As I’m writing this book about the Food Stamp Challenge, and I’ve been interviewing people who are both on food stamps and not on them but are food insecure, I am learning one very important and critical thing. I’ll get to that in a moment, but let me talk about something else that’s related to this too. I read in the comments section of a blog the other day that someone said Michelle Obama was ‘starving our school children’. I did some more research into that too. Turns out, many folks think the portion sizes that are suggested for elementary school and high school children are too small, even though the calorie and nutritional content of the food meets the guidelines suggested for their age groups. Then I read the USDA food pyramid redone guidelines for the MyPlate. Then I started looking into MyFitnessPal and their recommendations.
I took a basic, average school child’s diet and plugged it into MyFitnessPal. I took a basic adult’s diet and plugged that into MyFitnessPal. Then I plugged in typical fast food meals–for example, a Whataburger #1 with an upsized fry and full-sugar soda. Did you know that this one meal is HALF of your daily allowance for calories and half of your daily allowance for fat? It’s also half your daily allowance for sodium. So let’s assume you had a Whataburger #1 meal for lunch, you had a Starbucks Venti Latte for breakfast, and then you come home for dinner, there’s almost no way you can plan a healthy dinner and keep it below the calorie count you need for the day to maintain and healthy weight and be heart healthy on good fats and sodium.
Now, if you, instead, ordered a junior burger and small fry with a small cola, or even with an unsweetened iced tea, NOW you’re talking. You can still have the latte too, but go with a tall and ask them to make it dry with ‘no room’, so they fill the cup up all the way, and you’re still doing better than if you go with the larger portions. Your pocketbook will save about $5 per day this way too, you can still have the convenience of eating out, and I promise you–after you do it, you will NOT be any hungrier or fuller feeling than if you did the full-sized meal. You really won’t even consciously notice it, unless you TELL yourself otherwise. You CAN retrain your body to rethink ‘full’. You CAN still have the fast food you sometimes want, if you want it.
And that’s what I’m getting to: Portion sizes are out of control!
We think we’re getting a great deal when we get all-you-can-eat, but I can’t eat enough to make it worth the money any more! I’ve found that it’s often cheaper for me to go with the regular meal portions than buffet foods, and so we don’t bother with them any more. Upsize for only 39 cents, right? But that 39 cents buys you very little extra ‘nutrition’, only a little bit more feeling of ‘fullness’, but adds 500-800 plus in calories! For what? I could have two huge salads with dressing for that amount of calories and be stuffed to the gills with better and more nutrition!
Reducing portions, by even a small amount, won’t make your belly feel less full, but you will take in fewer of the bad stuff, and it leaves some room for the good stuff.
I’ve also found that protein based snacks are so much better at keeping you full feeling than junk food, so I’ve been teaching my daughter, who has to go to a job every day and often eats out fast-food when she does work, that she should start taking some protein snacks with her–and she’s observed eating less overall when she does.
Simple things can be done to help with this too. For example, on a day off, when you have some time, hard boil some eggs, put them in a different spot in the fridge, and grab two for breakfast or for a snack to take with you. No cooking, quick protein on a work day. Cream cheese with a few apple slices are yummy and healthy for you, and the fat in the cream cheese will leave you feeling full. Grab an apple, a couple tablespoons of cream cheese and a boiled egg, and you have a quick lunch that will actually be healthier for you and more satisfying than a burger and fries, with less energy drain in the afternoon. It works. Get fresh veggies like carrots, celery, broccoli and cauliflower and chop them or tear them into chunks and toss them into a bowl. A small cup of ranch or your favorite dressing for dipping and you can literally eat as much of these as you want any time you want. Get a big bowl with a sealing lid and keep them in your fridge when you want crunch.
Craving chips? Use sea salt and get an inexpensive grinder and grind some sea salt on thinly sliced summer squash or zucchini. Get some kale and dehydrate it or bake it with some oil and salt on it–soo soo yummy. Add some nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor to the kale chips.
These are inexpensive ways to eat better, healthier, more nutritious foods. You can try juicing fruits and veggies to make them more palatable and get your servings in too, which is what I do–but I admit this can be a very expensive way of eating. It’s very healthy and good for you, but all that produce isn’t cheap. There are ways to make it cheaper, like looking into Bountiful Baskets and other co-ops like that, but it’s still not something someone who is food insecure or on food stamps can do.
BUT, if you still can’t bring yourself to go all health ‘crazy’ and eat the really good stuff, then simply reduce your portions. You DO NOT need four pieces of chicken. Instead, eat two pieces of chicken and add some rice to make you feel fuller, without adding more calories. The skin might taste great, and sure, cook with the skin on for the flavor, but peel the skin and toss it and save some calories and fat. My dog loves chicken skins! (so do I, though, I must admit). You DO NOT have to have meat at every meal. That’s a uniquely American concept, and when I ran a daycare center and went through the required DHS nutrition classes they gave us, that was a concept we had a hard time selling the parents on. As long as meals have a good portion of protein, proper nutrients and vitamins and such, there isn’t a requirement to have meat at every meal. Learn to accept that you can do without meat or you can do with a whole lot LESS meat than most of us eat, and you can save a toncvmnb of calories and save a bunch of money on your food budget! Not to mention, farming meat is absolutely horrible on the environment, so the less meat you eat, especially from commercial farms, the better it is for our world all the way around!
And then, learn portion control. Go from eating all-you-can-eat to ordering a meal and eating your plate, and plan to take some home for lunch the next day–save money and eat better! Order the small meal deals or off the dollar menus, save money and calories and fat and sodium! Limit sodas or eliminate them completely and go with healthier tea or fresh water–water is so good and so good for you!
I think a lot of us have been trained to eat larger portions over time than our bodies really need. When we fuel our bodies with the RIGHT foods, we don’t need as much of those foods to keep us healthy and feeling great. It’s when our bodies are eating a lot of junk in calories but not nutrition that the mind tries to tell us we’re hungry. We’re actually not ‘hungry’–we’re nutritionally starved. Our body needs the vitamins, minerals and nutrition, not just the ‘bulk’ that makes us feel full. When we’re not getting nutrition, we will crave the things that are bad for us!
Reduce portions but eat the right foods, in the right amounts, and you’ll feel fuller, feel better and healthier, BE healthier, and save tons of money on eating/food budgets.
And it doesn’t have to be all at once, either. We don’t just wake up one day and decide to run a marathon and go do it. We train, we start with stretching and walking then jogging and then running, then running a little further each day, until we finally reach the goal. It’s the same with anything that is going to be a long-term goal or change.
Start with just ordering one size smaller on your sodas. Or skip one soda per day and replace it with tea or water. Do that for a week, until you really don’t miss it any ore. Then the next time, order the regular sized meal instead of upsizing it, but keep with the skipped soda per day. Then after you get used to that, order the junior meal instead. Start buying a bag of cheap fruit to keep in the fridge and replace one candy/soda/chip/junk food craving per day with eating a piece of fruit instead. Boil up some eggs or get some fresh veggies and keep them around the house and snack on them instead of junk.
Baby steps. One week at a time. one day at a time… one craving at a time! Celebrate every success. Share it with others and help them and you both get and stay on track.
And if you blow it? Well, then you blew it, no biggie, just move on and start again! It’s never starting over, it’s just starting again, because you can’t ‘undo’ the healthy nutritional choices you made and already consumed–they get to stay with you forever! Every good choice stays with you forever! And you can eventually undo the damage from bad choices!
Check out a site like MyFitnessPal or some of the other ones that let you log what you eat in a day. I think you’ll be quite surprised if you simply log all your food–everything that goes into your mouth for an entire week–by just how much junk you are eating and many calories you’re taking in that you’re not aware of. Or you might find the opposite to be true for you–maybe you’re one of the folks who doesn’t eat enough at all and you’re getting no good nutrition for it.
Whichever way it goes for you, being aware of what you’re eating and taking control of your life and health through food awareness is a great way to save money later on from the costs of treating your health when it goes bad because you haven’t fueled your body properly over the years. It WILL catch up to you eventually. It’s a very simple thing you can do to improve your life in so many ways–take control of your life now!
I want ya to be around and reading my blog for many years to come–and even with my own health problems, I’m hoping the changes I’ve made and am continuing to make in my diet and health will keep me here writing for you for years to come too, even while I battle a terminal illness.
Love and stuff,