Thursday, December 1, 2011

Yes, Virginia, a Healthy Diet is Affordable and Convenient

I didn’t used to know which foods are really healthy for me (thanks to the Blood Type Diet and the GenoType Diet, by Peter D’Adamo, I do now), let alone how to cook. For most of my adult life, the ways of eating touted as being healthy were actually very bad for my individual genetic hardwiring. I don’t do well at ALL on diets that emphasize grains/carbs, demonize fat, and tell me to cut out animal protein (I wish I did do well on that latter point, but I simply don’t). And those were the “in” trends from basically the late 1960’s through the mid-90’s in this country. Not a good era for blood type O folks such as myself. Most of my Type O life was lived in a Type A era. As a result of how the nutrition “experts” (not) said I should eat, combined with my utter lack of cooking skills and propensity for carry-out food, I ended up woefully out of biochemical balance, experiencing the predictable effect of being ruled by cravings (because my blood sugar was always spiking then crashing, never steady and in balance, and my serotonin level was always low, etc.), and basically living on pasta (wheat pasta = VERY bad for a Type O person) and take-out food. I also ended up morbidly obese.

People tried to tell me “you could save so much money by cooking at home”. I forgot to mention that I was always dirt poor my whole adult life until 2008, at which time I catapulted all the way up from ‘po to low income. I know what not having much money is all about. I am the 99%, and I am at the low end of that, but I’m blessed to be much better off than many and than I myself was for most of my adult life.

When folks advised me that changing from The Carry-Out Queen to cooking at home would save me money, I thought: “Ha, shows what they know! It’s just as cheap to get take-out food as to cook and, besides, I am busy, I work full-time, who has all the oodles of time that would be required to do all that cooking and the shopping and planning that no doubt goes with it?” No, thought I, I’m better off just living on subs, Chinese food, more subs, more Chinese food, pasta, popcorn and, of course, my drug of choice since I was so out of biochemical balance and thus, like I said, totally ruled by hormonal cravings of the craviest variety: POTATO CHIPS AND DIP!

Well, my peppermint peeps, hard as it is to fathom, it turns out I was wrong. Don’t buy into the myth (which, trust me, Big Agribiz wants you to buy into!) that eating healthy is more expensive than eating junk, and/or that eating junk is more convenient and time-saving than eating healthy. People think “health food” is expensive, but it can be CHEAP if you know what you are doing. People think going the homemade route is also terribly time-consuming and a hassle, but I find it is just the opposite! It is soooooooooooooo much more relaxing and freeing, time-wise, to cook at home versus to be constantly running around town getting take-out food and NEVER having anything in the fridge or cupboards. And it turns out that cooking is EASY and convenient, not hard at all! If I can do it, anyone can, and it SAVES me time! I don’t even follow recipes, I just “wing it” and it all works out deliciously. Once you get a little experience under your belt, the time involved in “planning” (even that word turns me off at the git-go) is minimal, and mainly consists of ensuring that your kitchen is always stocked up with good stuff that you can then throw together in two shakes of a lamb’s tail. Sure, some things take a long time to cook, hence the term “slow food” that many, including myself, like to apply to the homemade cooking lifestyle, but the thing is: you can just stick those things in the oven or crock pot WHEN YOU ARE HOME ANYWAY (or, in the case of the crock pot, it can be cooking away while you are at work or off doing something else, or while you sleep at night!) and let them go for a few hours. Say you are out the door before sunrise (like me) and you don’t get home until it is dark. If you stick something in the oven or crock pot when you get home, even though it may take several hours to cook and thus won’t be ready for your dinner that night, stick it in the fridge for the next day—then you have it! How beautiful is that? And meanwhile, that night, you eat something you already had prepared and can just heat up and/or throw together. It is SUCH a good, comforting feeling to feel that your kitchen is stocked to the gills with healthy, nourishing, delicious food.

You will learn what “staples” you need to keep on hand to ensure that you always have something to throw together at a moment’s notice. For example, I boil brown basmati rice with onion, carrot and spices, about once per week. It takes TWO SECONDS to chop the onion and carrot, throw it in the pot with the rice, sprinkle on my fave spices, add water and stick the rice on the stove, and it takes it about 40 to 45 minutes to cook. Then I stick the cooked rice in a Gladware container in the fridge. Total preparation and cooking time? About 45 minutes. Then I have rice at the ready for the entire week! I can throw together a stir-fry or whatever in moments, using that rice that I have already cooked. Keep fresh and frozen veggies and fruit on hand, as well as fresh and frozen meat, some nice organic eggs, perhaps a can or several of wild (never farmed!) salmon, and you’re golden!

When the weather is warm (which is most of the time here in Florida), I keep bags of organic salad in the fridge, and containers of grape tomatoes. Then I can toss a salad together in no time, adding in whatever already cooked meat I have around (like chicken, turkey, ground lamb, beef, canned wild salmon) and make a homemade salad dressing in TWO SECONDS. By the way, there is NO reason to buy store-bought salad dressing, which virtually always contains a bunch of junky ingredients and is nowhere near as delicious as homemade. You can throw olive oil (or other oils, such as dark-toasted sesame, a personal fave of mine) and organic lemon or lime juice (comes in a handy bottle) together in the aforementioned TWO SECONDS, people! I make a delicious yogurt ranch dressing by mixing organic, plain yogurt, a smidge of organic mayo, a dash or three of extra-virgin olive oil, dried oregano, garlic granules and sea salt. DA BOMB! (I don’t use lemon or lime in that one because the yogurt is already a tad tart and it doesn’t need it.) While I seem to live on salads with protein, and WATERMELON in the summer now, in the winter, I don’t eat as much salad because I want something HOT. So it is then time for simply sticking some meat and veg in the oven at 350 and there you go! And now, as of this week, I have FINALLY gotten the knack of how to make SOUP! Thanks to a dear friend basically talking me through every nuance of how to do it, I can now make soup and I use the crock pot to make it in, which is so simple, it is really ridiculous that I was intimidated about the whole mysterious soup-making process for so long!

My soup-making experience this week brings me to what inspired this blog entry in the first place, because it got me marveling yet again about how not just wonderful but CHEAP healthy eating can really be! Think about it: how expensive is it to buy whole produce such as sweet potatoes, yams, onions, celery, turnips and carrots, and protein such as a turkey, chicken thighs, etc.? You simply cook the meat, then throw the bones and some of the meat (and the FAT/drippings!) into your soup pot or crock pot, along with the veggies, some spices, water (it doesn’t get much cheaper than water, folks *lol*), and a good, pure (not laced with junky ingredients) brand of broth to start you off with a bang, such as Kitchen Basics vegetable broth, as there is no junk in that particular variety (although you could use just water, if you are sure to add enough FAT, spices, veggies, bones and put in some tomato paste or crushed tomatoes if you just use water, to add flavor and body). You then—if you use a crock pot, like I do—simply set it to low and WALK AWAY. I’ve been letting it cook overnight in the crock pot while I sleep (does anything get easier or more convenient than that?) and waking up to a steaming, beautiful crock pot full of deeply nourishing, delicious, warming, satisfying, relaxing, awesomely wonderful SOUP!

Learning to make soup and enjoying the results has reminded me again, not that I need reminding, as I’m grateful for my diet every day, just how important to me my homemade, slow-food lifestyle is. It is cheap, it is easy, it is satisfying, it is health bestowing, and even though, this week, I’ve been very stressed out about some things going on in my life, and busy and over-tired, it is my diet that has once again kept me strong, steady as she goes, in balance, healthy, energized and able to cope to the best of my abilities with everything. My diet is my foundation, my rock of Gibraltar, when things get stressful and/or otherwise challenging in my life. I’ve noticed over this busy, stressful week, that soup, in particular, seems instantly to relax me, calm me down, re-energize me and just generally help me keep strong and in balance through choppy seas. A simple thing like soup can do all that! And everything about eating well is simple, once you learn what to do. Just shop along the outer edges of the supermarket for whole produce and fresh meat, augmenting that with some bags of frozen veggies, too, and healthy grains like brown rice—or, if you don’t want any grains in your diet, stick to root veggies like sweet potatoes, yams, turnips and carrots (all very inexpensive). While it is true that meat—especially humanely-raised, “clean” meat—IS relatively expensive, another very important point I want to touch on is that, even the relatively expensive items in a healthy diet are all NUTRIENT DENSE, which means they are very satisfying and thus you do not need much of them. Therefore, they are actually very cost effective. I do best with some meat in almost every meal, yet I don’t need a ton of meat. Nuts and seeds (very expensive) are excellent, too, yet I don’t need many. When you are eating right, you are in balance, steady and satisfied, so you aren’t ruled by cravings and thus prone to go on a junk food binge. Junk food is EXPENSIVE (in more ways than one)! It is usually overpackaged, which costs money and if it is carry-out food, you are paying for the labor, etc. You also pay in so many hidden ways. Junk food is highly addictive and often devoid of any real nutrition, so the result is you are always out of balance, always hungry, and very likely to get in a vicious cycle of choosing the wrong foods to try to bring up your blood sugar and/or serotonin level, etc., quickly. You tend to overeat junk food, so how is that saving money? No, it is far better to choose whole, healthy foods that put you in a strong place of balance and health. Most of these foods are very affordable, a few are expensive but it evens out because you don’t need much of the nutrient-dense foods like meats, nuts and oils, and your diet will keep you healthy, which is priceless.

Another very important, related point, regarding choosing organic food, specifically, is this: while choosing a certified organic food is often more expensive at the front end (in the grocery store) than choosing the same food that isn’t labeled certified organic, you are paying for what isn’t in there, such as toxic junk, so you are keeping yourself healthier and out of the health care system, which saves you money in the long run. You are also, as I’ve blogged about before, VOTING with your dollars for sustainable, humane agriculture (and against the cruelty and unsustainability of factory farms and factory farming techniques) and by extension for a sustainable, green, humane economy, society and world, which is priceless, too. But even if you don't give a hoot about ending the barbarism and unsustainability of factory farming, choose organic for your own health. Yes, it's a tad more expensive but just as choosing nutrient-dense foods such as meats, oils and nuts SEEMS expensive at the front end, the big picture is that, in the long-run, for the many reasons I've detailed above, it is saving both your health and your bank account.

To sum up, riddle me this: if “cheap” junk food doesn’t satisfy you, so you eat more of it, it makes you sick, so you go to the doctor more, it makes you fat and addicts you (not necessarily in that order), so you are ruled by cravings like a drug addict and go through life unsteady, unfocused and out of balance, how is that really cheap, or really “affordable”? I don’t know about you, but I can’t “afford” to sabotage my health like that. By contrast, a healthy, unprocessed, whole foods diet contains mostly very inexpensive foods like veggies and fruit, but even the more seemingly “expensive” foods like meat, healthy oils, nuts, are actually saving you money in medical costs and because you will be satisfied and in balance and therefore you won’t be overeating, buying more and more and more junk food, and getting into a vicious cycle. The gifts of balance, energy, focus, strength and overall health are priceless, don’t let Big Agribiz convince you otherwise. Stick to whole, pure, unpackaged, preferrably organic foods from the outer edges of the grocery store as much as possible and stay aware from the shiny packages filled with addictive, non-nutritive junk that adorns most of the inner aisles, for it is not an exaggeration to say that, in many cases, those foods are specifically designed to addict you. Choose food made by nature, not food made by Big Agribiz. When you experience the profound benefits to your health (most importantly), lifestyle and wallet, you will be extremely glad you did.

2 comments:

  1. My food bill definitely went up when I started on BTD. I was already cooking from scratch and using whole ingredients; but rice flour and spelt flour cost more than wheat flour and cornstarch, I can't take advantage of "chicken on sale" because of my Type B son, etc.

    I'm sure I'm still cooking much more frugally than others, but things were less expensive at the grocery store pre-BTD.

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  2. So true - the person who can best take care of 'you' is 'you'! Having worked in a nursing home for one year as a teenager made me very aware that I wanted to be the best I can be as I age. Other than a little side-track from stress, my on-going search for health and now finding the GenoType Diet, who knew how easy it could be? Great article PT!

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