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Trim inches from waist, not wallet

More and more dieters are jumping on the low-carb bandwagon to shed unwanted pounds. Others are choosing health foods because they feel they are better for their families and the environment.

With 61 percent of U.S. adults either obese or overweight, you’d think that eating right is common sense; however, many feel that eating right is too expensive. According to the Organic Trade Association, more than 65 percent of people who do not eat organic foods cite price as a major factor in their decision, as health-related foods often cost several times more than the conventional.

Even more expensive are meal plans found on the Atkins or South Beach programs. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, a nutritionally sufficient food plan for adults averages $6.22 a day. Compare that to the Atkins diet that averages $14.27 a day and the South Beach diet averaging $12.78 (USAToday.com). All three plans are good for your body, while one is much better for your wallet.

Cutting back on the cost of food doesn’t have to mean ditching your diet or cutting back on nutrition. When heading out to shop for healthful foods, follow these tips from Money Management International to keep both your body and your budget in tip-top shape.

• Make a commitment. Before you purchase costly diet manuals, such as The South Beach Diet for $24.95 or sign up for a month of Weight Watchers for about $45, check your commitment. Jumping in and out of diets can really add up.

• Shop around. Health food stores aren’t the only places that sell supplements and meal replacements — some grocery clubs sell these items discounted in bulk. Also consider joining a member-owned food co-operative, where you trade volunteer time for big savings. For a list of co-ops in your area, visit www.greenpeople.org.

• Know the code. If you are willing to pay more for organics, be sure you get what you pay for. If unsure whether or not a food item is organic, read the stickers. If the product code begins with a “4” it is not organic; organic food codes start with a “9.” Also read nutrition guides carefully, as labels may indicate two or more servings in what you might think a single serving.

• Make sure it’s worth it. A label that reads “all natural” leads many people to believe that products are healthy, but you should be careful. For example, vegetable chips fried in oil may be just as high in saturated fat and sodium as regular potato chips, but they may cost you twice as much.

• Make it from scratch. Besides being more expensive, prepackaged foods are often high in fat, sodium and calories. Take a healthier, less-expensive approach by cleaning and preparing fresh vegetables or popping your own popcorn rather than purchasing the microwave variety.

• Substitute. Atkins and South Beach dieters may stay true to their plans and still save some money by substituting ingredients. For example, consider using frozen fish, fruits and vegetables instead of fresh. Other suggestions can be found at www.supermarketguru.com.

• Watch what you drink. According to iVillage.com, if you switch your favorite drink from soda and sugary juice to water, you will pump up your metabolism and your bank account. If you used to spend $2 a day on soda, you’ll save $730 a year.

Finally, if you are wondering whether or not it’s worth the work to find the healthy bargains, consider this: There is a strong nutritional component to about 7 of the 10 leading causes of death in this country. While it is important to invest in your health, be smart about it.

•Tommye White is the Director of Counseling for the Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS), a division of Money Management International. CCCS toll-free number is 1-800-873-2227 and its Web site is www.moneymanagement.org.

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