This year we are going to begin a great food swap.
When we were first married, we ate pretty well – fresh food, mostly, tried to avoid preservatives, added sugars, etc. Then life happened (school, children) and we lacked a budget, so we started buying cheaper food. Then something else happened – we started buying MORE food. I was convinced that we always had to have “variety” on hand. Then it ended up being that we consumed more because I bought more! So I kept buying more.
I was wondering why our food budget was so high. It’s not like we were buying organic or anything.
So now. Life has changed. We are “growing up” in some ways. And one of those ways is how we feed our family.
Step 1: Change our Relationship with Food
I have realized recently that a lot about food is emotional and psychological. I think our brains and emotions need food more than our bodies do.
Most of our eating is emotional – not necessarily negative – but emotional. When we are eating, we feel safe, comforted, and taken care of. We feel busy, we feel productive (especially if we’re eating a meal we cooked ourselves).
So in order to change our relationship with food, we need to understand more about why we eat, what food our body actually needs. Then we have to convince ourselves that we only NEED to eat what our body actually NEEDS, physically and come to terms with the fact that everything in excess of that is purely emotional. Being rational human beings we should be able to control our emotions, and so we need to control our emotional eating. It’s not bad to have a cookie as long as we admit to ourselves that the main reason we are having a cookie is because it feels good to eat it (sure it provides some nutritional value, but not nearly as much as a celery stick or a spoonful of beans). We often do things that feel better to do than they are good for us, like watch a fictional TV show or movie – they feel good to watch, but aren’t nearly as productive for our intellect as watching a documentary or a program on the History channel. Or doing extreme sports (jumping dirt bikes, sky-diving, etc) – it feels great, the rush is awesome, and you are burning calories, building muscle, etc – but there is more risk in doing extreme sports than there is in lifting weights or going for a jog or a walk or biking or something a little less extreme.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t eat cookies, watch TV, or do extreme sports. Just that there is a balance and we need to admit to ourselves why we are doing the things we are doing.
Step 2: Eat Less, But More
We hardly need the number of calories that we are eating. There is a concept called “calorie restriction with optimal nutrition”- eating less to live longer. A research in the project in the 1930s fed lab rats less and less, but always making sure it was nutrient-dense food. The results were fascinating – “…the deprived mice lived longer than their well-fed counterparts.” (source) Now, I can’t say that I want to do this entirely, because I love a treat every now and then. And I love to bake.
However, the underlying principle is just about right on. We don’t need to eat as much as we are eating, and what we do eat needs to be packed with nutrients.
So as of today, I am going to start buying less at the grocery store. We don’t need 3 different kinds of cereal. We can eat oatmeal and cream of wheat (which I prefer anyway). We don’t need crackers and cookies, we can eat veggies/pitas in hummus, and I bake all the time, so why buy store bought cookies when I can just make a yummy (and sometimes healthier) treat? I am going to look for ways to simplify the number and amount of things we eat and increase the complexity of the nutrition of our food.
Step 3: Drink instead of eat
If I get a craving for something, or feel like I need to eat, I am going to drink water. In fact, I am going to put a little cranberry or fresh squeezed lemon, or lime, in my water. Spice up my life a little (and add some nutrients as well – remember, less calories, more nutrients).
Hopefully this will also help me get more fluid intake each day. I am sorely lacking in that department.
Step 4: Sleep More
There is some truth in the old saying “Early to bed, early to rise, makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.”
Our goal is to be in bed by 10pm every night and up by 6am. That gives us a full 7-8 hours of sleep, and being up early gets us ready for the new day (hopefully before the kids are up!)
Step 5: Make the Switch
Switch #1: Beans for Meat
We already eat more beans that meat, but we’re going to up that. We will start trying out tofu in our dishes (a recipe book I have suggests going half and half for the first little while, then gradually increasing the amount of tofu and decreasing the amount of meat).
I’m not saying we’re going vegetarian or anything (because we’re most definitely not – we love our steaks) – but we’re going to try to eat more beans than meat. They are a more nutrient-dense source of protein.
Switch #2: Milk for Milk
Haven’t decided exactly what is going to happen here. If you read my milk post, you’ll know that we’re still undecided – but a change will happen this year.
This change will also affect cheese and yogurt options (but probably not ice cream, unless DS really does have a dairy allergy… in that case, we’ll switch there, too… if only just his)
Switch #3: Homemade for Store bought
I am going to make homemade as much as possible. Our requirement for goodies and treats will be that they are homemade, and we give some away. And if possible, we WALK to deliver the goodies.
This will serve 2 purposes - #1 if we want goodies, it will actually take some thought, planning, and work on our part. None of that mindless munching. #2 we’ll burn some calories in the process, cooking and delivering goodies.
Switch #4: Gluten Free for wheat
My husband’s family has a history of celiac disease, and some of my mom’s sisters have a gluten intolerance. We’ve never been really big wheat eaters, and we always eat whole wheat instead of bleached, refined stuff. Now I am going to take that to the next level. There are things that are easy to switch out, like pastas. And then there are some things that are a little harder, like cookies and other goodies. I’m sure I can find alternatives for some of those, however, and as long as we cut wheat down and find some really delicious recipes for bread and pancakes, etc, then I think I will be able to do this one full on.
Looking at this list makes me feel like our grocery budget is going to get bigger instead of smaller, but then I remind myself that we are eating less, not more, even though it may be more expensive. Since we will be eating less I imagine our budget will stay somewhat the same.