How To Reduce Health Care Costs: Part 1

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Someone told me recently, "You are only one illness away from being broke."  There is so much truth to that statement.  Healthcare in this country is very expensive.  In fact, we spend more on healthcare than any other country in the world.  It is no wonder why many Americans are concerned about rising premiums and health care costs.

In reality, one of the best things you can do to reduce your own health care costs is to take responsibility for your own health.  Pre-existing conditions will no doubt raise your premiums and some of those pre-existing conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes are many times preventable with healthy food choices and exercise.  Did you know that the cause of most cancers is environmental?  Most cases of diabetes is preventable? In addition, the healthier you are, the less you will find yourself at the doctor's office so that means less co-pays and less money spent on medication. 

If Americans were healthier, we would spend less as a nation on health care.  But we are not.  We continue to make bad choices and then want the easy fix when our bodies do not respond accordingly.  Worse, we want the government to fix our healthcare woes, but refuse to do anything ourselves.  The good news is that even even minor changes today, even if you already have a pre-existing condition, can do wonders for your health.

As a mother, I want to get my kids started on the right foot when it comes to their health.  I have therefore put a lot of effort in teaching them how to make good choices and have done extensive research on creating an environment where they can thrive.  My following recommendations are based on that research.  

The first step to reducing your health care costs is good nutrition.

Good nutrition is the absolute best thing that you can do for your health and your children's health.  It is the first recommendation by health professionals to prevent things such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and cancer to name a few.  Good nutrition also strengthens your immune system (Further Reading).  It may not necessarily prevent a cold for example, but you will recover from it a lot quicker.

Many times people cannot understand why they feel sick so often.  A quick look at their diet, and it becomes clear that they are devoid of vital nutrients.  Years of malnourishment will take a toll on the body and your body will become sick (and yes, we are on of the wealthiest nation, and one of the most "malnourished").  Reaching for the multi-vitamin will not solve the problems either, although for some it may be a start.  Vitamins are another quick fix that cannot do what real food does.  I often hear people who suffer from chronic illness (the preventable kind) say, "I don't understand why God lets this happen."  And yet, God has given us all the necessary foods for our bodies to combat most illness.  Did you know some of the best foods to fight off colds and flu are winter fruits and vegetables (Further Reading)?  I do not think it is an accident that the best foods for colds and the flu are foods that are in season in the fall and winter.  God designed it that way.  If we choose not to take of his bounty, then we really should not blame Him for our woes.  We should change our habits.

 

Good nutrition does not mean a fat-free diet.  I stopped doing that years ago and now eat a full-fat diet and still maintain a very healthy weight as does the rest of my family.  That means we use real butter, eat real mayonnaise, and drink full fat milk.  Instead of focusing on calories, eat healthy by no longer consuming everything that is not "natural."  Try to aim for raw, basic ingredients instead of buying processed foods.  Don't know if something is processed, look at the ingredient's list.  If it has something you can't pronounce, don't buy it.  There are numerous recipes for easy-to-prepare meals if time is an issue.

For a great book on a healthy full-fat diet, I recommend The Maker's Diet.  The author had a condition that almost took his life and could not be diagnosed or treated by any doctor.  It was only when he changed his diet that he began to recover.

Quick nutrition tips to get started:
*Let vegetables and fruits make up most of your diet, and then some dairy, whole or sprouted grains, fish, and lean meats (See the "healthy eating plate").
*Avoid junk food, fried foods, soda, processed meats (hot dogs, salami, cold cuts) and sweets on a regular basis.
*Drink water as opposed to juices and soda to stay hydrated.
*Limit portion sizes.  Everything in this country is supersized, but we do not need to eat nearly as much as we do.
*Limit alcohol consumption to no more than one a day.
*Choose fresh or frozen (frozen, but unprocessed) fruits and vegetables.  Avoid canned foods.
*Don't count on the word "natural" on packaging.  Many times it is deceiving and it is just as processed as other foods.  Instead look at the ingredient list.

One final note for your kids.  Start your kids early on vegetables.  It is a lot of work, but the payoff is priceless.  In our family, there really are no kids meals.  My six-year-old eats what the adults eat.  That means she will eat salmon, salads, arugula pizza, etc.  That doesn't mean that she will not favor the cheese pizza or chicken nuggets when we do go out to eat, but at home, she eats what is served (with a few exceptions--"slimy spinach").  My daughter eats that way because I did not introduce anything other than vegetables for her first few months of eating solids.  I also did not introduce "kids foods" such as chicken nuggets or sweets like donuts until she was introduced to it at pre-school or a friends house.  I am following the same pattern with my eight-month-old.

Remember, kids need to try something at least ten times before they will know for sure if they like it or not.  It really is worth the work.  I spend less time at the doctor's office and tending to colds and illness.  Also, as a family, we hardly ever use cold/flu medications.  I treat colds with good old fashioned, homemade chicken soup. 

In part two I will discuss how Eating Organic Foods can reduce your long term health care costs and other steps you can take to improve your health. 

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