Tag Archives: shopping

Diabetes Resources and Treatment

National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month, and now’s the time to raise awareness and protect yourself.

86 million Americans are at risk of developing diabetes. Learn how you can protect yourself starting at home.

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This month is also Diabetic Eye Disease Month. ‪‎Diabetes‬ is the #1 cause of new blindness in adults. Learn more.

Eye Exams and Diabetes

 

Understanding your diabetes can be kind of like football, from U.S. News and World Report.

Visit our diabetes section to learn more about taking care of you or your family’s disease.

Diabetes is more common and more serious than many Americans realize. Protect yourself now.

Diabetes by the Numbers

 

You can help stop type 2 diabetes in its tracks with smart shopping and eating. Find resources from the American Diabetes Association to get started.

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Exercise is an important part of taking care of and preventing diabetes. Programs like this can help, from NPR.

Interested in learning more about diabetes from our different partners’ health experts? Check out our events page for presentations and videos.

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Enjoying Organic Healthy Greens

Organic 101

You’ve probably noticed in your grocery store that there’s a whole display of fruits and veggies (that usually cost more) labeled organic.

Lots of people just assume that it means they’re all-natural, but everything in the produce section was grown instead of manufactured, so isn’t all of it all-natural?

When something is labeled organic, it actually means that it was grown in a certain way. Organic foods are grown without the use of:

  • Pesticides, which stop weeds and bugs from hurting a crop and are usually made with chemicals
  • Fertilizers, which make the land better for growing crops and are usually made with a town’s sewage, animal manure, or man-made ingredients, like chemicals
  • Bioengineering, when scientists change things about a crop in its DNA or genes to make it grow better
  • Ionizing radiation, when produce is radiated to preserve it, reduce the risk of illness, prevent bugs,  or slow down sprouting or ripening

Before a product can be labeled organic, someone from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) checks the farm and any companies that handle or process the food before you get it to make sure they’re meeting organic standards. This means that when you buy organic, it’s guaranteed to be organic.

However, when you buy organic, you’re also paying more because farmers who don’t use things like pesticides, fertilizers, and bioengineering usually get smaller crops from their land than other farmers. Those things were invented to help farmers grow as much food as possible, and when organic farmers don’t use them, it makes their jobs harder.

Each year, a company called the Environmental Working Group (EWG) puts out lists of which fruits and veggies have the potential to have the most pesticides on them and which don’t.

The Clean Fifteen are the fruits and veggies with little to no pesticides on them when you buy them at the store. The Dirty Dozen have the potential to have the most pesticides on them. Plus, they’re mostly things you either eat the peel of or don’t peel at all.

Whether you buy organic or non-organic produce, it’s important to get fruits and veggies in your diet. Just be sure to clean your produce properly before you eat it.

Clean Fifteen

Dirty Dozen

Up Next:

Why should you shop at farmers markets? One great reason is local food!

And make sure you keep your food safe at every stage by practicing safe food prep.

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Zucchini from the Garden

Long View: You Don’t Have to Be an Expert Gardener for Homegrown Taste

A few years ago, I moved into a house that could support a backyard vegetable garden. I decided to give it a shot. After all, I had watched many how-to shows on PBS for resource material, and all four of my grandparents were farmers. I cleared out a sizable space and then went to buy the plants.

Most of you know that eight zucchini plants are more than enough for a small town, not to mention a backyard plot. I over-bought cherry tomato plants, too. They got away from me early in the game.

The bugs were another challenge. I guess I never noticed them before, but they sure noticed my tender, young plants and considered them a fresh buffet planted just for them. I voiced my frustration to my neighbor, and she said, “Why don’t you just go to Urbana’s Market at the Square? It’s right next to your Health Alliance home office. How could you not know about it?”

Urbana’s farmers market began in 1979 and has grown considerably since its inception. Thousands of visitors attend it every Saturday morning from early May until early November. Fresh produce is just one of the attractions. Per its website, it also features a variety of other products—from “meat and dairy products, prepared foods, plants, and flowers to jewelry, pottery, wood workings, candles, body care products, garden décor, clothing, and more!” Whew.

I especially like being able to talk to the producers face to face. Almost all of them are quick with a story or a smile, and they remember their regulars. One producer puts back a box of new potatoes if I get to the market a little later than usual. She doesn’t make a big deal about it, and neither do I.

There are always some nice opportunities for socializing. I see lots of people I know, and my visit always takes longer than I expected. Folks just seem to be in a good mood, so why not enjoy it?

You may have a similar resource in your community. You can search on the Illinois Department of Agriculture website. People new to our community and many mature family members make good shopping companions. I think I have found a great way to support our local economy and purchase products that were grown or created in our area. The produce is spectacular. Funny thing though, in all these years, I can’t remember buying a single zucchini.

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.

Fresh Marionberries at Farmers Markets

Why You Should Be Shopping at Farmers Markets

You should try shopping at your local farmers markets for these 6 reasons:

1. It can save you money. At a farmers market, you can pick out exactly how much of something you need. Only need one carrot? No need to buy a bunch you won’t use, like you might have to do at the grocery store.

And the produce at a farmer’s market is only what’s fresh and in-season. It’s also local. At the grocery store, you’re paying for your fruit to be shipped across the country from where it is in-season. By buying your fruits and veggies locally based on what is fresh, you stop paying your food’s travel costs.

Illinois also has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Find details and participating counties and markets on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site.

2. You can support your community. Because the people selling at farmer’s markets live in the area, your money goes back into the local economy.

3. Many accept SNAP and WIC benefits. Many farmers markets accept these to make sure families can afford buying healthy, fresh food. 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.

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 first. 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!

4. It has lots of healthy foods. Fresh fruits and veggies are full of nutrients and antioxidants and are a big part of the MyPlate guidelines from the USDA that help you eat healthier.

5. The farmers often have suggestions. They can tell you what foods are the best right now, help you find new things to try, and tell you the best ways to cook what you buy.

6. It’s a good family activity. It’s a great way to get your kids involved and learning about healthy eating, and it’s so nice to shop outside on a beautiful day.

Find farmers markets near you.

Up Next:

Need tips on shopping at farmers markets? We can help you do it right!

Shopping Bags

Don’t Forget Your Insurance!

We know you’re all busy with the holidays and getting ready to shop, but don’t forget to splurge a little on yourself! As you gear up for Black Friday shopping, remember to shop for your Medicare plan before time runs out on December 7.

Health Alliance Medicare Advantage plans can give you a lot of options and great benefits like the SilverSneakers® fitness program, help with health services while traveling through Assist America, $0 Tier 1 drugs at Walmart and Sam’s, and our Anytime Nurse Line.

And join us at Marketplace Mall on Black Friday to get a free shopping bag and learn more about plans.

Don’t miss out on a great deal this shopping season with Health Alliance Medicare!

Call 1-888-382-9771 (TTY 711) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Or visit HealthAllianceMedicare.org for more info.

Health Alliance Medicare is an HMO, PPO, and PDP plan with a Medicare contract. Enrollment depends on contract renewal. You must continue to pay your Part B premium. Low-cost prescriptions are available at other in-network pharmacies. The benefit information here is just a brief summary, not a complete description of benefits. Limitations, copayments, and restrictions may apply. Benefits, formulary, pharmacy network, premium, and/or copayments/coinsurance may change on January 1 of each year.

Shopping in the Marketplaces

A Different Kind of Mall

Shopping season is here! And not just for the holidays. The Open Enrollment Period (OEP) is now in full swing for you to buy health insurance too. It’s time to start comparing plans, and you should start with the marketplaces.

State Public Marketplaces

The Affordable Care Act requires each state have a Public Exchange, or Marketplace. These are like an online mall where you can compare the price and benefits of each product, much like you would with a big purchase like a television, a phone or a mattress. Only, in the exchanges, you’re comparing individuals’ health insurance plans.

Individual plans are what you shop for if you don’t have insurance through your employer and you don’t qualify for Medicare or Medicaid.

Our Private Marketplace

Health Alliance has its own Public Marketplace too. This shows you only our plans available in the Public Marketplace. You can find our plans in the state Public Marketplace too, but if you already know you would like the customer service and personal attention of Health Alliance, you can compare plans in our Public Marketplace with less clutter and confusion.

To put this in easier terms, if you know you want Levi jeans, finding what you want in a Levi jeans store will be easier than shopping in a department store. Shopping in Health Alliance’s private marketplace is no different.

Our Direct Marketplace

You can also shop for individual plans in our Direct Marketplace. It has all of our private plans, which offer more plan, doctor, and drug choices.

It is more like a specialty store that has many options, like going to Best Buy to shop for televisions. Here, you can pay more for premium features if want them, or you can find something that balances both price and benefits.

Learn more about the exchanges, or start shopping for plans at HealthAlliance.org or by calling us at 1-877-686-1168.