I often meet people who want to change their diet to an organic one, but can’t afford to. Instead they settle for a diet of cheap food. Unfortunately, less expensive food tends to also be less healthy. From fast food burgers and fries, to soda and T.V. dinners, cheap food is often highly processed, contains high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, or all of the above. What it doesn’t contain is nutrition.
The food industry today has become expert at creating cheap food that tastes good despite the absence of nutrition. Sadly, many Americans have become accustomed to eating this food that (if you eat enough of it) fills the belly without nourishing the body. However, perpetually satisfying the appetite on the empty calories cheap food provides will eventually come back to bite you. (See blog post “You Get What You Pay For”).
Still, it can be difficult for individuals or especially families to eat a healthy diet. Let’s face it: broccoli is more expensive than soda—at least at the check-out line. However, healthy changes can be made to the diet short of buying organic. Here are some suggestions for cleaning up the pantry without cleaning out the wallet.
1. Purchase natural peanut butter: By natural I mean peanut butter free of hydrogenated oils. And just because a label says “all natural” doesn’t mean it is. The ingredients list for peanut butter ought to go something like this: peanuts.
2. Throw away your Crisco. I know that’s not what Grace said in The Help. But conventional shortening is almost entirely hydrogenated oils. And hydrogenated oils translate to trans fat which translates to toxic. FYI: for labeling purposes, it is legal to claim no trans fat if there is less than one percent. For recipes that call for shortening, use butter instead.
3. Replace table salt with sea salt. While the human body requires iodine, iodized salt is not sufficient. (An iodine supplement such as Iodoral will better meet your body’s needs.) Meanwhile, table salt has been processed and bleached. Why? So it can sit on the shelf indefinitely without going bad. The result is that there is little nutrition in table salt. However, unrefined sea salt has more than 45 trace minerals important to the human body. Contrary to popular belief, sea salt can be beneficial in lowering blood pressure.
4. Just say no… to Aunt Jemima. Put applesauce on those hotcakes instead. While Aunt Jemima would like us to think her syrup comes from trees, it doesn’t. It comes from corn. More specifically, Aunt Jemima and other imitation syrups are primarily corn syrup and high fructose corn syrup. (That’s why it’s so cheap: it’s made from processed corn.) If it were real maple syrup, it would cost a lot more than $2.80 a bottle. It takes 40-50 gallons of sap from maple trees to make 1 gallon of maple syrup, so of course it’s not going to be cheap.
5. No more fluff in the shopping cart. I’m not just talking about the Fluff that makes “fluff-n-nutter” sandwiches. We tend to put a lot of unnecessary stuff in our shopping carts: soda, chips, and candy. Although vegetables are usually more expensive ounce for ounce, if we cut out the unnecessary it would free up more cash for nutritional food.
6. Drink Water. Too often we reach for soda when we’re thirsty…and even when we’re not. Soda is processed corn at its best: its primary ingredient is high fructose corn syrup. And a lot of the fruit juices on the market aren’t much better. Even apple juice has added sugar; besides, it’s been pasteurized which means that the natural nutrition is gone.
7. No Fakes Allowed. Don’t try to save money by purchasing fake food like margarine, which is full of the worst kind of fat out there—trans fat. Or if you want cheese, then buy cheese—not something that whizzes out of a can. And when you have a sweet tooth, don’t turn to artificial sweeteners like Splenda. (The stuff doesn’t even taste good anyway.) When something claims that it has zero calories, I’m suspicious. You should be too. Food should look like food, taste like food, and act like food.
8. Eat dinner at home. By cooking at home, you will not only save money, but also have much more control over what you put in your body. Too often, the food served at restaurants is processed. And processed food has lots of the stuff you don’t need: trans fats, preservatives, dyes, and excessive sodium chloride.
9. Brown bag it. Packing a lunch for school or work will once again save money while providing more control over your diet. Even the dressings at the salad bars tend to have hidden ingredients like corn syrup and MSG. Make your own salad complete with your own dressing. Here is a easy-to-make dressing:
Lemon-Olive Oil Dressing
The juice from two lemons
2-3 cloves garlic; crushed
¾ cup olive oil
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
Puree ingredients together in a blender.
10. Shake ‘n Bake. I still remember the commercials for Shake n’ Bake Chicken. We have grown up in the age of convenience: premade cake mixes, macaroni and cheese in a box, and store bought bread. Gone are the days when you measure flour to make a cake, grate cheese for your macaroni, or—heaven forbid—bake your own bread! But once again, the more you let someone else make your food, the less you know what they’re making and therefore what you’re eating. Dare to be old-fashioned: make some bread! But a word to the wise…you may actually like it.