To help you make smart choices without going broke, we identified common (and costly) products Americans buy to improve their well-being, and in many cases found that you can achieve the same benefits with the cheaper version. These shopping tips will help you lose weight, ease back pain, and more without spending a fortune -- plus, three products that are worth the splurge.
FOR LESS THAN $20
BUY: Analog bathroom scale
INSTEAD OF: Body composition scale
Dieters who weigh themselves every day are better able to drop extra pounds -- and keep them off -- than those who don't, according to a study at the University of Minnesota, which tracked self-weighing practices of more than 3,000 adults for 2 years. Researchers hypothesize that for some people, daily weighing provides the immediate feedback and incentive to keep them on track. But experts agree that you don't need fancy scales that measure extras such as bone mass, body fat, or water weight and can cost more than $100. "A simple model with a rotating dial will do just fine, as long as you use the same scale every day," says Thomas Johnson, MD, an associate professor at Saint Louis University who specializes in weight control and obesity treatment. Find analog scales for $20 or less at stores like Target or Bed Bath and Beyond or online at amazon.com; one with a digital counter, if that's your preference, may cost a few dollars more.
For more health tips, check out the latest issue of Prevention, on shelves now!
Protect Your Heart Health
FOR 23 CENTS A DAY
BUY: Generic fish-oil supplements
INSTEAD OF: Brand-name versions
A survey from independent tester ConsumerLab.com showed that fish oil and fish-oil capsules are purchased second only to multivitamins among supplement users. Their rapid growth in popularity comes as no surprise, considering that the omega-3 fatty acids they contain have been shown to do everything from boosting mood to improving circulatory health and lowering unhealthy triglyceride levels. Quality capsules contain heavier doses of EPA and DHA, two fish-derived fatty acids that offer the big-time health benefits, rather than ALA, an omega-3 from plant sources that needs to be converted before the body can use it. Last summer, ConsumerLab analyzed 50 widely available omega-3 and fish oil supplements and found that all of them -- regardless of price -- were free of dangerous levels of mercury and PCBs (a concern with fish oil because these contaminants accumulate in fatty fish), and most contained optimal levels of EPA and DHA.
One great-buy brand that passed ConsumerLab's tests: CVS Fish Oil Softgels, which provide 900 mg of omega-3s daily when taken as directed and cost less than $7 for a month's supply; a designer brand also approved by ConsumerLab would set you back more than twice that much. How much omega-3 do you need? Although there's no FDA recommendation, most experts advise getting about 1,000 mg per day of combined EPA and DHA; for people with coronary heart disease, the American Heart Association suggests the same amount.
More from Prevention:
FOR $50 A YEAR
BUY: Water filter pitcher
INSTEAD OF: Bottled