Rescuing Your Health: On $5 a Day You Can Eat Healthy, Be Happy and Save Your Life

Baloney.

Right?

Eating well on $5 a day? Just have to cook the meals myself?

Baloney. Right?

Well, actually…maybe not.

Did you know that recent market research shows that more than half of the evening meals an American eats are ‘cooked at home”. Sounds like a good percentage. I feel proud of those numbers! Go America!

Did you also know that the research considered opening up a bag of pre-washed lettuce and adding dressing as cooking? Or making a sandwich from cold cuts? Sorry – that’s not cooking! I’m usually embarrassed when my wife thanks me for “making” those kinds of dinners.

So much for the pride.

I wonder what the true percentage is? In reality companies like McDonalds delight in you continuing to not cook at home. They’ve worked dilegently for years to place themselves right at our kitchen table, with Ronald saying grace if you let him. But at what cost? As Michael Pollan suggests, in the end we lost something vital.

But more on that later.

I imagine myself as an average American because, I guess, I am. “I don’t have time to cook! I work 10 hours a day and I need it simple. Frozen dinner and I’m good. Take out and easy cleanup. Yea, maybe more expensive but it’s worth saving the hassle of preparation and cleaning up. I need that – because my time is precious.”

As Michael Pollan writes in his book Cooked, “Today, the typical American spends a mere twenty-seven minutes a day on food preparation and another four minutes cleaning up. That’s less than half the time spent cooking and cleaning up in 1965.” On the surface one might think that’s great. American lives improved through modern food technology! More time to do things you want! No more wasting time in the kitchen!!

(Get Cooked here: Cooked: A Natural History of Transformation)

But is that really the case? How is that extra time used? More importantly what do we exchange in the process?

Much of the highly processed, convienant foods reek havoc on our health and wellbeing. This food provides little nutritional value, and actually removes key elements to make it last longer on the shelves. Today clear information exists showing these foods combine chemicals, salt, sugar and fat to hook our tastebuds and hide the substandard ingredients of the product.

We can be thankful for folks like Michael Pollan, David Kessler and Michael Moss (to name a few) for exploring these issues in depth the last few years. They took the daring steps to challenge the system and ask hard questions. Questions that some food producers would like unasked. They kept asking and what they found effects us all.

For example, Michael Moss (Salt, Sugar, Fat) participated in a taste test at a major food company. They brought him several well known products, with the salt and other additives removed from each item. So a wheat flake given to him was just that. A wheat flake. Basic ingredients. Nothing outside of the foundational items to make the product.

The result? Inedible.

He described one product as similar to chewing on a piece of metal. Others rose beyond words, only to be described by wincing. The company apologized but they wanted to be honest. They did make their case for adding those additives back in though. Which begs the question – why does it taste so horrible without the preservatives? What is the quality of the source food? How can something like wheat flakes taste so horrid? And why do they sell it to us?

More on that later.

(Want to pick up Salt, Sugar, Fat? Get it Here: Salt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us)

It’s true – time is precious these days. I read somewhere that American couples work a total of an extra month a year compared to 30 years ago. Not the case in other parts of the world, like Europe, where they work less and still cook at home more. Now you might say that Europe is a less powerful force because of this approach. Depends on your definition of power – and happiness. The money may seem the better choice than time – but not if I’m dead 20 years early because the toxins in my body eroded my health. Dead because I cut corners with my wellbeing, picking the value meal instead of one home cooked.

Still, time is a real factor. And pre-packaged whole meals provide a quick solution that lets me get on with things. I can choose from lots of options, even healthy choice ones, and not worry about them going bad since they are frozen. Out of the freezer, into the microwave and munch, munch, munch. Thank you Swanson.

Michael Pollan ran an interesting experiment in his home. He, his wife and son did a “conveinance” dinner one night. Everyone got what they wanted at the store. All microwavable. All different meals – an embodiment of the individualistic approach in this country. It took 40 minutes to get everyones meal heated in the microwave – just one at a time please – and in the end it resulted in disaster. They saved no time and got stressed, with one of the meals needing the oven just to stay warm. He shared he could have made a fresh tasty stir fry in about half the time. A meal they could share, made in the moment from ingredients costing far less than the 4 pre-packaged items they used.

Healthy on $5 a day seeming more do-able?

Hear’s the thing. We’re led to believe that all that chopping and stirring and boiling takes a lot of time. And work. Ugh. With the done for me version all that goes way. Somewhere a loving worker prepares all the fresh ingredients for me, sealing in the freshness before it’s frozen and shipped a thousand miles to my local store. What could be better? Well if by loving worker you mean a line of automated machines and by fresh ingredients you mean the cheapest items they could find for more profit – well then I guess it’s all good.

For me I want something better than this.

If my schedule remains busy, I want food that builds my strength and nourishes me. We forget that to stay balanced and healthy we need bacteria. For one, our gut needs bacteria to stimulate the immune system, which keeps us well. At the microbiology level we’re about 10 percent human and about 90 percent microbes. Crazy, huh? That’s serious amounts of microbes. The typical Western diet feeds the 10 percent and only a little of the 90 percent.

Not good. It means the 90 percent lacks the needed support to do what it has to do. I might get a boost from the added sugar and processing – but it’s short lasting and I crash. Sure I can augment that crash with energy drinks and triple mochas – but those affect us too. Do the energy drinks long enough and your nervous system gets tapped out. It needs to rest on occasion or go, go, go will end in dead, dead, dead.

Pollan makes an excellent point in his book – a foods’ helpfulness can directly be tied to its perishability. If it can last on the shelf for 10 months, maybe not so good. Mold – a healthy sign after all. This fluctuates depending on the food, but I think the basic point is important. If the food is tweeked and manipulated over and over for mass production it becomes empty food.

Form without substance. Well, nutritional substance that is. Plenty of calories, fat, sugar and salt for sure. Not surprising then when later on, as we age, we see the repercussions of these choices. Sustained exposure to this empty food fills us with issues instead of health.

Alright enough talk.

The proof is in the pudding – or cooking – as they say. Best proof for the argument – let’s cook something. The recipe below works well after a long day and cooks up quick. Give it a try and let us know the results. We will be adding more recipes in the coming months.

As for the “more on that later” items – well – keep coming back and all will be revealed.

After all, it’s important to chew your food slowly.

 

QUICK RECIPE

One Dish Meal

This is a quick and easy meal that requires little preparation, and very little attention as it cooks. It can be made for one person or more.

Ingredients:

  • Chicken thigh (hormone and antibiotic free, or Kosher)
  • One-half a bunch of organic kale or collards.
  • Optional:  Some chicken or vegetable broth

To Prepare:

Cut the kale or collards into morsel sized pieces and lay in a skillet with a lid. Pour about ½ cup water (or broth) over the greens. Lay the chicken on top. Cover the skillet and turn the heat on medium. When the water or broth is bubbling, turn down the heat to low. Let cook for about 15 to 20 minutes till the chicken is cooked. Spice to taste before eating. If you have used a lean cut of meat, you can pour a tablespoon of oil over the greens and meat before eating for extra flavor.

This technique is called poaching. You could substitute another cut of chicken, a piece of turkey or fish, beef, or a slab of tofu.

Want a demonstration? Here’s a video Dr. Miller did showing how to cook this meal:

 

Thanks for reading and make sure to leave a comment.

Want to read an excellent interview with Michael Pollan? Check that out here: Post of Interview

To Your Health

 

 

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