Saturday, April 28, 2012

Of Food & Finances

There’s an article in USA Today this week about how the “millennials” are struggling with financial literacy.

They’re not alone. Plenty of “boomers” who majored in liberal arts back in the day, yet failed to pick up an economics course, are probably in the same boat.

For those trying to figure out where to find firm footing amidst all this economic turbulence, I suggest starting with food.

Here’s where I’ll repeat my old “saw” ~ Americans waste 40 percent of the food they buy in grocery stores and in restaurants. Since we all have to eat every day, all that wasted food can translate into wasted cash that could be set aside for a car payment, utility costs or a savings account.

So where do these “millennials” and every other struggling American start?

The answer is in their kitchens. With some planning, we can eat better and spend less.

Somewhere along the way, we mistakenly learned to equate meeting basic needs with deprivation. We stopped viewing having a place to live, good food, clean air and clean water as the abundance that it really is.

So lacking economic certainly or a road map on how to find it, we need to look to the one area that we clearly can control; and that’s what buy and what we eat.

Cut down on the coffee and the soda pop, and carry a water bottle. If you’re spending as much as $5 a day on that, you’ll save about $25 a week, or $100 a month.

Buy more veggies and learn to stretch your meat portions. Meat is expensive, and our bodies need much less protein than we think.

Incorporate whole wheat or gluten-free pasta into your menu planning. True, it’s a source of carbs, but you can lessen its glycemic effect by cooking it no longer than seven minutes. (Keep the pasta portions smaller, and top it with lots of sautéed veggies).

If you’re still stymied by the plethora of food choices, start by buying a bag of apples and eat one every day for a week, without making any other changes. Pay attention to every bite, and truly savor it, knowing that it’s improving your health and nurturing your body. (A bag can cost as much as a latte’!)

Then start doing some simple menu planning. Even just having a fresh garden salad in the fridge can always be a fallback. (Serve it with the kids’ macaroni and cheese; just give them more salad than pasta!)

It’s easier than you think, and you’ll soon find out that it’s “money in the bank!”

Friday, April 20, 2012

Diabetics Should View Food as Their Pharmacy

That Southern belle of kitchens everywhere, Paula Deen, has provided huge absolution for millions seeking solace and comfort from food by providing recipes and demonstrations on how to cook up sugary, high-fat, palate pleasers.

Examples range from her “sweet tea” to entrée’s like her cheesy macaroni & beef casserole, to dessert finales like her skillet-fried apple pie (cooked in 1/2 inch of oil~ seriously!)

Earlier this year, she announced she has Type 2 diabetes.

She’s on a couple of meds to control her diabetes, and said she still enjoys those kinds of dishes, but in smaller portions.

That’s a good start, but her path could be so much better.

Truth is, there’s a better example to be set for the 26 million Americans with diabetes, 90 percent of whom have the Type-2 variety.

Because avoiding saturated fats, high-fat dairy and animal products especially ice cream, cheese, hot dogs, bacon, hamburgers and sausage ~ all those things Paula Deen fans love ~ can go a long ways towards even reversing diabetes.

As for the “sweet tea”, sodas and juices ~ those should be the first to go!

The acidic properties of the “white stuff” like white bread, rice, pasta and sugar help to insure that that environment of inflammation continues ~ putting out the welcome mat for those illnesses we to want to avoid, namely diabetes, heart disease and cancer.
Those rolling blood sugar levels that are the hallmark of diabetes can often be quickly stabilized by combining regular exercise with plenty of high fiber fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans. That is, of course, minus the dollops of butter when they’re served up “Southern style”.

Just cutting sugary drinks from your diet can improve your glucometer readings in a matter of days!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Choose A Fork!

I watched that much-talked about documentary, “Forks Over Knives”, the other night.

Basically, it presents a scientifically-sound argument for a diet based on whole foods, illustrating their incredible healing properties. (The array of fruits and vegetables out there contain more than 25,000 vitamins, minerals and enzymes.)

It’s a very hopeful message at a time when more and more Americans are being diagnosed with catastrophic illnesses, many of which can be linked to diet. That’s because not only can eating well prevent serious disease, in many cases it can even reverse what deterioration has already occurred.

Whoa! If that’s true, then why would millions of people depend on a cascade of expensive pharmaceutical drugs to keep their sick bodies functioning? That doesn’t make any sense.

Actually, it does.

We can all sit and nod in agreement about the importance of eating good food, but applying that is altogether different.

No one wants to be sick. But the complicated lives most of us live often just siphon off what little motivation there might be to make lasting changes. Factor in a food industry that cranks out products with virtually no nutritional value and addictive ingredients that stoke the furnace of inflammation, and it can seem like a losing battle.

After all, we’re talking about a very, very large group of people who are sick, and they’re also tired.

The documentary interviewed a few of the more chronically ill. Their blood labs basically read: Change or die! (Maybe not tomorrow, but it was in the cards at some point!)

So what did they do?

They started eating mostly fresh, whole foods.

They rid their cabinets of sugar, fats and salt; and they either eliminated, or cut way back on dairy and meat products. They got their protein mainly from sources like beans, nuts and whole grains. (That’s not to say that eliminating dairy and meat should be the course for everyone. You may well decide your body type needs those particular food sources.)

But for the people interviewed, after just eight weeks the results in their blood labs were dramatic. They had literally vacuum-cleaned their arteries!

You’ll say: “… but most of us can’t get from here to there.”

That, of course, is a personal belief, and beliefs are very powerful.

But so are fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes (beans) and nuts! Once you make them the underpinnings of your diet, you might just have a very different view of what you can and cannot do.

(Those with serious or chronic conditions should only reduce their meds under the direction of their physician. Your family physician can be your partner in helping you reach your health goals.)