Food insecurity is a concern for many families living in our community. No one should ever go hungry, thanks to the many resources offered in our community. There is plenty of food to feed everyone in our community, if you simply know where to find it. Budgeting the money you use for food and even budgeting your SNAP benefits are essential; supplementing your food through pantries is a necessity to many families. Hoosier Hills Food Bank contributes to most, if not all, of the food pantries in Bloomington. Hoosier Hills Food Bank depends on the donations from businesses and individuals in our community to provide food to those in need. If HHFB does not receive donations of certain food items, you will see a decreased amount of that food item when you attend local pantries.
Try to shop wisely, purchasing those things you cannot find in abundance at food pantries (meat, dairy, eggs). Try shopping at discount food stores such as Aldi’s. Create a meal plan before going to the grocery store, so you can create a list ahead of time to make sure you have each day’s meal plan covered. Try to stock up on certain items for your pantry such as canned fruits and vegetables, these items have a lengthy shelf life and keeping these items on hand can help ensure that your family does not go hungry during those times that donations to the Hoosier Hills Food Bank are low and certain items are unavailable. Purchasing generic brands at the grocery store is another way to save money, many generic brand items are just as tasty as the name brand items. Freezing food is also an option, if you have lots of leftovers, freeze them and re-heat at a later date to enjoy a ready-made meal.
There are wonderful organizations such as Community Kitchen and Area 10 Congregate Meal sites that serve hot meals to those that are in need of food. Community Kitchen Express is located conveniently on the corner of 11th and Monroe streets in Bloomington, they offer carry out meals. Residents can also visit their township trustee and receive food resources as well.
If you are unable to think of creative ways to prepare healthy food, Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard is a great resource in our community. Their staff can teach you how to prepare food and to make sure you are able to make well balanced meal choices. There are community gardens located throughout Bloomington, which offer fresh produce and herbs. Harvesting from the community gardens can be a cost effective way for those on a budget to supplement items they would otherwise have to purchase at a grocery store.
Another creative way to make your food dollars stretch is to have pitch-in dinners with your family, friends or neighbors. Instead of every household preparing an entire meal, each household can contribute one dish instead. Pitch-in’s can be a fun way to stretch your food dollars. You can even make theme dinner nights such as Mexican, Italian, Chinese etc. Keep in mind, if you are at a pantry and there are items that you and your family will not use, don’t take those items, leave them for families that will use them. At a time when there is a decrease in food donations, we all need to be thoughtful and only take what or family needs or will use.
Proteins are essential to your diet
A diet high in protein can help us maintain a healthy weight, build and repair muscle tissue, and curb our appetite. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is considered a macronutrient which means we have to consume large amounts to stay healthy. According to the USDA’s Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA), we should take in between 10 to 35 percent of our daily calories from protein sources. Now, if you think the only way you can up your protein intake is by eating more steak and chicken, you might be surprised to know there are more protein sources in your diet other than meat.
- Eggs– Not only are eggs an incredible source of protein, but they also contain several B vitamins responsible for energy, including B6, B12, thiamin, riboflavin, and folate. A single hard-boiled egg with the yolk will provide you with 6 grams (g) of protein alone. The all-natural, high-quality protein found in eggs is often used as the benchmark for evaluating the protein quality of other foods. Although it is true that eggs are high in cholesterol, they are only high in HDL “good” cholesterol and do not have an unhealthy impact on our cholesterol levels.
- Cottage Cheese– With 13g of protein for every 4 ounces (1/2-cup), cottage cheese is great source of protein. For those of you who don’t find the taste of cottage cheese to be all that appealing, try adding nuts, fruit, and cinnamon for some flavor, antioxidants, fiber, and more protein. As a dairy product, cottage cheese also builds up bone strength through its high amount of calcium.
- Greek Yogurt– Greek yogurt brands, including Fage, Oikos, and Chobani, can provide you with upward of 20g of protein per serving. While Greek yogurt is packed with almost double the amount of protein as regular yogurt, it also contains fewer carbohydrates, which is why it is a favorite among diabetics. Greek yogurt is also recommended as a substitute for other dairy products such as sour cream, cheese, and ice cream thanks to its low-fat content. You can also make your tuna or chicken salad healthier by substituting mayonnaise for Greek yogurt.
- Nuts-The best part about adding nuts to your diet as a healthy protein source is the amount of variety you have. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts, peanuts, and cashews are packed with all three macronutrients on top of essential micronutrients such as vitamin E, vitamin B6, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, and potassium. The protein count for each type of nut includes 5.9g for 22 unsalted almonds, 5.9g for 49 unsalted pistachios, 4.3g for 14 walnut halves, 6.7g for 35 unsalted peanuts, and 4.3g for 18 cashew halves.
- Chia Seeds– Something as small as a chia seed may seem like an odd source of protein, but this tiny superfood is packed with omega-3 fatty acids, fiber, antioxidants, and, of course, protein. An ounce of chia seeds contains 4g of high quality protein, 12g of carbohydrates (11 of which are fiber), and 9g of fat (5 of which are Omega-3s). Many nutrition and fitness experts recommend chia seeds as a substitute for energy drinks and carbohydrates as a pre-workout supplement.
- Beans– Vegetarians rely on beans as a major source of protein for their meatless diet, and for good reason. Protein can be found in a variety of different bean choices, including soybeans (28.5g of protein per cup), kidney beans (15g of protein per cup), black beans (15g of protein per cup), pinto beans (15.5g of protein per cup), and lima beans (14.5g of protein per cup). The variety of different bean options can also be added to a variety of different meal options, including omelets, salads, chili, and other popular dishes.
- Quinoa– In addition to beans, the superfood quinoa is a recommended protein source for people on a vegetarian diet. A single cup of quinoa is packed with around 24g of protein. It is also considered a complete protein, which means it contains all nine essential amino acids that have to come from food, since they are not naturally produced by the body.