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Getting Thin On A Budget

In today's world of dieting, eating less can have you spending more.

The decision to lose weight may mean investing in a new lifestyle, which can be costly. Samantha Heller, a nutritionist from NYU Medical Center, talks about the price of getting thin and offers tips for saving money on your diet on The Early Show.

According to the USDA, the average family of four on a "moderate" cost plan (this is the second most expensive out of four spending categories: thrifty, low-cost, moderate, liberal) spends $150 to $180 per week on food. The individual woman spends $45, and food in a major city is more expensive. Taking into consideration standard of living increases, eating on a diet has a considerable price tag when compared to this average.

Heller featured two low-carbohydrate dishes and two low-fat dishes, and their lower-priced alternative.

Low-Carb Recipes

Poached Salmon with Cucumber Dill Sauce, $5.99 to 10.99
Edamame Salad, $2.00 per pkg
Broiled Tomatoes, $1.29 to $2.99 per pound
Steamed Asparagus, $2.49 to $3.99 per pound
Source: "The South Beach Diet"

Cheap Tips:

  • Buying farm raised fish versus organic or ocean-raised fish can cut the price in half ($5.99 for farm-raised, $10.99 for organic). Cheap fish and fish that are lower in fat are: catfish, basa, bluefish and tilapia.
  • Hydroponic, organic, beefsteak, or on-the-vine tomatoes are most expensive. Better prices can be found when the tomatoes are in season, they are locally grown or canned.
  • The cost of asparagus can depend on thickness. If it's not in season, use spinach and broccoli, which are good sources of folic acid. The vegetables can be purchased frozen or canned.
  • Edamame may not be available, so think of using sugar snap peas. Frozen veggies are usually cheaper than fresh.

    Spicy Cocktail
    Luscious Lamb
    Tossed green salad with vinaigrette cream dressing
    Source: "Dr. Atkins New Diet Book"

    Cheap Tips:

  • Buy cheaper cuts of lamb. The cheapest is shoulder chop, at $2.99 to $4.99 per pound. The most expensive is French rib chop at $19.99 per pound. Domestic is cheaper than imported (New Zealand).
  • For recipes that call for alcohol, either leave it out or substitute what you may already have.
  • Buy in bulk, especially if you are feeding a family.
  • For spicy cocktail, save time and money by buying low-sodium bouillon or canned beef broth/stock. You get less fat by using bouillon or broth/stock.
  • Salad dressing calls for tarragon vinegar ($2.39 a bottle). To help with costs, replace with popular vinegars you may find already in your kitchen cabinet: cider vinegar, white wine vinegar or red wine vinegar.
  • Olive oil can be replaced with more conventional cooking oils such as canola.
  • Lettuce greens: Green/red leaf, romaine, and iceberg are cheaper than endive, mesclun and radicchio.

    Beef broth may contain MSG, and it does not contain the same nutrient content.

    Chicken Pepper Steak
    Source: Weight Watchers

    Prep Time: 15 Minutes Cook
    Time: 30 Minutes
    Ready in: 45 Minutes

    "Chicken breast simmered with onion, bell pepper, tomatoes, soy sauce, and spices to be served with a rich, pepper steak style gravy. If you like the taste of pepper steak but really don't enjoy red meat, try it with chicken!"

    1 tablespoon vegetable oil
    4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (approximately $4.50 per pound)
    1 teaspoon seasoning salt
    1/2 teaspoon onion powder
    2 teaspoons minced garlic
    1/2 cup soy sauce, divided
    1 large onion, cut into long slices
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    2 1/2 cups water
    1 green bell pepper, sliced
    4 Roma (plum) tomatoes, seeded and chopped

    Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Season chicken with salt and onion powder, and place in skillet. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes, then add the garlic, 4 tablespoons soy sauce and half of the sliced onion. Cook until chicken is no longer pink, and the juices run clear.

    Dissolve cornstarch in water in a small bowl, and blend into the chicken mixture. Stir in 4 tablespoons soy sauce, bell pepper, tomatoes, and remaining onion. Simmer until gravy has reached desired consistency.

    Cheap Tips:

  • Use bone-in, skinless whole chicken breast and do a little of the work yourself, which can cut the price in half ($2.50).

    It will take about a couple of minutes to prepare the recipe if you are not familiar with it. And, there are several bones to remove, which are fairly identifiable.

    Spicy Shrimp and Lobster Linguine
    Yield: 6 servings

    Source: "Weight Watchers Simply Delicious Winning Points Cookbook"

    1 tablespoon olive oil
    3 onions, chopped
    6 garlic cloves, chopped
    1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes
    1/4 cup dry red wine
    2 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano, or 2 teaspoons dried
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon sugar
    1/4 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
    1 lobster tail (about 1/2 pound) - Frozen is approximately $14.99 per bag, fresh is approximately $26.00 per pound
    1 pound large shrimp, peeled and de-veined - fresh shrimp range from approximately $8.00 per pound to $20.00 per pound
    3/4 pound dried linguine
    1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

    Heat oil in very large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, then add onions and garlic. Sauté 10 minutes until golden. Add tomatoes, wine, oregano, crushed pepper, salt, sugar and ground pepper; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes until flavors are blended and sauce is slightly thickened.

    Meanwhile, remove meat from lobster tail and cut it into 1/2-inch pieces. (To pry meat out, cut away soft undercover with scissors and ease away meat from shell with your fingers.) Add lobster and shrimp to sauce and simmer, uncovered, 5 minutes until just opaque.

    Meanwhile, cook linguine according to package directions; drain and place in a large serving bowl. Toss at once with sauce and sprinkle with parsley.

    Per serving: 7 points, 375 calories, 9 percent calories from fat, 25 grams protein, 58 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams total fiber, 4 grams total fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 98 milligrams cholesterol, 641 milligrams sodium.

    Cheap Tips:

  • Use monk fish, which is often called the "poor man's lobster," in place of real lobster. Monk fish fillets cost about $9.00 per pound.
  • Use frozen shrimp instead of fresh shrimp. Remember, with shrimp, the size alters the price -- the bigger the shrimp, the bigger the price tag. If you were to buy the shrimp as the recipe calls for (peeled, de-veined), the price goes up dramatically. Sometimes you can't buy them that way. Doing some of the work cuts the price. Frozen cooked, shrimp is $8 to $15 a bag (price depends on size and brand). Raw shrimp is approximately $8.00 per pound for large (26/30's), the jumbo size (16/20's) are about $13.00 and up.

    If you use frozen and cooked shrimp, you may have to alter cooking instructions.

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