4 Steps to manage your food budget and increase your health


How are you doing? This is week 2 of 2016! Are you making good progress towards your New Year personal and professional resolutions? I'd love to hear what small and big changes you've made thus far. Reply to me with your good news!

My resolutions this year were two-fold:

1. To workout harder than ever and continue to increase my flexibility and muscle definition with even focus and really see how fit I can be in the body I was born with (I turn 40 this April, I don't know how that happened). (Take my 3-Day Challenge to see what I'm talking about).

2. Try to follow my true hunger, which surprisingly means that most nights I do not eat dinner.
I am learning how to be ok with that and eat nothing or just a piece of fruit, a Zenberry smoothie, a handful of nuts or just a bowl of green lettuce with a home-made dressingto hold me overnight. I am learning to forego the relaxing effect of dining and wining for comfort instead of true hunger. I learned that eating out of true hunger is key in managing my weight and centerpiece of my nutrition coaching practice. If I don't and revert to eating out of habit (dinner time is a habit), social obligations, or out of boredom, the scale goes up. Now you're talking to an O blood type girl (aggressive appetite), who eats every kind of food (I am not vegetarian) and who works out every morning and every night (2-3 x a day), and has 15-hour workday in the office 6 days a week. Yet, I am not hungry and am full of energy. My thyroid and metabolism is normal. I believe my lack of hunger is due to my highly nutritious diet, the fact I drink two Zenberry shakes a day (which curbs hunger a lot), a big late lunch every day (1PM) and generally lack of stress despite long work days. I feel centered and calm. I have also become very fuel efficient because of how I train my body during my workouts. So my body uses primarily fatty acids over carbs for fuel. This definitively is conducive to less hunger as I have plenty of fat reserves to fuel my brain and body.

Today I wanted to motivate you to stay the course with your resolutions, and challenge you to prioritize your health and to that end, reflect that priority in your budget. Where you put your money (and your time) truly shows your priorities. This speak louder than words.

Most of us know that we should be exercising regularly, eating our vegetables, drinking less alcohol, getting more sleep, reducing stress blah blah blah. Knowing and doing are two different things, right? “Easier said than done” and all of those handy excuses we tell ourselves. I don’t have time (to exercise or cook), my job is so stressful but a few more all-nighters and I’ll get that raise, healthy organic food is too expensive, wine is too delicious (ok that last one is true).

The question is, what is your priority and how do you execute in accordance with it? Of course working hard and making a living is important and no one is asking you to give up your possessions and move to a Buddhist temple but finding some balance and making your health a priority is essential. Your life depends on it. Don't wait until you are sick to start.

One of the easiest ways to improve your health and prevent many diseases is with your diet, as you well know. Remember some of the excuses above? “Organic is too expensive” and “I don’t have time to cook” are two major hurdles to eating healthier. So, how can we save money on organic food and rethink our budget this year?
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1. Buy in bulk: Portland State University study (2012) found that you save, on average, 89% when buying your organic staples in bulk rather than prepackaged. It is more environmentally friendly as well (especially if you can bring your own containers/reusable bags).
2. Buy organic when it’s essential and conventional when you need to save some dough. Dirty Dozen: These should always be organic due to the high levels of pesticide residue so don’t skimp here and go conventional.
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Sweet Bell Peppers
  • Celery
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Cherries
  • Pears
  • Grapes (Imported)
  • Spinach
  • Lettuce
  • Potatoes
However, if you really need to save money and buy conventional, these are the least contaminated with pesticide residue according to organic.org:
  • Onions
  • Avocado
  • Sweet Corn (Frozen)
  • Pineapples
  • Mango
  • Asparagus
  • Sweet Peas (Frozen)
  • Kiwi Fruit
  • Bananas
  • Cabbage
  • Broccoli
  • Papaya
3. Make plants the star of your meals. Plan your meals around the beans, wholes grains and vegetables, not the animal protein (even if you are not a vegetarian). Most of the healthiest foods in the world aren’t all that expensive to start with. The majority of the world population is vegetarian. Not because they chose to be but because animal protein and fish tends to be too expensive for most. In fact in the USA, meat is consumed at 3x the global average. That is the way it was in the US until about 60-70 years ago. Most of the population ate much less animal protein than today. Even our parents didn’t eat meat every day and often was reserved for Sunday’s big meal. There is a reason why disease has been on the rise for the past century. The increased consumption of animal protein and processed foods are directly linked to these diseases. I dug into research for the keynote speech I give Friday at a Heart Health event, and the bottom line is: a plant-based diet is the best diet to reverse and prevent heart disease (and cancer). Reducing the amount of animal protein is one of the greatest things you can do to increase your longevity and reduce the risk of illness…and it saves a ton of money. You can find recipes on my website to get you started.
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Rice, beans, lentils, seasonal fruits and vegetables are all very affordable and by some strange coincidence are the healthiest foods you can eat. Legumes (beans and lentils) show an 82% reduction in the risk of dying from heart disease! What? Price check some organic bean and lentils at the bulk bins next time you’re at the store.

4. Shift your money around spending categories and eat more at home. Aim for 80% home-made meals. When on the road, eat like if you are at home, simple foods, lots of plants. Let's be frank. Making your health a priority means shifting some of your budget (and time) away from things that are less essential and that do not positively contribute to your health. I certainly stopped shopping for shoes, clothes and handbags when I started to splurge on my food, I have so closets filled with garments and shoes already. I also stopped going to the coffee shop daily or eating breakfast and lunch out, a common practice in Manhattan, more than one or twice a week and when I do, it is carefully planned. You’ll see you have a lot more money to spend on delicious exotic fruit, fine dark chocolate and organic beer! You don’t want to wait until you’re sick to start making your health a priority. What’s that saying? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure? This is 100% true.

How I manage my own household budget (two adults). I follow the rules above and as a result my food budget for the week is $100 (Plus 2 meals out of the house). I also do my VIP clients' organic grocery shopping on freshdirect.com and keep their budget to $100 a week for a household of 2-3 people, so I've got some practice. I eat primarily a plant-based diet and reserve my $$ for wild caught salmon/fish once a week (more is toxic for my thyroid and body due to heavy metals, mercury, etc.), organic chicken and 2-3 eggs. Once every two weeks I'll have one meal with either pork, goat, lamb or beef. The rest of my diet is made of superfoods (including my Zenberry), whole grains, legumes, vegetables, leafy greens, seaweed, seeds and nuts. I also put my money on the highest quality (most expensive) supplements which I'll discuss in an upcoming newsletter. I will also address time management in a future newsletter.
So as you wrap up week 2 and plan for week 3, put your money where your mouth is. In fact, try this experiment:
  • Plan your week 3 meals substituting all processed foods, flour and baked goods, canned or frozen foods by high quality fresh whole foods
  • Only eat meat that is grass-fed and humanly raised (so 90% of takeout and restaurant food, including high-end steakhouse is not), chicken (organic), eggs (pastured) and high quality raw cheeses with culture
  • Choose organic (PLU 9) over non organic fruit and vegetables (PLU 4, 3 and 8) - the salad bar at your cafeteria will not be organic, even Whole Foods salad bar is NOT organic (I asked)
  • Make your own dressing with organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil and vinegar
  • Avoid supplements, snacks, granola bars, protein powders that contain chemicals, preservatives, or synthetic ingredients and replace with wholesome alternatives
  • Skip sugar and upgrade for raw honey, real maple syrup and date sugar to sweeten your food
Let me know how it goes!
Good luck,