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Brendan Heavey has had two good reasons to eat better this year: he has student loans to pay off – and he’s getting married. Heavey, 34, an Independent Health actuarial analyst, is among thousands in the region eligible for his company’s nutrition benefit. Those who participate get $1 in Tops gift card money for every $2 they spend on fresh fruits and vegetables. The benefit has put $400 back into Heavey’s pocket – and come with other pluses, too.

What might a typical dinner have been like last year, compared to this year?

Casa-di-Pizza has the best pizza in the city. I ate there probably four times a week last year. Jambalaya pasta at Cole’s was also a favorite. I haven’t had either in six months. I’m doing a low-carb, gluten-free thing. I’m eating a lot less packaged and processed foods. I’ve also cut down on my red meat consumption. I don’t really know why that happened.

This year, I’m doing things like stir frying bok choy, some broccoli, some rice with a little cut-up pork. I season the rice with some Turkish seasoning from Penzi’s on Elmwood. I’m a regular there now.

I had some issues with blood pressure at the end of last year and I think it’s really helped that. I’ve dropped 15 pounds and it’s really changed my body composition. I fit into my clothes really well, which is nice.

– Scott Scanlon

On the Web: Learn more about the Independent Health nutrition benefit at blogs.buffalonews.com/refresh