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Staff photo by Don Himsel Sharon Dwane, Sue Martinelli, Tom Dwane and Luis Porres finish up their morning walk on the downtown rail trail Wednesday, April 7, 2010.
Thursday, April 8, 2010

Public Health Week marked with tips on eating on budget

NASHUA – For years, Michelle Provencher put a “secret ingredient” into her children’s brownies and other dessert treats.

The kids never knew what that ingredient was until they got older and Provencher figured it was time to give them a cooking lesson.

One day they were making brownies when Provencher announced it was time to add the secret ingredient. The kids were wide-eyed with anticipation, until Provencher directed them to get the tubs of leftover carrots, peas and other vegetables from the refrigerator.

Provencher put them into the blender, and voila! – there was the secret ingredient.

Predictably, the kids were aghast, until Provencher pointed out that they’ve been eating it for years, and they’ve liked it.

“You have to be sneaky, even with the adults. Sometimes, I think the adults are worse than the kids,” said Provencher, a certified nutritional counselor with Real People’s Health, a company that practices at the Holistic Self-Care Center at 12 Murphy Drive.

Provencher presented Eating Healthy on a Budget, one of the various programs being held throughout the week as part of the city’s celebration of National Public Health Week. Sneaking vegetables into baked goods – substituting the blended mix for the water called for in the recipe – was just one of many tips.

The week kicked off Monday with a program outside City Hall, in which Mayor Donnalee Lozeau read a proclamation and presented an award to Dr. Donald Levy, honoring him for serving 20 years on the city Board of Health. Levy recently stepped down and was replaced by Dr. Ajay Sharma.

“It’s a very healthy, nurturing environment due to everybody who works for the city and helps out,” Levy said of his years serving on the health board and practicing medicine in Nashua.

The program was followed by a walk down Main Street by many of the approximately 40 people who attended.

Other programs for the week included a day in the life of public health, how to prevent strokes, a supermarket guide to healthy shopping, information on the city’s parks and recreation opportunities, and others.

City workers joined in a walk downtown Wednesday, and many pledged to bike to work Friday.

At the healthy eating presentation Tuesday, Provencher stressed that planning is key.

“A lot of people say, it’s too expensive to eat healthy, I can’t do it,” Provencher said. “The most important thing that you can do is plan.”

Make a grocery list and remember to bring it to the store. Too often, people will forget and leave the list at home, or use it just to replace items they’ve run out of, instead of planning a healthy meal, she said.

Or, they’ll stop at the supermarket to pick up a couple of things and end up spending $60 or more, she said.

If you plan your meals, you should need to go to the grocery store only once a week, she said.

Also, when shopping, stick to the perimeter of the store, Provencher said. The produce, dairy and frozen food sections tend to be on the outside edges, while most of the unhealthy processed foods are in the aisles in the middle, she said.

Try to buy fruits and vegetables in season – they’re fresher and less expensive – and don’t be shy to buy frozen food, she said.

“Frozen fruit or produce are sometimes better and fresher than what you get in the produce section,” Provencher said.

It’s also good to buy in bulk, though one mother attending the program noted what parents, especially parents of boys, have long realized.

“I don’t like to buy in bulk, because no matter what I buy, my boys will devour it all at once,” said Janet Graziano, financial manager of the city Health Department.

Provencher also said it’s cheaper and healthier to make your own dinners and lunches than to eat out, and she advised to not drink soda at all, but to drink flavored water or juice instead.

She also recommended buying quinoa, a grain often sold in the health sections of grocery stores. It has the slowest release of sugar and starch of any grain, meaning that it prevents the carbohydrate sugar-spike that occurs with some grains and pastas, she said.

Among the City Hall workers attending the program was Mo Qamarudeen, the financial services coordinator. His reason for spending his lunch hour at the program would ring a bell with many middle-age guys who hold sedentary desk jobs.

“Spring’s here, I’m trying to get some of this body mass index under control,” he said, patting his stomach.

“It’s not going to be perfect, I’m just trying to get it down a bit,” Qamarudeen said.

Patrick Meighan can be reached at 594-6518 or pmeighan@nashuatelegraph.com.