Northshore Health Centers Teach Residents to Stretch their Wallets with “Healthy Living on a Tight Budget” Class

Northshore Health Centers Teach Residents to Stretch their Wallets with “Healthy Living on a Tight Budget” Class
By: Sam Malkowski Last Updated: December 14, 2016

"Healthy Living on a Tight Budget" is one of two monthly classes provided free to the public by a partnership between NorthShore Health Centers and Purdue University Northwest. It features open conversation, delicious snacks, and tips on how to stretch your food and wallet without sacrificing your health.

“NorthShore’s preventative care goals are something that I really tried to emphasize with this group,” said Rachel Reule, Patient Care Coordinator and supervisor of the morning courses. Sandra Bojak, another Patient Care Coordinator, supervises the evening classes. “Healthy eating can improve their overall health in the long run. Part of me and Sandy’s position is to give our patients an oomph, a push to get out of the house, a position to start from. NorthShore strives for that kind of preventative lifestyle.”

Eating healthy seems like an impossible goal when you are living on a low income.

Rosalie Melium, a woman from Portage, felt like there was no right answer with her budget. “I heard about [this class] through the Portage Food bank,” she said. “I try to pick foods that are low on sodium, because I have a problem with that, but a lot of the time I have to get prepacked meals and they are very high on sodium.”

The class’s instructor, Nutrition Education Assistant Gia DeMartinis of Purdue Extension - Porter County, taught Melium that she could thin the sodium out by adding extra milk to the sauce. Some prepackaged meals have their seasonings separated and can be withheld altogether.

“She’s very knowledgeable about helping people budget in a way that helps them eat healthy,” said Bojak. “If we see patients for a certain thing, like diabetes, and one of their barriers is ‘I can’t keep my levels up because I can’t afford to,’ then we recommend the class to them. It improves their overall health.”

DeMartinis’ class exposed many secrets, some positive and some to look out for.

One of them was sugar, which is good when cosumed in the clementines DeMartinis brought for the class. In drinks and dinners, though, not so much. Next year, the government will be requiring companies to label their sugars the same way that they do fats, so that consumers will know what kind they are getting.

Classes are held the first Wednesday of every month, at 10:00 a.m. and again at 5:30. Each one is different, and each one promises to answer questions that pertain to personal lifestyles and illnesses.

“You don’t have to have fancy shakes or vitamins to eat healthy,” said DeMartinis. “That’s not what I believe in. I went back to school because I was determined to improve my life through nutrition. Nutritional Education is one of the most important ways we can help each other and live better lives.”

For more information on programs and classes provided by Northshore Health Centers, click here.