How to be Healthy on a Budget

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

You might think it is hard to eat healthy when you do not have a lot of money. Sadly, when people think this way, they pick up unhealthy nutritional habits. There is a way, however, to be healthy on a budget!

Before you go to the grocery store, check to see what you have in your pantry or refrigerator. This helps you figure out what you need to buy. Also, take the time to plan family meals. This will also help you make a list of the foods you need to buy. If you look at your schedule, figure out what easy meals you can make on the busiest days of the week.

Image source: Flicker (USDA, CC BY 2.0)

Another way to save at the store is by using coupons. When you select coupons, look at coupons for items you will use. If you have a tight budget but want to try new healthy foods, take advantage of coupons! Also, check out deals throughout the store. Did you know stores like to put the expensive items at eye level? Look at the items on high and low shelves for deals too!

According to MyPlate, you need to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables. When you buy fruits and vegetables that are in-season, they are less expensive and are at their peak flavor. Eating fruits and vegetables fresh, however, is not the only option.

Did you know the benefits of canned and frozen fruits and vegetables? People believe canned and frozen fruits and vegetables do not have all the nutritional value compared to fresh produce. However, canned or frozen fruits and vegetables may actually have higher nutritional value because they are processed soon after harvesting. Canned and frozen fruits and vegetables also last longer and are quick to put in your meals when you do not have time to eat or get fresh produce. This allows you to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your meals. Consider buying canned or frozen fruits and vegetables today!

Check out Smart Shopping for Veggies and Fruits:

Image source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

It can be especially difficult for families who have low incomes to be healthy on a budget. When families do not have good nutrition, this can affect their health and delay development and learning. Fortunately, there are programs that help low-income families maintain good nutrition.

Become familiar with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides monthly assistance to buy foods such as fruits, vegetables, bread, cereal, poultry, milk, and meat.

Families, who have children under the age of five, check out the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). WIC provides food, health care information, nutrition education, and promotes breast-feeding to low-income women and children who are at risk for poor nutrition.

Take advantage of school meals too! Children are given free or reduced cost breakfast and lunch at school, depending on the family’s income level. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 ensures that school meals are healthier by serving low-fat diary, whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and lean meats.

Remember, look for deals throughout the stores and use coupons! Consider frozen or canned fruits and vegetables. Finally, become familiar with assistance programs you qualify for! All of these tips help you manage your food and be healthy on a budget.

How to Keep Your Teen Healthy?

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT-Austin Spring Intern

Adolescence is a period of time during which teens are exploring their choices and adjusting to emotional, mental, and physical change. Not only do you have to worry about the choices your teenagers are making but you have to worry about their nutrition too! It is important we understand teenagers are going through their second major growth period. That is why the nutritional needs for teenagers increase greatly. In order to stay healthy, you have to make sure teens are eating right!

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Teenagers may engage in risky behaviors that affect their health. During the teenager years, body insecurity is a big deal. When teenagers want to lose weight, they may limit eating all together. Some teenagers take laxative pills or try to make themselves throw up. This can be bad for teenagers because they are not getting all the nutrients that their bodies need to grow healthy. This may also lead to eating disorders.

For more information about eating disorders visit

There are ways to stay healthy without these risky behaviors. You and your teen should take the time to plan grocery lists and meals. Make sure your teen eats breakfast every day. A banana or apple can be enough if time is limited. Packing school lunches and eating dinner with the family are ways you can keep up with your teens healthy eating.

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Below are tips to choose healthy foods:

Fruits & Vegetables
Make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
Add tomatoes or spinach to sandwiches
Choose whole wheat grains like whole-wheat bread, brown rice, and oatmeal
“Power up” with low fat or lean meats like turkey or chicken
Choose seafood, egg whites, beans, nuts and tofu which are also great sources of protein
Choose fat-free or low-fat milk products
Choose Lactose-free milk or soy milk with added calcium


Physical activity will help your teenager stay active and healthy too. Running, hiking, dancing, soccer, volleyball, and basketball are only a few ways in which your teen can stay active and have fun! Teenagers should be active for 60 minutes a day. Being active with others also helps make friends!

While not nutrition specific, the Austin Healthy Adolescent (AHA) Program works with communities across Travis County. The AHA support the youth in becoming involved in their health and improving the health of their communities. For more information visit

Get educated about your teens needs to provide the best nutrition. Teenagers with good nutrition grow to their full potential!

Let’s Talk about Breastfeeding

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT-Austin Spring Intern

There is no doubt that breastfeeding is a healthy practice for mothers and babies. The problem is not all mothers know the benefits of breastfeeding. Mothers may also have questions about breastfeeding. Some of these questions may include, are there foods I should avoid eating while pregnant? How often should I breast feed? How will I know whether my baby is getting enough milk? When should I introduce the bottle if I decide to stop breastfeeding or alternate between breast milk and formula milk? Doctors tell mothers that babies should be fed only breast milk for the first 6 months. It is recommend that babies should be fed breast milk up to their first year too.

One of the benefits of breastfeeding is that it might help mothers lose weight. The woman’s uterus returns to the size it was before birth too. Breastfeeding also lowers the chances of breast and ovarian cancer.

The benefit breastfeeding brings to babies is the lowered risks of ear infections, obesity, and sudden infant death syndrome. Breastfeeding give mothers and babies bonding time too. Breast milk is a great resource for limited resource mothers. As long as breastfeeding is done regularly, breast milk will always be available to the baby. Babies are also able to digest breast milk more easily.

There are programs in Austin that are looking out for mothers. Some programs educate women about their nutritional needs and other programs focus on breastfeeding.

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) educate people with limited resources about nutrition. EFNEP added a class this year for pregnant women and teens. In the Today’s Mom class, mothers take part in fun activities with other mothers and the adult educators of EFNEP. Mothers also learn how to practice a healthy diet while being pregnant. This builds a sense of support and community.

There are some requirements women have to meet to attend the class. Women or teens must be pregnant. Expecting mothers must be participants in federal food assistance programs or be at or below 185% poverty level. This helps limited resource mothers get help for their special needs.

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Other resources in Austin for mothers include:

Mom’s Place has peer counselors that help mothers in the process of breastfeeding. At Mom’s Place there are also free weight checks for babies. Visit for more information.

Texas Lactation Support Hotline (1-855-550-6667) answers to questions and concerns about breastfeeding. Visit for more information and locations with WIC partners.

La Leche League holds meetings for breastfeeding mothers. Visit for meeting details, times and locations.

Mother’s Milk Bank at Austin provides donor breast milk to very sick babies. Visit to learn how you can help.

To help mothers feel good about breastfeeding let’s support them in doing so!

Stay Physically Active with Your Family Year-Round!

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Do you find it hard to be active with your family? The key to an active family is finding fun and exciting things to do! Combining a healthy diet and physical activity is important to maintaining a healthy lifestyle. To be healthy, you can be physically active with your family! There are activities you and your family can do every season no matter the weather outside.

Image source: Flicker (Va. Dept. of Conservation & Recreation, CC-BY-NC-SA 2.0)

When you find yourself indoors during winter, taking the stairs instead of the elevators is a good way to start being physically active. Consider taking a stroll with your family at your local mall too. If you prefer to be outdoors, consider playing a friendly game of football or soccer with your family!

Spring is a beautiful time of the year. Outdoors is where you want to be! Consider setting up a garden with your family in the backyard. Ride your bikes together around the neighborhood or take a walk at your local park. If you find yourself indoors or it is family movie night, get up and walk in place during commercials.

Summer is an exciting time of the year for all. Go camping and hiking as a family! You should make walking, running, and biking regular activities to do together!

While the air gets colder during autumn, do not let that stop you from continuing those family walks around the neighborhood. If you prefer to stay indoors, follow an exercise DVD or video with your family. Do not feel silly engaging in fun physical activities together!

Image source: Flicker (Joe Van, CC BY 2.0)

In Austin, many events are fun and exciting for the whole family. Below is a list of popular events you should check out. These events will keep you and your family active!

For a full list of events visit



Health Trends in Travis County

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT-Austin Spring Intern

Why is it important to know about the health diseases where you live? If you can prevent any health issues, you need to know what is going on around you.

In Travis County, the number one cause of death is cancer. Heart disease is the second major cause of death in Travis County. Did you know that heart disease is the number one cause of death in the United States too? People may get these diseases because they do not exercise or have poor nutrition.

What can you do to stay healthy? Find the time to exercise on a daily basis. If not, exercise every other day or most days of the week. You can also make healthier food choices. This does not mean you have to be on a diet! Making healthier food choices keeps you healthy and active. To learn how to stay healthy and what foods are better for you visit

Image source: Flickr (USDA, CC BY 2.0)

Ethnicity plays part in the increased chances of getting diseases. How and why ethnicity plays a role is still unclear to many. So, we are going to explore the disease trends among the Hispanic and African American populations in Travis County.

The number one cause of death for Hispanics, in Travis County, is cancer and heart disease. Hispanics also have high rates of overweight and obesity. Thought not a disease, Hispanics have the highest percent of teenage mothers. Hispanics have the highest rate of tuberculosis cases in Travis County and Texas too. What is tuberculosis? Tuberculosis is an infection in the lungs.

African Americans are more likely to have HIV than any other ethnic or racial group. Cancer and heart disease are tied as the number one causes of death for African Americans. African Americans in Travis County have the highest rate of diabetes. Diabetes occurs when you have high levels of sugar in your blood. African Americans also happen to have a high rate of cardiovascular disease. Cardiovascular diseases are related to your heart. Like Hispanics, African Americans have high rates of overweight and obesity.

Why are these diseases or patterns more common among Hispanics and African Americans? When it comes to the teen pregnancies, they might lack access to birth control. When it comes to overweight and obesity, Hispanics and African Americans may not be eating healthy foods. Something else to consider is Hispanics and African Americans are more likely to find themselves in poverty and may be less educated. The lack of access and education may lead to unhealthy eating patterns and behaviors.

Let us educate people about diseases, how they can be prevented and what we can do to help!

Check Out Your Neighborhood Center!

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Did you know there are places in your neighborhood where you can get food and clothes? These places can also give your children a place to be safe and play. If you need help finding employment community centers are there to help! We can see that community centers provide a wide range of services. The services that community centers offer might depend on where they are located. For example, some community centers have pools and gymnasiums. Other community centers offer basic things like food and clothes.

If you have a hard time getting basic things like food and clothes or need a place to feel safe and supported, consider checking out your closest community center. Why? Kids can use community centers as a place to hang out and make new friends. Kids can also use their time to play sports instead of being out in the streets. For adults, community centers are great places to find resources. If you are looking for a job, community centers help you fill out forms and applications.

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In Travis County, the East Austin Neighborhood Center and Montopolis Neighborhood Center give out necessities like food, clothes and child safety seats. The St. John Community Center and the South Austin Neighborhood Center also offer health services.

The Turner-Roberts Recreation Center, Virginia L. Brown Recreation Center and Gustavo “Gus” L. Garcia Recreation Center offer extracurricular activities. These community centers have different programs for children, teens, adults and seniors. There are also gymnasiums and work out equipment. We can see that community centers are places where we can stay active too!

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Austin is a city where people love to help other people. Feel this sense of community! Start by checking out your community center websites. It is time you got the support you needed. You should take the time to visit your closest community center. Plan to attend regularly and make connections with your community!

For more information, a list of community centers and their locations in the Austin area, visit

How to be Food Safe

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

When we are carrying out our daily routine in the kitchen, it may not cross our minds that there might be harmful bacteria on every counter and utensils we use to prepare food. However, there are a few guidelines we can follow to keep our food safe. These guidelines are called the Fight BAC! Rules. The Fight BAC! Rules are Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill. Let’s find out how we can become food safe!


The first Fight BAC! Rule is clean. This means you should wash your hands and surfaces often. Bacteria can spread throughout our kitchen counters, sinks, utensil, and food. To prevent bacteria from spreading, start by washing your hands with warm water and soap for a minimum of 20 seconds. You should wash your hands before and after handling food, after playing with pets, and after using the restroom. Keep books, backpacks or shopping bags off the kitchen counters were food is prepared. Consider using paper towels to clean counter tops. When we use rags often to clean counter tops we can spread germs more easily.

Download Clean Fact Sheet for more information.


The second Fight BAC! Rule is separate. Separate means we should not cross-contaminate. Cross-contamination occurs when harmful bacteria is spread from food to other food, cutting boards, and utensils. When we handle raw foods such as meat and poultry, the juices that accumulate in their packaging can contain bacteria. When we handle raw foods on a cutting board, we should use a separate cutting board for fresh produce. This prevents cross-contamination. In addition, never place cooked food on a plate that previously had raw foods!

Download the Separate Fact Sheet for more information.


The third Fight BAC! Rule is cook. We need to cook our foods to proper temperatures so it is safe for us to eat. Food is safe to eat when it reaches a high internal temperature. A high internal temperature kills harmful bacteria that can cause foodborne illnesses. When you are cooking in a microwave oven, make sure there are no cold spots because bacteria can survive in those places. For the best result, cover the food entirely and rotate for even cooking in the microwave.

For specific temperatures to cook certain foods and cooking techniques, download the Cook Fact Sheet .


The final Fight BAC! Rule is chill. Chill means we need to refrigerate our foods promptly. We need to refrigerate our foods quickly because cold temperatures prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Make sure to keep you refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or below. Your freezer should be 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below for the safest storage. Do not leave your food out at room temperature for more than two hours before you put them in the refrigerator or freezer. Divide large amounts of leftovers into shallow containers for quicker cooling in the refrigerator.

Download the Chill Fact Sheet for more information.

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Let us fight bacteria using the Fight BAC! Rules! These helpful tips will make handling and eating your food safer!

Texas: What Grows in Our Backyard?

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Have you ever wondered where the fruits and vegetables from our local grocery store come from? The answer is simple. Our fruits and vegetables come from farms and orchards. Orchards are areas where rows of trees are planted to grow fruits. While there may be thousands of farms and orchards across the United States, Texas is one of the largest producers of fresh fruits and vegetables. Texas farms and orchards grow over 60 different fruits and vegetables!

Several organizations check our fresh fruits and vegetables to make sure they are being grown and treated with the highest standards of safety. The U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA) set the rules for people to follow so the fruits and vegetables we eat are safe. The U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) also plays part in making sure our food is safe to eat. The USDA measures the level of quality and value of many foods including fruits and vegetables. In addition, the USDA standards provide a base for food trade.

The Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) has different programs in their Food and Nutrition Division. One of those programs is called the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program (FFVP). The FFVP provides fresh fruits and vegetables to students. The goal of the FFVP is to improve children’s overall diet. The FFVP helps schools create healthy places for students by giving them healthier food choices and increase their fruit and vegetable consumption.

For more information about the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program, visit

While there may be programs that try to implement healthier eating, you can do your part too! Start by visiting your local farmers market! Check out for more information.

Image source: Farmers’ Market by Natalie Maynor (Flicker CC BY 2.0)

You can learn when fresh fruits and vegetables are available! Below are a few fruits and vegetables that grow in Texas and their available dates:


Date of Availability


Date of Availability

Apples June – November Broccoli December – March
Blackberries April – June Carrots Year-round
Blueberries May – July Fresh Cucumbers April – December
Oranges September – April Mushrooms Year-round
Peaches April – August Potatoes April – September
Watermelons May – November Pumpkins September – Nov
Pears June – September Sweet Potatoes August – November


Visit for the full Texas Produce Availability Chart

The Uncertainty of Summer Months

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By: Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

When summer comes around, kids are excited to spend their days outdoors and in the pool. Still, some families have to worry about where their children’s meals will come from now that school is out. Why? Sometimes, the only meals kids can depend on are breakfast and lunch served in school. When families have this concern on their shoulders, summers are not so fun. There are programs, however, that provide food to children who are solely dependent on school meals.

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Before we look into one of these programs, let us look at the numbers. In the United States, six out of seven students who eat free or reduced cost school lunch do NOT get a free meal during the summer. Only one out of seven students who receives free or reduced cost lunch participates in summer meal programs. How can we fix this?

First, let us talk about the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). SFSP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and provides healthy lunches to kids of low-income families. As stated in their name, this program offers foods to families during summer breaks. This summer, summer 2017, the USDA plans to give more than 200 million free meals to kids. We can see from this that SFSP’s impact is large.

For more information about SFSP visit,

Not only does the SFSP provide meals to families in need, they also provide summer job opportunities. Summer job opportunities include community outreach and promotion of summer meals. SFSP also partners with local organizations to prepare and distribute meals. Local organizations include school districts, Boys & Girls Clubs, and community centers.

For summer job opportunities visit,

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SFSP partners with Austin ISD to provide free meals to local children. For more information and a summer meal request form (2017) visit,

To fix this problem, do not be afraid to reach out to programs that are intended to help you, especially during the summer when meals are uncertain. Visit the SFSP website and become familiar with their resources. Providing advocacy and outreach can bring awareness to this issue. Children should not have to worry about their next meal. Children should have during their summer break!

Do You Know Where to Find Your Next Meal?

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By Doris Vallejo-Aguilar, UT Intern, Spring 2017

Most of us assume that food is just around the corner at our closest grocery store. Food security is something we can easily take for granted. We have access to food and it is available to us at all times. It helps us keep a healthy life too. There are people who do not know where their next meal will come from. Food insecurity happens when people do not have food available or access to food. We need to look at who this affects the most to find relief.

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There are many people affected by food insecurity but the Latino population is more likely to suffer from food insecurity. Why?

According to Feeding America, the Latino population is disproportionally measured when it comes to poverty and food insecurity. This may be due to the fast growing rate of Latinos in the United States. Sometimes, the Latino population does not get support from federal nutrition programs. It is hard to find support anywhere else if Latinos do not have support from the government. Latinos are more likely to get sick from what they eat. If Latinos are suffering from food insecurity, they may have no choice but to eat foods that are not as healthy.

A study from the University of Texas looked at food insecurity in the City of Austin. The focus areas were neighborhoods east of I-35. These neighborhoods are mainly populated by minority groups like Latinos. The study found the less access to full-service grocery stores, the more food-insecure homes. A full service grocery store has fresh fruits and vegetables, a meat department, and fresh dairy products. We can see that Latinos in these areas might not have access to affordable and healthy food.

The following is a list of food pantries in Austin that you can check out:

Central Texas Food Bank

Caritas of Austin

Manos De Cristo  

Hope Food Pantry Austin

Salvation Army

The bad news is Latinos are still suffering from food insecurity. The good news is there are places in Austin where you can get help. Donate, volunteer, or get help from your closest food pantry. We are all looking out for you!