Cavill underwent intense weight training capped by a practice advocated by Mark Twight, called the Tail Pipe. The method combines exercise and recovery by using a series of breaths after each of four weight exercises—in this case goblet squats, kettlebell swings, squat thrusts, and jumping jacks—before immediately beginning the next one, for a total of 100 reps. "When you're done," Twight explains, "it feels like you've been sucking on the tail pipe of a car." Total time: 2-1/2 sucking hours a day.
Diet: All that work required 5,000 high-protein calories a day during the bulking phase, but a diet should be more balanced in this case, according to Faye. "You want to be big and strong, but you want agility and flexibility too. So I'd go with a clean, balanced Zone diet (30/40/30 fat/carbs/protein) and regulate calories as needed. Wanna get bigger? Add calories. Smaller? Subtract. Whole grains, fresh fruits, vegetables, and lean meats (fish, chicken, eggs) form the basis of the plan, and "because he's from Smallville, there's gonna be some dairy in there."
Workout: Tatum has been associated at some point with just about every workout under the sun. He followed a strict three-days-on, one-day-off cycle of high-intensity, full-body circuits (e.g., jump squats, dead lifts, sit-ups) at 30 minutes apiece for his role in Fighting, then went with a three-hour daily program for the lead in Magic Mike. It's reasonable to assume that he borrowed from each for his latest turn opposite Jamie Foxx, reportedly favoring dumbbells, medicine balls, kettlebells, and jump rope over machine work.
Diet: Tatum's been linked with just about every known diet, too, including a low-fat, high-protein diet for Fighting and a gluten- and dairy-free diet for Magic Mike. In either case, his admitted hatred of fruits and vegetables adds difficulty to the already lofty dietary task of maintaining such a high-performance physique. Put bluntly, "He looks like he could get fat by accident," observes Faye. A diet like Tatum's should be "ultra-clean—no fried stuff. Most people can eat 80/20 good/bad foods, but he's got to go 100 percent" while training, emphasizing the steamed vegetables he loathes and keeping sauces and added sugar to a minimum.
Workout: A reluctant participant in mass building, Gosling happily submitted to two hours a day of Muay Thai martial arts training for his upcoming movie, set in Thailand. For Place Beyond the Pines, director Derek Cianfrance is quoted as crediting Gosling with having gained 40 pounds of muscle. While the filmmaker's muscle math might be off, the combination of weight training and fight activity helps Gosling negotiate bulk and balance.
Diet: His fight trainer put him on a traditional Thai regimen of fish, green vegetables, and rice, which aligns with Faye's recommendations for someone of Gosling's build and disposition. "He seems like someone who's going to eat whatever the hell he wants," Faye speculates. "So at least eat the best of the worst—get educated on what's healthiest on fast food menus; if you're gonna go to a bar, hard alcohol with soda water is the least caloric of all drinks." He says intake should be balanced, not high-protein, keeping carb content to the whole-grain variety with lots of fruits.
Workout: Vega's regiment is a cocktail of spin class, TNT boot camp, and Pilates 4 times a week.
Diet: Faye notes that Vega's curvy, so while she'll want to make sure she consumes enough carbs to do all the HIIT and cardio work in her program, "this is not a body that requires intense, crazy training." Because she's more dimensional than, say, Angelina Jolie, her calorie deficit won't be as severe. Eat lean meats and protein, raw vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains—general smart eating 101. And her look is relatively attainable, as Faye states, "A Jolie or Sackhoff body takes work. A Vega body takes common sense."
Workout: A natural athlete, Elba actually doesn't have to kill himself to maintain his rangy frame. When allowed by a lax filmmaker or bout of momentary unemployment, he most enjoys Muay Thai. A few rounds with a speed bag to cycle through the various kicks and combos are followed by some sparring and leg raises. Otherwise, Elba initiates a workout wherever he can in the form of a 45-minute jog, 100-rep round of push-ups and sit-ups, or swimming.
Diet: "You don't hit that age (41) and look like that and not eat well," ventures Faye. Rather than angling for a Spartan physique or photo shoot (shirtless pics of the British actor are rare), for Elba it's about longevity. "Moderation—he likely never jacks up his calories super-high, keeping them between 2,000 and 3,000 with good carbs like quinoa, beans, and brown rice. Any runner, cycler, or swimmer is going to consume those things to keep glycogen and blood sugar ready at all times."
Workout: RDJ already stays exceptionally fit by practicing Wing Chun, a close-quarters Chinese martial art. But it takes more meat to fill out the Mark XLII armor, which means trading his normal emphasis on cardio for increased weight work—squats, presses, lunges, and dead lifts for his lower body, and pull-ups, dips, military and bench presses, rows, push-ups, and kettlebells for the upper. Periodization optimizes performance and mass, alternating high weight and low reps with low weight and high reps during workouts of alternating length.
Diet: The Tony Stark workout requires 5,000 calories a day, with feedings every three hours at a 30/30/40 ratio of fat, protein, and carbs. The dietary challenges here are as much psychological as physical. "His workout is a version of CrossFit, but even wackier because that helps keep him interested, so with diet, it's got to be the same." That means lots of different meats and different-colored fruits and vegetables that represent the phytonutrient rainbow. The net result: 25 pounds of added muscle.
Workout: To prepare Pine for one of this summer's most anticipated movies, trainer Michael Vale committed him to three days of weight-resistance-training workouts alternating with three days of HIIT cardio circuits over two months.
Diet: Nutritional rules here are similar to Elba's, only with slightly fewer calories. "Something that's going to fight off stress," suggests Faye, "so a lot of organic stuff." Here, he invokes the Confucian saying hara hachi bu—loosely translated as "eat until you're 80% full"—to emphasize moderation. His projected energy ratios: 50/25/25 carbs, fat, and protein, respectively. "If you're a cardio-based athlete, that's what you do."
Workout: To train for the role of Lara Croft, producers subjected Jolie to 2-1/2 months of weight training, kickboxing, and yoga. An obsessive personality, Jolie responded well to the extremes demanded of her by her training, and she gained the same weight as Lara's giant braid, or roughly four pounds.
Diet: Faye says, "You can't be that perpetually skinny and not be chronically undereating." Therefore, he stresses the importance of supplementation when eating at a calorie deficit to get necessary vitamins, minerals, and omega fatty acids. "If you're not getting those and you're exercising, you're going to tear yourself up," which is why, in addition to five meals a day, trainers administered Jolie vitamins, teas, and protein shakes. "You really need to make sure you're supplementing B vitamins," Faye continues. "I deal with heavy people who are trying to diet, when eating a tiny amount of calories, they're just lethargic. Give them B vitamins and they're like, 'Woo hoo!'"
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Okay, I'll admit it. I'm the first person to curse my weak willpower when I find myself polishing off a bag of tortilla chips or skipping a Piloxing class. But I may have to find a new excuse, because apparently I—and maybe you too—have gotten the whole idea of willpower completely wrong.
Most of us believe that willpower is some innate, magical quality that only a lucky few are born with enough of to reach the goals they set for themselves. But according to scientists and psychologists who specialize in this sort of thing, what we call "willpower" is actually just a one-two punch of self-control and smart decision–making strategies.
On one hand, that's bad news for anyone—ahem, me—who likes to use lack of willpower as an excuse for falling off the weight loss wagon. On the other hand, it's good news because it means you can hone your willpower like any other skill. And, just like doing push-ups, it gets easier the more you do it. Here are five easy ways to tap into your willpower (or whatever you want to call it).
You have it or you don't, right? Wrong. Instead of thinking of willpower as a genetic gift, think of it as a game plan. "Instead of saying, 'I have no willpower,' ask yourself how to handle the situation," says registered dietitian Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D., and author of Diabetes Weight Loss—Week by Week. Think you just can't give up your soda habit? Can't stick to a gym routine? Can't make yourself eat veggies? Think again. "When my patients say, 'I can't,' they usually mean, 'I choose not to,' or, 'I haven't yet figured out how to,'" Weisenberger says. "There is a solution to most problems. You have to look for it and then practice that strategy." Another fun fact? Through his research, willpower expert Roy Baumeister discovered that those who believe willpower is finite tend to run out of it. Those who believe that willpower is not a limited resource continue to be able to tap into it when they need it. Believe in your willpower, find a few strategies that work for you to set yourself up for success, and voilá, you'll have the willpower you need.
You've probably heard the adage that luck is where preparation meets opportunity. The same can be said for willpower—a little prep work can help you make healthy choices. "One of the best things you can do is create an environment that will help you be successful," says Mitzi Dulan, R.D., coauthor of The All-Pro Diet. "Avoid buying chips and cookies. If you buy chocolate, buy bite-size." Look at it this way—if you can resist buying chips at the grocery store, you only have to resist temptation once. If you buy the chips, you'll have to resist temptation every single time you walk past your kitchen.
In House of Cards, Kevin Spacey's character Frank Underwood quips, "I never make big decisions so long after sunset and so far before dawn." Sure, Underwood is a manipulative villain, but it's not a bad strategy—lack of sleep can impair your ability to make smart decisions. "Both stress and sleep deprivation affect hormones that may impact our appetite and food choices," Weisenberger says. "Adequate sleep and appropriate stress management aren't optional—they are as critical as eating your fruits and vegetables and being physically active." No matter how busy you are, make sure you get a good night's sleep and carve out a few minutes each day to de-stress. It can make a world of difference to your willpower.
It's harder to stick to your diet when you're hungry—not exactly breaking news, right? But it's not just pure hunger that's getting in your way, or else you'd be just as satisfied with a handful of carrots as a handful of cookies. The real problem is that glucose levels seem to play a big role in self-control, so the hungrier you get, the harder it becomes to choose healthy foods over calorie-laden comfort foods. Last year, Baumeister wrote in the APA Monitor on Psychology that low glucose levels can reduce self-control—so eat before you're famished if you want to improve your odds of resisting junk-food faves.
Oddly enough, Baumeister found that it also works the other way around—exercising self-control can actually lower your glucose levels. It's possible that the more decisions you have to make, the more your glucose levels dip, and the harder it is to make a healthy choice the next time. In other words, resisting that donut on your commute to work might make it harder to walk past the candy dish in the office, or turn down greasy takeout at lunch. So rather than relying on sheer self-control, see if you can find ways to avoid tempting situations—for example, find a route to work that doesn't pass your favorite bakery. That way, you'll have plenty of willpower left for the temptations you can't avoid.
When you're on a weight loss regimen, it's easy to obsess over the occasional slip-up—a high-calorie snack here, a skipped workout there—and lose sight of your long-term goal. But the ability to rally after a setback may be more important than the ability to make virtuous decisions all the time. Angela Duckworth, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Pennsylvania, coined the term "grit" for people who stay focused on a long-term goal, come hell or high water. "The gritty individual approaches achievement as a marathon," Duckworth said in a 2007 study. "Whereas disappointment or boredom signals to others that it is time to change trajectory and cut losses, the gritty individual stays the course."
So the next time you're tempted to curse your lack of willpower, remember that self-control is a skill—and like any skill, you'll screw up a few times while you're learning it. What's important is that you keep going. "Determine your weak areas or obstacles and make a plan to overcome them. Put your plan into practice, evaluate it and adjust it if necessary. And expect to stray from the plan and know that you can keep moving forward," Weisenberger says. "Eating fast food doesn't make you bad at following your diet any more than having a fender bender makes you a bad driver."
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