Tag Archives: discounts

Fresh Fiddlehead Ferns at Your Farmers Market

Making the Most of a Farmers Market

There are lots of reasons to get out to your local farmers market, but going to a farmers market for the first time is very different than going to the supermarket. We can help make sure it goes smoothly with these tips from a farmers market veteran:

1. Prepare.

  • Illinois has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Check it out on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site for details and participating counties and markets .
  • Many vendors only take cash (and some take SNAP and WIC benefits). Some booths only take small bills, 20s and smaller.
  • Many vendors don’t offer bags, so it’s a good idea to bring a few cloth ones you can use.
  • Most markets don’t allow dogs, so leave them at home.
  • Have an idea of what is in stock at that time of year, so you know what to expect. Use this map to find out what’s in season where you live.

2. Check the info booth first. If your market has an info booth, check there before you start shopping. The people working can let you know if there are any special things going on that day, like cooking demos.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

3. Go early or go late. If you go early, you will have first pick of the freshest and largest selection. If you go late, some farmers will offer discounts to clear out their stock before heading home.

4. Take a lap. Unless you know your market really well, don’t just buy the first things you see. By walking a lap through the market first, you can get the lay of the land, compare prices and selection, and taste samples.

5. Talk to the farmers. The farmers can answer questions about how the food was grown and harvested, talk about why their produce is or is not organic, offer recipes, give info about something you’ve never tasted, or recommend their favorites.

6. Be mindful. It’s considered rude to squeeze stone fruits, like peaches, plums, or tomatoes, because it can bruise them. And it’s considered rude to open husks of corn before buying them, which can actually make them less sweet. Also, look for whole produce, meaning veggies like carrots and beets with their green tops still whole. These will stay fresh longer, and you can make things like pesto sauces with the greens.

7. Take a risk. Sometimes you find things that are new, different, or even strange at the farmer’s market. This is the perfect opportunity to try something new because the farmers can usually give you advice on how best to use it.

8. Bring a friend or the family. Grocery shopping, unlike the farmers market, can feel like a chore. Take people with you to talk and walk with outside, and the farmer’s market instantly becomes a more fun activity. And you can always save money and split certain produce.

9. Keep it simple. When you’re cooking your food at home, go for simple recipes. Because you bought such fresh produce, you should let it shine. Put fresh wild strawberries over a salad or in a breakfast parfait instead of baking them into a cake. If you’re worried you won’t be able to use all of something you bought you can always freeze it and use the rest later. Use this guide from the FDA to make sure you’re storing and washing produce correctly.

10. Find the right market. Many areas have more than one farmers market within driving distance. If you can, test them all. Large farmer’s markets have a lot of energy, selection, and sometimes even dining options, but smaller markets often have good deals. Find the one that works best for you.

Find farmer’s markets near you. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Up Next:

Do you really understand what you’re getting when you buy organic? We break it down in Organic 101.

And make sure you’re cleaning your fresh fruits and veggies the right way to keep your family safe.

Don't Fall with Tai Chi

Your Ultimate Guide to Fall Prevention

Each year as the weather turns icy, we return to one major health topic for older adults, avoiding a fall. How big is the risk actually, though?

Truth in Numbers

No matter how healthy you are, falling is a real risk. About 1 out of 3 adults age 65 or older falls each year, but less than half of those talk to their doctors about it.

Sure, you might think, but everyone falls once in a while, right? Kids fall all the time! But your mom falling could be a lot more serious than your toddler. Falls are the leading cause of fatal and nonfatal injuries in older adults.

In 2013, 2.5 million people were treated for nonfatal falls, and 734,000 of those had to be hospitalized. And in 2012, the medical costs from falls reached $30 billion.

They cause the most broken bones, traumatic brain injuries, and over 95% of hip fractures in older adults. And women are twice as likely as men to break a bone.

What Causes A Fall

Icy and slippery weather is of course a big reason that falls happen, but winter isn’t the only time to protect yourself and your loved ones.

Seeing is an essential part of most of our days, but as you age and your vision gets worse, it can increase your risk of falling. If you can’t see the danger, it’s harder to avoid it.

Some medications, both prescription and over-the-counter can cause side effects, like dizziness and drowsiness, that can make it more likely you’ll take a tumble.

Dangers in your homes, like tripping hazards, stairs, and slippery bathtubs, are a huge risk.

And many people who fall once are afraid of falling again and what could happen if they do. This leads them to limit their activities, lowering their mobility and fitness, which can actually increase their chances of falling and of getting hurt.

A recent study also found that many people’s falls are because of an infection, which can cause low blood pressure, which can make you feel dizzy or lightheaded. This can both lead to your fall, or make you confused about what happened afterwards.

Year-Round Protection

There are ways to help stop falls before they happen:

Get your eyes checked each year, and always keep your glasses prescription as up to date as possible.

Ask your doctor to review all your meds, and see if there are other options for any drugs that might be increasing your risk of falling.

Fall-proof your home. Adding grab bars in the bathroom and railings to stairs and even improving the lighting in your home can make a huge difference.

Get enough calcium and Vitamin D from foods like dairy, soy milk, orange juice, and salmon, or take a regular supplement.

Get tested for osteoporosis.

Remove clutter. A messy house can actually increase your chance of falling at home. Learn more.

Get active! There are great options and resources for getting healthy at any age.

  • Tai Chi is especially helpful for improving your balance and leg strength. Use this Tai Chi Fall Prevention Toolkit to get started now.
  • Try walking outside with friends or family.
  • Weight bearing exercises can lower your chance of hip fractures.
  • Water aerobics is a great way to move without stressing your joints.
  • Moving to the beat and changing to a rhythm are shown to reduce falls. Get dancing at your local senior center’s events, take lessons, or just let loose at home.
  • We want to help, too. Our Medicare members have perks to help you get fit at a gym of your choice.  Our members also get discounts at certain fitness locations.

All statistics are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dance for Health

Chasing Health: Finding My Groove on the Dance Floor

I absolutely love watching sports and worked for my favorite college sports program for nearly five years (go Illini!), but I’m terrible at them. I’m clumsy, and I can’t catch a ball to save my life.

I probably had the lowest whiffle ball batting average in grade school history, striking out more than a time or two. I’m the kid who brought kickball cheerleading to fourth-grade recess to get out of actually having to play kickball, and I joined band in fifth grade because I knew it would eventually get me out of physical education in high school.

I don’t classify myself as athletic. Don’t get me wrong; I have a decent jump shot in basketball (thanks, Dad!) and can throw a pretty nice spiral on the football field, but my 5-foot frame doesn’t really lend itself to either of those sports.

For all my clumsiness (I’ve fallen down walking in a straight line on more than one occasion), I can usually hold my own on the dance floor. I was a dancer and cheerleader in middle school and high school, and dancing is still my favorite way to work out. When it comes to dancing, my body forgets that it’s clumsy.

To me, running and hiking seem like punishments, and playing almost any kind of sport sounds like an embarrassment waiting to happen. But dancing is different. I actually have fun doing it.

I’m trying to make healthy lifestyle choices in 2015, so I recently returned to Zumba class. I hadn’t been since last June, so I prepared by dancing around my living room for the week leading up to it (boom, exercising to be ready to exercise). I had to learn a lot of new routines during my class after being out nearly eight months, but it was worth it to get in some good cardio while doing something I actually enjoy.

For those of you who don’t know much about Zumba, it’s basically an hour-long (depending on where you go) dance party with an instructor to teach you moves that work your thighs, abs, arms, calves, heart, and more.

You don’t have to know much about dance, but it’s a good way to channel your inner hip-hop dancer or pretend you’re the Latin dance star you’ve always wanted to be (wait, that might just be a personal dream of mine). Health Alliance offers discounts to some gyms that teach Zumba classes. Check them out.

Even I, someone who is way more clutch writing from press row than standing at the free-throw line and who will do almost anything to get out of playing a sport or running on a treadmill, have found my exercising niche. If I can, I’m sure you can, too.

I’m living proof you don’t have to hit home runs (or even make contact at the plate in whiffle ball) to find a way to get in shape.

Healthy Life Choices

Being the Healthiest Version of Yourself

As you make your New Year’s Resolutions this year, we want to help! Not only do we help you get the medical care and preventive care that keep you healthy, we also want to help you make healthy life choices. 

Eating Healthy

A healthy diet and good nutrition can both help you be the best that you can be, a key part of making healthy life choices.

  • Eating a diet rich in vegetables and fruits can reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke
  • Eating a diet rich in certain vegetables and fruits may protect against certain types of cancer
  • Diets rich in healthy fiber can reduce the risk of heart disease, obesity, and Type 2 diabetes
  • Eating vegetables rich in potassium can lower blood pressure, decrease bone loss, and the risk of kidney stones

We know that knowing what to eat or finding healthy recipes can be hard. But making small changes in diet can affect your health in a big way, and we have people to help.

Members can call our Quality & Medical Management Department at 1-800-851-3379, ext. 8112 for more information. You can also check this blog regularly, follow our Twitter and Facebook for weekly recipes, or look at our Pinterest for hundreds of recipes and resources.

Getting In Shape

Exercise is also an important part of being the healthiest you can be. Regular physical activity provides a variety of benefits, like:

  • Controlling your weight
  • Reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease
  • Reducing your risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Reducing your risk of some cancers
  • Strengthening your bones and muscles
  • Improving your mental health and mood
  • Improving your ability to do daily activities or prevent falls as an older adult
  • Increasing your chance of living longer

Clearly fitness can improve your health, but we know that gym memberships and workout equipment can be expensive.

That’s why we have teamed up with a number of gyms and fitness locations to give our members discounted memberships and rates. Look at that list and find a location that fits into your budget.

Learn more about health and wellness with Health Alliance.