One of the things that astounds me about America (and probably other countries, too) is how unaware we are of nutrition. I mentioned a bit of this in this entry. We are diet obsessed, but that's not the same as being healthy. Even when I do hear people talk about healthy eating it's usually all about organic whole foods markets, and posh foods many of us don't even know what they are, nor could afford on a regular basis. There is a gray area between eating a bunch of junk because we don't know any better, and going to the extreme of being that know-it-all health nut that has a huge grocery budget at their disposal.
So, how do we eat better on a budget? What are some basic rules?
1. Limit white flour. I'm not one of those who go on blaming wheat for all of our diet woes, but white flour is not good for anyone. Whole wheat flour is however, nutritious. White flour is cheap. It is in the majority of the food we eat. It's sneaky. It makes our blood sugar rise, and come crashing down later on, leaving us starving, and possibly rushing to eat more junk.
How do you find out if your food is made of whole wheat flour or, not? One would think this is an easy question, but it's not. They put all sorts of extra tricky words into the list of ingredients that make people think what they're eating is healthy. The short answer is whole wheat will always say 'whole wheat' on the label of ingredients. If it has the words 'bleached' or 'enriched' then it is not whole wheat.The words 'wheat' and 'multi-grain' is also not necessarily indicative of health.
It is true that whole wheat products are more expensive than the white flour products. I don't always buy whole wheat when I am on a very, very strict budget, but usually I will opt for whole wheat. Breads, buns, and such are almost always whole wheat in my house. I also buy as much pasta as I can in the whole wheat variety. I don't care for the taste of whole wheat pasta, so I tend to mix it with white flour pasta to a ratio that I can handle. It's usually 1/3 whole wheat to white wheat noodles. Not everyone will mind the taste. It does cook slightly quicker than white wheat pasta, so if you're combining the two you may want to put the wheat noodles in about 3 minutes later than the white noodles so you don't end up with soggy wheat noodles.
2. Butter is not the enemy.
Vegetable oil is. Despite what we've been told for eons butter (in moderation) is not bad for us. Hydrogenated oils is terrible for us. I will spare you the science lesson on exactly how hydrogenated oils are made. You can Google it if you'd like to know. The main thing to take away is that it is not good for anyone to eat, and should be consumed for special occasions.
What is hydrogentated oil found in? Margarine, shortening (Crisco), and vegetable oil. When in doubt, flip items at the grocery over, and look at the label. If it's hydrogenated anything, you shouldn't buy it for regular consumption. I use it to make cookies, and to fry things at high temps. I obviously, don't do these things daily, or even weekly. Margarine/oil spreads are way cheaper than butter, and cream based spreads, but the cost to our waistline, and heart is too high. I almost never purchase these items for regular use, even to save money.Instead, I buy olive oil, and butter. *Caution... do not use olive oil at high temps. It will start a fire.
3. The more ingredients listed on an item the worst it is for you.
Preservatives, and chemicals are the enemy of eating clean. This is another area where I waiver a bit from most healthy eaters. My budget, and picky family will not eat all clean all the time, or even some of the time. It's just not gonna happen. Sensory issues with food is not negotiable. We can't help what we gag on, and what we don't. However, I try.
4. Low fat, and diet foods are almost always very bad for you.
There's way, way more to losing weight, and being healthy than calories. Anything listed on the label as 'low fat' or as a diet food should be considered suspicious. You should refer to #3 for this. The way they get less calories out of a food is by replacing them with chemicals, and sugar. This includes asparteme, and and other 'no/low calorie' sugar substitutes. Avoid them like the plague. Unless you're diabetic this IS a food that I am going to tell you to always restrict. No diet sodas. Check the labels of all juices, and drinks. No fake sugar!!!!
5. Sugar is okay in moderation.
Hear me out. Sugar is okay for sometimes food. What I would LOVE everyone to stop/severely restrict intake of is corn syrup or it's other name fructose. Honey is a better choice than sugar. Substitute it where you can.
So, in closing... eat real food as much as possible. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, rice, whole wheat, meats, and eggs. The less ingredients it has the better it is for you. The more sugar, and hydrogenated oils it has the worse it is for you.