Sunday, March 7, 2010

Food: Learning about it and Eating It

Aside from running and working out, learning about food (healthy diets, how to cook nutritious meals that support our bodies, and where it comes from) and eating food, have become two of my favorite hobbies. Saturday was definitely a day filled to the brim with things I love.

After my run with Gracela and a healthy satisfying meal of peanut butter banana & flax oats, Woody and I walked up to the 96th St branch of the NY Public Library for a talk entitled "How to Eat Healthy In An Economy That Isn't." The title was intriguing and the speaker had seemingly strong credentials. The walk up was nice, about a mile, so we got in some good Vitamin D exposure on the way there and home afterwards!

The talk was led by Ella Nemboca, a holistic health counselor and natural foods chef (graduate of IIN). She has a wellness practice and is also the owner and chef of a vegan catering company. We were pleasantly surprised to see about 20 people in the room to hear her speak. Many of the things we already knew, but we definitely picked up a few tips. She started by discussing how what we eat is directly related to our health and that the old adage of 'we are what we eat' is absolutely true. She also stated that sales of alcohol, junk food, candy and cigarettes has increased during the recession. I think I've heard this before. It seems very counter intuitive, but I can see how people fall to 'comforts' and vices when stress increases. Basically, she explained that in the long run, if we spend more time and in some cases, money, on healthier foods, we will end up spending much less on health care costs in the future. We'll be more likely to stay out of the doctors offices and pharmacies. I agree, isn't it much better, and more enjoyable to eat well balanced healthy foods than be in the doctors office hoping for a 'cure'? I am definitely hoping for this.

So, I'll list out for you her top 16 ways to eat well while being budget conscious. (Most I agree with, some I am a little skeptical of)
  1. Eat at home, from home (you spend less money and can control what you eat)
  2. Eat with the seasons (fresh foods are local and cheaper as they don't need to be transported. Our bodies also respond to them better as that is how we're 'designed' to eat)
  3. Make and carry your own beverages (water, coffee, tea. Less waste, money and you can control what you're drinking)
  4. Choose whole grains (they keep you satisfied longer and are better for your digestive system)
  5. Cook a pot of grains and use throughout the week (they're able to be used in breakfasts dishes, soups, salads, etc)
  6. Cook a pot of beans and use throughout the week (for the same reasons as above)
  7. Save everything (you can use veggie scraps while making stock, reuse cooking water - I'm a little skeptical of this one)
  8. Get a pressure cooker (cooks ingredients faster, uses less engery and retains more nutrients)
  9. Buy in bulk (healthy foods like grains, beans, etc)
  10. Eat more soup (fills you up at the start of a meal, provides servings of vegetables. You can arrange soup swaps with friends or neighbors - each makes a large pot and portions out so you don't get bored with one soup all week long. I like this idea)
  11. Plan ahead (stock up on dry goods, allow tie to cook. If you don't plan you'll end up eating mroe than you need and more unhealthy 'convenience' foods)
  12. Learn portion sizes (American portion sizes are often much larger than they should be so you can save money (and inches) by eating the correct amount of food. Also, if you do go out, you can get two or three meals out of one dish)
  13. Host more parties (ask friends/neighbors to bring a dish to share)
  14. Give it away (this relates to mental health. If you give even a little food to others who need it, you'll feel good about yourself and healthy)
  15. Grow your own
  16. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) or Co-Op
Her top 8 foods for under $1 a serving are:
  1. Lentils
  2. Oats
  3. Bananas
  4. Kale
  5. Apples
  6. Nuts
  7. Chick peas
  8. Brown rice
A lot of people asked questions, which I thought was great because they are really trying to pay attention to what they're eating. I think Woody and I were the youngest people there and there were others in the 80's or so, who were genuinely there to learn. It's great that even they are changing their diets!

We came across a specialty bookstore on Lexington that we had to stop in! I could have spent hours there and probably will in the future. It has books all on food and wine! This is one of the things I love most about this city. Even though there are far fewer now than there used to be, there are lots of little independent book stores that specialize in one thing and they really know their stuff!
I was pretty hungry when we got home, so I put together a small salad of greens, baked fava bean salad I picked up yesterday at a nearby middle eastern deli, a little bit of humus, two Akmak crackers and an apple. It was delicious! The fava bean salad looks kind of gross, but it has great flavor with a bit of a kick, actually.
A while later I was a tiny bit hungry again, so I had half a ThinkFruit bar. They were on sale one day at Westerly Market so I decided to give it try. Unfortunately, now I find out that they were on sale because they were discontinued! I actually really liked it, and it's comparable to a Larabar, so I may have to check out Westerly next week and see if they have any left! I hope they bring them back. I'm not too fond of all the ingredients they put in their ThinkThin bars, which is what they now seem to be concentrating on. I wonder why they decided to make this move. Humph. If you see this Cashew Acai flavor, give it a shot, even though they're running out. Great texture and the flavor isn't too strong but you do get a nutty fruity mix.

Do you have any good tips on eating well on a small budget?


Molly said...

I love your idea for a soup swap, great list.

When I find things on sale, I'll buy a bunch to make casserole type dishes with, then freeze them. Saves time and money!

Amber said...

That sounds really interesting! I'm very interested in food and eating well too. My biggest tip is buying vegetables frozen or canned. They're still vegetables and good for you but they last SO much longer and work great for stifry's, sides or soups!

Katie @ Health for the Whole Self said...

I really like that soup swap idea! I've also been wanting to get a pressure cooker. Sounds like a worthwhile event!

Karen said...

The salad actually looks yummy! I have been trying to learn more about food lately too. Mostly trying to eat healthier and eat out less. It is definitely cheaper, just requires a bit more planning which can trip me up although I try to make time.

Unknown said...

glad you had a good weekend! all the info is great! thanks :)

Lisa said...

Great tips everyone!
@Amber, I definitely stock up on frozen veggies, but am a bit cautious about canned since the cans may contain a BPA lining which can be hazardous to our health. Check out my post on feb 4th if you missed it.

Brandi said...

Absolutely fantastic tips! Since I've been running so much, I've been trying to eat 4-5 smaller meals each day and I try to buy as much food as I can from the local farmer's market or the Whole Foods by me. And when I have a craving for a dessert-type of food, I make it myself from scratch -- I've discovered that when I do, I eat less of it (and I know precisely what goes into it).

Jen Cole said...

Lisa...we should go to that bookstore after the half!

I have a pressure cooker and I LOVE it. I mostly cook chicken in it, but want to try beans and other yummy stuff!

We're fortunate to have Horrocks here in Lansing. The produce is MUCH cheaper than the supermarket, and just as good. They also sell bulk dried beans, and their own line of jarred goods, which have less junk ingredients in them. Plus the flowers they sell are beautiful.

Julie said...

we joined a CSA for this summer/fall. we get to start picking up our produce in june - i can't wait to have fresh, local veggies every week and i'm really looking forward to trying new recipes since i know i'll be getting things i wouldn't normally buy. i'll be sure to let you know if i come up with anything good :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing what you learned at the workshop! I'm a huge fan of cooking grains and beans in bulk and freezing them. Not only is it cheap, I also end up being able to take a week entirely off from cooking every month or so and never have to think about what to do for lunch at work. :)

I have a question for the CSA folks if they don't mind. Do you typically find you get enough produce to actually last all week?

Julie said...

This will be our first year of CSA, so i'll have to report later! Our neighbors have done the same one and they loved it. At certain points in the season they actually thought they had too much of some things (ie, lots of greens in the fall). we're getting a half-share for 2 of us, but the CSA site suggested a full share to feed two vegetarians. I had looked into a lot of CSAs in our area and was amazed at the variety (some offered meat, bread, etc. - some required weekly orders as opposed to weekly shares), but decided on one based on friends reviews and ease of pick-up location. i still plan on having to buy fruits and veggies at the store every once in a while since i know they can't grow everything we like, but still a good deal!

Sarah said...

Great post! I love learning more about eating healthy while on a budget. I find that it can be quite frusterating while shopping some times, but these tips will really help!