My Healthy Diet

In a previous post  I wrote about lining up my behaviors and philosophies so that I’m living my life with as much authenticity as I can muster. I believe that the way we eat and the way live should also represent our philosophical beliefs, at least to some extent. I’m not hyper vigalant over it because it’s overly tempting to me to force myself into some level of perfectionism that would become constrictive over time. I have to keep my beliefs and behaviors flexible enough to adapt as I learn more, changing from who I was to who I am becoming. For me this is part of being a Christian and practicing good stewardship.

Many of you know I have PCOS, a metabolic disorder that is directly affected by my diet. Of all the diseases to give a cook, this is one of the most challenging. So anyway, for 10 years I’ve been coming to terms with my condition and trying my best to find a way of eating that makes my body feel strong and healthy while still being affordable. It must also taste good, provide meals that the family and I both look forward to eating, and (for me) be relatively low on the food chain.

Ideally this would mean remaining pescatiarian (vegetarian plus fish) but my family is no longer willing to eat this way. So next is pollotarian (adding poultry to the mix). Essentially this is a simple “No Red Meat” diet, not even close to vegetarianism, but still easier on world resources than a diet which does include red meat.

On my No-Red-Meat diet I am trying to reach several goals. First it must be affordable, even during our Famine times. On Feast weeks we can afford to eat pretty much however we like. The trouble is finding a diet we can afford to maintain during Famine weeks as well. The good news is that as long as I avoid organic items, continue cooking from scratch, shop the sales and stock up on staples when we can afford it, our current diet is deleriously affordable.

The next goal is keeping our diet full of whole foods and as close as possible to all-natural. I know I feel better when I eat natural whole grains and produce and avoid most convenience foods. I know it’s better for my family too. All Natural is one of those terms that each family must define for themselves. For some folks it means all organic. For other folks it means only fresh foods. For my family it means neither of these things. For us it’s more about avoiding additives such as Nitrates (or salt peter), MSG, and most ingredients that are hard to pronounce or understand. As much as I can afford to, I buy foods in their natural state.

One of the things I must be able to do though, is stock up when I have the cash, to see us through the lean months. This means making ample use of my freezer and pantry. So for us, canned and frozen goods must be a part of our diet, whether we like it or not. If we only ate fresh foods then there would be some times that we did not eat, a situation that I try to avoid due to past experiences. When looking for frozen items I stick with whole foods as much as possible. For instance plain frozen veggies, in large bags. They’re cheapest this way and the most versatile. Plus, since almost all frozen veggies must only be thawed or heated before eating, they offer a great deal of convenience as well. There is no peeling, stringing, chopping etc. Prep-work is already done.

Poultry is easy to buy fresh, repackage and freeze. I prefer not to buy chicken that is “seasoned” or injected with salt water or broth. As a matter of fact, I avoid it as often as I can. This is one of my biggest pet peeves about American poultry. At my stores 90% of the chicken they offer, and almost all of the pre-frozen pieces, are “enhanced” with up to 15% salt water. That means I’m paying chicken prices for water! Grrr! I hate that. For every 8-pounds of chicken I buy I get 7-pounds of chicken and 1-pound of water. Talk about a ripoff! I also don’t like the way enhanced chicken tastes. My practice is to look for sales and mark-downs and stock up on un-enhanced chicken when I can. Then stash it in the freezer and use it at my leisure. One of the reasons I almost never buy chicken leg-quarters anymore is because of the added salt-water. I would buy it if I had to, but right now the freezer is full of un-enhanced chicken, so at least for the moment, I can avoid it.

Other meats I freeze are ground turkey and turkey sausage. They haven’t been “enhanced” like chicken, so it’s a relatively easy matter to buy them when they’re cheap. I’ve also found turkey bacon and turkey franks without added nitrates (preservatives) so we’ve been using these even though they are a little more expensive. I wait for sales and stock up during Feast Weeks. Frozen fish fillets, while admittedly not as good as fresh fish, are affordable and keeps forever in the freezer. We’ve been eating frozen fish for so long that we’ve forgotten how good really fresh fish tastes and we dont’ miss it.

Because of our Feast and Famine lifestyle we make extensive use of canned goods. I prefer vegetables canned with no-added-salt and fruit canned with no-added-sugar. Natural food purists may not consider canned goods “whole foods” and they may be right. My perspective is that by choosing canned goods in as plain a form as possible I’m still abiding by my desire to choose natural foods. Main advantages of canned goods are that they’re cheap and keep for years on the pantry shelf. This is especially important to us due to our income fluctuations.

My favorite fresh vegetables are those which keep the longest in my fridge. These are usually the cheapest vegetables too. Cabbage, carrots, celery, turnips, onions, potatoes, radishes, sweet potatoes, whole heads of iceberg lettuce and ocassionally green peppers and cucumbers. Since most of these are inexpensive I’m usually able to afford them, even during lean months. I’ve tried to collect recipes that use them to full advantage. That’s one of the best way to save money–learn which products are cheapest in your area, and then develop or find family-friendly recipes that make good use of these products. At first it’s a bit challenging to do this, but it saves wads of cash in the long run.

Another goal is to give up processed sugar as much as possible. I tried using artificial sweeteners, but they’re just not cutting it for me. After re-reading my Sugar Busters! and South Beach books, I’m experimenting more with fruit and fruit juice concentrates as natural alternatives. Fruit and juice still have carbs, just like all nutritive sweeteners, but with a lower glycemic index, which is particularly important to folks with PCOS (like me) and Diabetes (like Fred). I’m also using small amounts of Barley Malt, both liquid and powder and Brown Rice Syrup. These are expensive, so I don’t use them often. Luckily my local Co-Op has sales on them now and then, so I buy 3 or 4 jars when the price is lowest. Barley malt and brown rice syrup are both high in complex carbohydrates so blood sugar rises relatively slowly.

Another food I’ve been researching is granulated Fructose. This should not be confused with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) which is associated with several health problems including obesity and diabetes. Pure granulated fructose has not been associated with these same conditions. With a glycemic index of 28, it has a very low impact on blood sugar, something both Fred and I look for in sweeteners. Overconsumption of granulated fructose has been linked to higher cholesterol, so my intention is to use fructose when nothing else will work. It’s awfully yummy though and as easy to use as sugar in baking. Since it’s twice as sweet as sugar, half as much is needed. Fructose is controversial at the current time so it isn’t the right choice for everyone. I will mention that it is cheap when purchased in bulk from health food stores. This particular attribute makes it eaiser for me to use.

My final goal is to prepare and serve more veggies. My common practice is to do really well with veggies for a while and then slack off for a month or two. When I realize I’m not serving veggies like I should I repent, and do my best to mend my ways. Right now I’m mending my ways again. I dearly love veggies. Fred loves them too. The boys tolerate them for the most part. Since they see their dad and I munching out on them, I think it’s easier for them to follow our examples and eat them too.

Hope I haven’t bored anyone too much. Writing this stuff out makes it easier for me to understand what goals are, which in turn makes them easier to meet.

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17 Comments

Filed under Budget, Crunchy Con, Grocery Shopping, Low Cost Foods, Updates

17 responses to “My Healthy Diet

  1. Billie

    Thanks for the post…I don’t mind the new format but the font/color is a little hard for me to read. Could it be made darker?

  2. Leta

    This is a really good post, not boring at all. The new format is nice, but I do miss the larger font. Oh, and how aggravating is it to have pay extra to avoid ingredients? The less stuff that’s in the food, the more we have to pay for it. It’s totally backward.

  3. Hey billie and Leta, I went back to the format with the larger font. I have trouble with the smaller font too.

    Leta, totally agree! Paying more just to have our food ‘clean’ and additive-free. Grr! it’s nuts!

  4. I love reading your posts Maggie. They are so informative and entertaining. I always try to get the fresh veggies but it is so expensive to do it that way. My family is so addicted to meat that when i make something without meat they turn up their noses but i keep trying out new recipes for everyone to try. I cant wait til the farms are in full planting/growing season and i can pick up fresh veggies/fruit for a fraction of the stores. Paying $1 for a pound of apples compared to 40 cents a lb at the farm if we pick it ourselves. Much better 🙂

  5. Hey Lisa, my family was meat addicted too. It took years to get them where we’re at now. I just kept trying (and failing) and trying (and failing) and over the years I’ve made progress, although it’s been slow.

    I’m hoping to garden this year and if I’m really lucky, plant a few fruit trees. I want sour cherries more than anything, and apples, peaches & red raspberry bushes if this is a year for miracles. We’ve wanted fruit trees for years but haven’t made it a priority. Since we got the construction finished, we’re hopeful this spring will be especially fruitful for us.;)

  6. Hi,
    I’ve read your recent post and only wanted to tell you, that frozen veggies and fruits have the most vitamins. That is so, because they are packed right after being harvested and so have no time to loose very much of their vitamins.

    This is not my knowledge or idea, it is from a newspaper clipping, that my mother gave me. It is an article-line called: the anti-diet-club. I would tell you the link, but I do not know, if you speak german and if you don’t I fear, that it won ‘t be any use to you.

    I like your website and your blogs, they’re never boring but, like the one about your healthy diet rather informative. And it is nice to see, that there are people all over the world who think about how to better their diets and still keep it in line with their budget.

    All the best, Annette

  7. Hi Maggie,

    Definitely not boring : ) And you are sure clearer than i am. Right now i dont have much freezer space (just a tiny fridge), and i honestly only recently considered canned food. I guess becuase what i grew up with from cans was so salty and sugary i thought it was all like that and so wasnt an option. So i’m exploring there, but right now its mostly fresh or dried. I tend to live on beans, grains, quiches (even though eggs went up they are still less expensive than meat), soups, fish, nut butters, breads, veggies and fruit. I think its decenly healthy, and not as expensive as some other diets, but its still expensive for me really, i’m surprised how ~fast~ things are adding up, especially right now.

    Well, Peaceful Week : ) Wendy

  8. Thank you for your thoughts and insights.

    One way to preserve fresh foods it to do your own home canning, that way you can control exactly what goes into your foods. Just make sure you are using the proper canning methods.

  9. Hi Maggie,

    This is just an idea, but i wonder if there are any others out there like me who would benefit from a little “tutorial” on buying canned food. I know it sounds funny, but some of us really are kind of clueless there. I use canned salmon since a friend of ours cans it and gifts it to us (mega yummy), canned tomatoes, canned mandrian oranges when they go on sale, sometimes a good canned clam chowder or corn chowder, maybe a couple other things. But beyond that, it seems like most of the canned stuff i’ve seen out there is loaded with gunk. Or else you can get the health store version but they seem way more expensive, which would defeat the whole point of saving money there. For example the corn chowder i get is the health food version, and really yummy and easy, but its an occasional thing only (i add it to the canned salmon to make a good soup) because its ~not~ a bargian really. But there must be some good middle ground stuff, obviously you have found things you are really comfortable with canned and that save, and it could be really helpful if that were shared with details…like what to look for, good brands, best items to get canned etc. Anyway, its just an idea : )

    Aimee’s home caning idea is a great idea too.

    Well, peaceful week : ) Wendy

  10. Jennifer in MD

    Hi Maggie,
    I just wanted to tell you about a natural sweetener that we’ve been using. It’s low glycemic. It’s called Agave Nectar and it’s showing up in more and more places in stores and online. A natural plant product and low in glycemic impact. I find it to have a fine taste and have used it in some recipes. Not too bad.
    Thought that might help!

  11. Terri W

    Maggie:

    Have you tried making homemade rice syrup? I have a recipe from a cookbook I ordered from Lovetolearn.net. I don’t want to just post the recipe here out of respect for the Hopkins (who run the site and publish the cookbook, “Hopkins’ Healthy Home Cooking”), but drop me an email if you’d be interested in finding out more.

    It’s pretty straightforward, made just out of brown rice, water and sprouted grains.

  12. Kerri

    Maggie,

    I want to thank you for helping me so much! I have made so many of your recipes, I simply go to them first now when I need to make anything. I love your former hillbilly housewife website and I’m looking forward to reading through your new frugal abundance website. Your writings give me comfort and your recipes help me to stay focused on our goal to live debt free. With your help, I have been able to do it while feeding my family an enourmous variety of delicious frugal meals. Thank you so much, Maggie!

  13. Sheila

    I wanted to thank you for all of your work on your website. Due to circumstances beyond my control I’m being forced to become a stay at home wife/step-mom. My husband works 70+ hours a week as a Truck Driver and this next school year both of his children from a previous marriage are moving in with us (1 lives with us now) On top of that I am going through fertility treatments and need to take a lot of time off work to drive 1 1/2 hours to doctor appointments.
    I was upset at first, I never pictured myself as a stay at home mom, however the closer the time gets (May 23rd) the more excitied I become. I can’t wait to take care of my family the way I have always wanted to. Your website has been so helpful, my mother never taught me how to cook, clean or take care of a family. She always told me that I was too indepent and that I would most likely end up working full time anyway. So thank you so much helping me know where to start. I look forward to learning a lot more from you.

    Thank you again
    Sheila

  14. Stacey E

    Have you considered converting a section of your yard to grow your own vegetables and/or fruits? My parents started doing that about a year or two ago, and it’s been nice being able to have fresh “free” produce available.
    It’s so nice coming across someone on the internet that doesn’t attack the use of fructose. I think a lot of people are confusing it with HFCS, which I do believe is dangerous. I’m not convinced that the granulated stuff is.

  15. Stacey, I so much agree with you, on both points. I’m not so sure the granulated stuff is as bad as HFCS either. I think granulated fructose is probably a better choice than white sugar, at least for my health problems.

    DH and I have some plans for gardening this year, but we’re waiting to finish a couple of projects we’re in the middle of before we start a new one. We’ve gardened in the past and are really looking forward to doing it again. If we could raise chickens, we’d have them too.

  16. Lauren

    Terri W,
    I would love that rice syrup recipe if you wouldn’t mind sending it my way.

    Thanks so much!

  17. Anonymous

    this is awesome but dont like everything and to much reading

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