Hi friends! It’s Wednesday once again! I hope your weeks are going great. Spring is here! To all of my readers in snowy states, we made it through yet another winter! Congrats to us! 🙂
Spring is a wonderful time of transition. A fresh start, a new beginning and a bright outlook are all feelings that come to me when I think of Spring. Coincidentally, March is National Nutrition month. Whhhaatt? Yup. What a perfect time to evaluate your nutrition habits and goals!
I should start off this post with a disclaimer that I am not a nutritionist or registered dietitian. I only have my personal experience and knowledge I’ve learned from a variety of sources which guide my personal food decisions. What works for me may not work for you. However, by sharing what works for me, you might learn a few healthy tips that would work in your own life. That is what I am hoping for!
Now that we’ve got that out of the way, let’s talk nutrition. Nutrition is definitely a tough topic. We all know what we should be doing: eat more fruits and vegetables, less sweet treats and drink more water. But it’s not always easy to choose a salad over Taco Bell. Over the next four weeks I will explore some common objections to healthy food and offer practical tips you can follow to get you started on a path of owning your health. Each post will also include a quick recipe (or cooking tip) for you to try out!
First things first, let’s figure out why you’re choosing Taco Bell (or insert favorite fast food restaurant here). There’s probably a few reasons:
1. It’s cheap
2. It’s quick
3. You avoid having to cook
4. It’s tasty
The list probably goes on but I can imagine those are some of the most popular objections. All of which, I can 100% relate to. I am always on a budget, pressed for time, some nights have zero desire to cook and I obviously always want to eat tasty food. Let’s dissect each of these objections over the next 4 weeks and hopefully, each week you’ll be a little bit more convinced that you too can eat healthy! Please keep in mind, eating healthy isn’t only about what you look like on the outside; yes, it’s great to lose weight and feel great about how you look, however the most important thing, is what is happening on the inside of your body. When you constantly feed your body highly processed foods, you’re harming your insides and setting yourself up for serious health problems as you get older.
Let’s dig in to our objection of the week:
Objection 1. “But Taco Bell is cheap!”
Yes, Taco Bell is cheap. You can get away with an entire meal and a drink for about $7. Amazing! So let’s run with this. Assume you don’t cook at all and you eat out for every meal of the day. (By the way, this example could be using Taco Bell, Subway or Burger King, it doesn’t matter where you’re eating – the principle is the same.) So, let’s estimate $5 for breakfast, $7 for lunch and $10 for dinner. That’s only $22 all day, not bad! Maybe you get a couple of snacks and a Gatorade from the vending machine at work too so let’s round up to $25 per day. You’re probably thinking that so far, Taco Bell is looking like a good option. You can’t imagine that the grocery store would save you money, right?
Well, let’s do the math to see how much that costs us over a week’s time. $25 x 7 days per week is $175. Whoa. Ok, so total, that’s kind of a lot of cash per week. But let’s keep going. Imagine if you’re feeding a family of 2. Ok, so double that and you’re now looking at $350 per week. Wow. Ok, hmm.. What about a family of 4? Let’s assume you have two kids so they only eat $15 of food per day.
$25 x 7 days= $175
$175 x 2 adults = $350
$15 x 7 days = $105
$105 x 2 kids = $210
That gives us a grand total of $560 per WEEK for a family of 4 in fast food.
Now that is definitely a lot of cash. But maybe you’re still thinking, ‘but the grocery store is more expensive.’ Well let’s take a look.
I will use my personal experience shopping which is based on a family of two adults. Typically, we spend a whopping $130 per week on groceries. (Yes, that $130 is including our wonderful 10.25% sales tax, thanks Chicago.) On this budget we eat breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks 7 days of the week. That’s a $45 savings per week. This means, in one month you’d be saving $180 by going to the grocery store and you’d be able to feed yourself and your family healthy meals all day, errday.
I know you are skeptical right now. You can’t believe we only spend $130 per week at the store because each time you go to the store you spend $200 or $300 or more. So how do we get away with spending only $130 per week on groceries for two grown adults who eat at home each meal?
- I buy fresh produce and food that will spoil. Instead of paying for boxed, processed foods which can get pretty pricey, I buy fresh peppers and apples and bananas which are usually less than $1 per piece or per pound. By doing this I ensure that we are eating healthy foods and can stick to a budget.
- I make sure the recipes I make for the week all have ‘reusable’ ingredients. What I mean by this is, If I’m making a recipe that calls for a ton of bell peppers, I’ll make something else that calls for similar ingredients so my extras don’t go to waste.
- We shop at Aldi for most things. Aldi is amazing! It’s a cheap alternative to some of the fancier grocery stores but it has just as many options which are all just as healthy. If you don’t even know where to start when it comes to grocery shopping, especially at Aldi, take a look at the below list which is 90% of what I purchase each week:
– Coconut oil (for cooking)
– Trail mix (not the one with m&m’s and reese’s peanut butter cups, the one with nuts and seeds)
– Cheese (we always buy brick cheese & shred it but Aldi also has preshredded cheese)
– String cheese (for snacks)
– Plain greek yogurt
– Original unsweetened almond milk
– Cottage cheese
– Tortilla chips (El Milagro, because I’m obsessed)
– Cooking spices
– Produce (avocado, apples, bananas, grapefruit, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, limes, berries, etc)
– Turkey bacon
– Organic black or pinto beans
– Whole grain bread
– Frozen veggies or fruits
– Brown rice
– Organic chicken
– Canned tuna
– Sandwich bags (for meal prep)
You see, you don’t need to shop at Whole Foods to be healthy. Your local Aldi has all of these healthy options at (typically) a much lower cost. Two things you must remember when you go to Aldi: 1. Bring a quarter for your cart and 2. Bring your own bags. They do have bags for you to buy each time, but to save a little more money, splurge on a couple of their large, reusable bags for $1 and bring them with you each time.
I do admit, there are a few items for which I will go to a different store (typically Jewel Osco or Mariano’s). I do this because some items are just not available at Aldi. For example, instead of a boxed granola bar with 500 unknown ingredients, I prefer Lara bars with 6 or less ingredients.
Here is a list of those items:
– Sunflower Butter (if you are still eating plain ‘ol peanut butter, make the switch, you will NOT regret it)
– ‘Granola’ Bars (We eat Lara Bars – they are made with only natural ingredients and each bar has only 6 ingredients or less! Talk about eating real food!!)
– Fish and Red Meats (We don’t eat red meat often, but when we do, we buy a very lean version at a different store. The same goes for fish, which we do eat often. I prefer to buy fresh salmon and tilapia versus frozen.)
– Quinoa (I haven’t found a quinoa from Aldi that I like quite yet, but the Aldi alternative to quinoa is brown rice!)
– Individual produce items (sometimes Aldi only has lemons or onions in large bags, but I only need 1 lemon or onion, in this case, I’ll buy an individual item at a different store so I don’t waste the rest)
– Gluten free bread (I’ve recently started eating less gluten and as of today, Aldi doesn’t sell GF bread; if they do someday, I’ll buy it at Aldi!)
FAQs I anticipate after you read this post:
Q: How do you know which items to buy at Aldi versus another store?
A: If something is raw (bell pepper, fruit, egg) I would say it’s 100% fine to buy at Aldi. A fruit is a fruit whether it is $0.69 at Aldi or $1.59 at Whole Foods. Save your money, get it at Aldi. Always look at the labels, the less ingredients listed, the more natural the item is.
Q: Ok, what about the organic options versus non-organic? How do I know what’s important to buy as organic or not?
A: Everyone will have a different opinion on this but I will tell you what I know and believe. I have been told that you should buy anything with a skin you would eat in an ‘organic’ form. That means apples, grapes, peaches, tomatoes – think something you would just wash and bite in to. Anything with a rind (oranges, bananas, etc.) can be organic or not. Do I follow that 100% of the time? No. I usually don’t buy organic EXCEPT for coconut oil and honey. I always 100% of the time buy these two items in their ‘organic’ form. Aldi does offer a section of organic produce for you if you are interested in purchasing organic, 100% go for it!
Q: What if I don’t have time, or the option, to go to various grocery stores?
A: Then don’t! Do what works best for you! I promise, eating a slice of toast with peanut butter topped with a banana from Aldi will be better for you than that quesalupa. Also, your peanut butter banana bread will cost you about $0.50/slice versus the $2 quesalupa.
Q: Ok, so I go buy all of this food but then it takes FOREVER to prepare, I don’t like to cook and I never know how to make my food taste good, what do I do?
A: Stay tuned over the next three weeks and learn how to quickly prepare delicious meals with little effort! I promise to stick with you on this nutrition journey! I truly want to inspire you to learn to love healthy food. Does that mean you can never ever have Taco Bell? No, not necessarily. Balance is key. But don’t rely on fast food! Show your body some love and respect by fueling it with REAL food while saving a boat load of money along the way!
Homework for this week: Take a look at how much you are spending on food each week. Figure out what types of food are you eating, where you are eating and what you are putting in to your body. Next, decide if an extra $180 per month or more is worth it to you. Also, decide if your health is worth it to you. If this is all important to you then use this week to go to your local Aldi and just look around. Since each store is a bit different, see what options they have. Start thinking about what types of foods you could make. Take a pen and paper with you and make a list. Then, stay tuned over the next couple of weeks for more posts on what to make and how to make delicious food quickly!
As promised, below is a recipe I’m sure you’ll love! This recipe is a healthy and delicious side dish or meal. It yields about 6-8 one cup servings and all of the ingredients can be purchased at Aldi.
Edamame, Bacon & Brussel Sprouts Recipe
- 2 pounds of Brussel Sprouts
- 20 slices (about 1 package) of Turkey Bacon
- 1 cup of frozen, shelled Edamame
- 1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 tsp Coconut Oil
- Salt and Pepper to taste (go easy on the salt, maybe a pinch here or there. Use black pepper [fresh cracked is my favorite], garlic [fresh or powder] and chili powder for added flavor)
- Heat your oven to 400.
- Lay your brussel sprouts on a baking pan and drizzle olive oil over top, sprinkle with salt, pepper and seasonings to taste.
- Mix the brussel sprouts around so they are covered in oil and seasoning then bake in oven for 20-25 minutes, or until tender. Once finished, remove from oven and set aside.
- While the brussel sprouts are cooking, heat the coconut oil in a frying pan and add your edamame, salt, pepper and seasoning to taste. Sautee for about 5 minutes or until you see some char marks on the edamame. Once finished, remove from heat and set aside.
- Lay tin foil out on a baking sheet or two (tin foil helps with the clean up!). Place bacon side by side on baking sheet, be sure they don’t overlap but place them close to one another so you can fit as many as possible on one sheet.
- Bake turkey bacon in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until crisp. Once done, remove from oven and let cool. Once cool enough to touch, break up the bacon into small, bite sized pieces.
- In a large storage container add brussel sprouts, edamame and turkey bacon and mix together.
Let me know your thoughts, concerns, questions and/or comments below!
Until next time..