Healthy Lifestyle Tips

Did you know, according to the 2014 Hunger in America Study, 58% of client households have a member with high blood pressure? In those same households, 33% have members with diabetes. In the senior population those numbers are even higher.

The clients we work with are more likely to have diet related chronic diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes. In an effort to improve health outcomes, food banks and Partner Agencies have started looking to nutrition. As a resource provider, we have the ability to provide clients with food that will benefit their health. What are some ways that we can build a better food box? Below are some suggested food items categorized by food group. Including all of the food groups in food boxes you distribute will provide the recipient with a variety of nutrients.

Fruits & Vegetables

  • Fresh produce
  • Low sodium or water packed canned vegetables, including tomatoes and tomato sauce
  • Canned fruits in 100% juice or lite syrup
  • Dried fruits and vegetables with no added sugar or fat


  • Low sodium or water packed canned meats and seafood. Chicken, tuna and salmon are high in protein and low in saturated fat.
  • Dried beans, peas and lentils
  • Low sodium canned beans and peas
  • Frozen meat

Dairy & Dairy Substitutes

  • Milk
  • Shelf stable milk or non-dairy alternatives, such as soy milk or almond milk

100% Whole Grains

  • Whole wheat pasta, barley, brown rice and wild rice
  • Whole grain cereal and rolled oats. Low sugar or unsweetened are encouraged

Healthy Fats

  • Low sodium nuts and nut butters, such as peanuts, almonds and cashews

Snacks can be a healthy part of your daily diet. They can provide a much needed energy boost between meals as well as vitamins, minerals and fiber. Follow these tips to keep your snacking smart!

• When: Don’t snack because it is a daily part of your routine; snack when you are feeling a little bit hungry. Some people reach the point of hunger several hours after a meal and some reach it much sooner. Have a bite if you’re hungry, but hold off if you aren’t.
What: Think of snacks as small meals that contribute needed nutrients to your body. Try choosing a snack that contains foods from at least two different food groups: grains, fruit, vegetable, dairy or protein. Keep a variety of nutritious snacks on hand, such as whole grain crackers and cheese.
• How Much: Keep portion control in mind. Instead of eating straight from the package, portion snacks into single serving containers. Aim for around 150 to 250 calories.

Healthy snacks are an important part of a well balanced diet. Below are a couple of 3-ingredient, low-cost snacks which take very little time to prepare and can be enjoyed any time of day.

The average American consumes 3,500 mg of sodium a day, but the recommended amount is less than 2,300 mg a day. Many believe that eliminating the salt shaker fixes the problem, but the truth is that 77% of the sodium in our diet comes from processed, packaged and restaurant foods.

Why Limit Sodium? Sodium can increase blood pressure because it holds excess fluids in the body. Over time, high blood pressure can damage the walls of the arteries. This can lead to heart attacks, strokes, and kidney damage.

Ways to reduce Sodium:

  • Cook with fresh foods versus prepared foods
  • Cook with less salt and try herbs and spices instead
  • Read the Nutrition Facts panel to compare foods for lower sodium options
  • Rinse and drain canned foods to reduce sodium by 40%
  • Limit condiments and toppings that can be high in sodium, such as ketchup, barbecue sauce, soy sauce, pickles, and olives
  • Pick fresh or frozen vegetables over canned

Surprising Sources of Sodium 

  • Fast food is loaded with sodium. Even the healthy options and the foods that do not taste salty are shockingly high in sodium. For example, the McDonald’s Grilled Southwestern Salad has 920 mg of sodium, and the small Chocolate Shake has more sodium than the small French Fries.
  • Frozen meals can have up to 1,000 mg per serving.
  • Pizza averages 600 mg of sodium per slice.
  • Different types of cheese have a wide range of sodium content. American cheese has three times more sodium than mozzarella or Swiss cheese.
  • Boxed rice and pasta mixes are loaded with sodium, but plain rice and pasta have almost none.
  • The sodium content of bread, cereal, and crackers varies from brand to brand, so always compare the nutrition facts label.

Nudging your clients to pick healthier foods

Our goal is to make the healthiest choice the easiest choice for clients. Research has shown that small changes to the food distribution environment can greatly influence clients’ choices. These environmental cues or “nudges” include simple changes such as product placement, signage, appearance, and packaging. At Second Harvest, we hope to apply these nudges to our food distributions to help our clients pick healthier foods. If we can help clients pick more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and low fat dairy, we can influence their overall health and decrease their chances for chronic diseases.

Easy Nudges
1. Place healthy foods at the front—People are likely to take more when their cart is empty versus when it starts to fill up.
2. Cooking Demonstrations or Food Samples—These are especially helpful with more “strange” foods such as spaghetti squash or bok choy.
3. Recipes—Click here for some great recipes created by Second Harvest’s dietician specifically for your clients
4. Signage—Make signs to tell people what it is. Also display pictures of healthy foods in waiting areas to prime clients to pick those foods.
5. Abundance—People are more likely to take food if there appears to be an abundance of it. Make sure crates are full and that produce appears attractive.

For more information watch this video: Nutrition and Health Strategies Nudges

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