I Can’t Afford to Eat Well…and Other Lame Excuses

Eating healthy food doesn’t cost more money.  It costs more time but gives you more time…time to live…past your 60’s.  As food prices have fallen, health care costs have risen.  Correlation does not equal causation but I think the two are linked. Here is my lovely bride with more to say on this topic.

“It’s just too expensive to eat healthy.”

My reply was that in the long term eating cheap is very expensive – it costs you your health and medical care is only getting more expensive.

As I thought about that conversion I wish I had taken it a different direction.  I don’t believe it does cost more to eat healthy food, even in the short term.  What are some of the items in your shopping cart this week?  A bag of chips usually will cost $3/lb, Cheerios – $4/lb, Oreo’s – $5/lb, candy bars  – $8/lb.  Compare that to a Chism Heritage Pasture Raised Chicken – $3/lb or raw milk from grass feed dairy cows – .75c/lb.  How much money do you spend on food that isn’t nurishing you? Cheap and easy food is not real and sustainable food.  Just because you can chew it, swallow it, digest it and maybe even like it does not make it real food.

In America we spend less on food than any country in the world.  This cheap food is not only causing people to be malnursihed but it also effects our soil.  Joel Salatin in Folks, This Ain’t Normal says, “Don’t people understand that a cheap food policy will create a cheap farmer policy?  And a cheap farmer policy will create a cheap landscape policy?  And a cheap landscape policy with create a cheap soil policy?  No civilization can be any healthier environmentally or economically that it’s soil.  No health care system and no bank bailout program can compensate for a bankrupt soil policy, which is exactly what a cheap food policy creates.”

Our family is still developing good eating habits.  We certainly have some issues we need to work on but we have come a long way.  Eight years ago a typical day’s menu for my children looked something like this:
Breakfast:  cold cereal (absolutely nutritionless and full of sugar) with pasturized 2% milk (from who knows what farm)
Lunch:   peanut butter and jelly on cheap bread
Dinner:  hamburger helper with canned refridgerated rolls and a can of green beans

Today there is no boxed cold cereal in my house.  Breakfast is usually eggs and bacon, fruit salad with cottage cheese or oatmeal.  My kids still love peanut butter and jelly but I make the bread and jelly.  Dinner is usually a meat with vegetables but no bread.  We do buy different food but eating healthy is not just about going to the store and buying different groceries or just shopping the perimeter.  Healthy eating starts with a different approach to food.  You don’t just buy pre-packaged food that is labeled “healthy”, you buy quality ingredients and cook them.  There is no way around it, if you want to eat healthy you have to cook.  If you don’t have the time or desire then you have to pay someone the cook for you.  That sounds very expensive to me.  The great thing about this approach is that it can lower your food budget while giving you more time with your family in the kitchen.  Go to the library and read Nourishing Traditions The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats and Folks, This Ain’t Normal.  Both books will give you a desire and a direction toward real food.  Then get into your kitchen and help your farmer make the world better with just your plate and fork.  Stop watching TV and cook something!

I’m still learning, but I’m learning with my kids and it’s great.  Old habits die hard but we can form better habits in ourselves and our children.  Chime in below and let us know where you have found the most success in your healthy kitchen efforts.

Update
Here are a few sites we rely on to help us in our efforts.  Expect this list to grow.
The Healthy Home Economist
Nourished Kitchen
The Nourishing Home

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Cross…Farm? Diet and Exercise for Alternative Agriculture.

People always ask me, “Chris, how do you get it all done?” then say, “It must be nice to be so young!”

First, I don’t get it all done.  Though it used to sound old, it is nice to be 35.    There are things we can do to make the work more manageable at any age though.  First I have to be strong enough and take care of my health.  Second I have to eat right to have enough energy and take care of my health.  Finally, I have to take care of my health.  You with me so far?

Exercise

We’ve been tightening our belts this spring.  Our winter insulation has been obliterated by our work routines.  If I don’t tighten my belt my pants fall off.  Nobody makes shirts that fit me well.  My large shoulder/small belly ratio is far outside of the sizes offered by mainstream manufacturers.  The result is my shirts fit my shoulders and arms well but at the waist it looks like I’m wearing my dad’s shirt.

Though this isn’t saying much, I may be the strongest I have ever been.  But I’m not as healthy as I have ever been.

Years ago, when we lived in town, we were avid CrossFit athletes.  A typical workout is something like run set distance, lift heavy objects, climb a rope, rinse and repeat, completing the work in a minimum of time.  The workouts vary greatly so your body never quite adjusts to the workload.  It’s always hard.  The time factor is genius as it forces you to crank up the intensity as you compete with yourself in an effort to get better.

CrossFarm (lol) requires we walk, run or bike 1/4 mile to the broilers on pasture carrying a feed bag or pulling a wagon loaded with feed bags, lifting and pulling chicken tractors, carrying buckets of water and returning to the house…often for time as we try to beat a coming rainstorm, sunset or other deadline.  Like the Clean and Jerk, I have to lift a heavy bale from the floor, lift it onto my forearms and launch it into the air accurately placing it high on the pile fast enough to stay ahead of the my father and son who unload the wagons.  We have to run through the brambles, up and over the hills, over and over again trying to find that silly pig that escaped when we were trying to load the trailer for market.  We squeeze, grip, jump and roll when the horse we are riding bare back decides it’s time for him to kill us…lol.  There are shooting events, late night electric fence troubleshooting and all-night hide-and-go-seek games with the cows.  There are ample opportunities for strength on the farm.  Intensity is added by the fact that there is so much to do and so little time to get it all done…or when we suddenly find ourselves being outrun by a 400 pound bulldozer/pig…that decides to turn and run after us!  But…

Exercise is not enough!

The work accomplishes only a portion of the change.  We are busy.  We do work hard.  But we also try to eat well.  In fact, that’s why we started farming.  We were looking for sources of clean food and found the best solution was to raise it ourselves.  We recently fell into the busy trap and found ourselves selling the best chicken in the world to our customers and stopping for a pizza between church and chores.  Late nights lead to sleepy mornings and there’s nothing quite like a sugary, caffiene-laden soft drink to get you started in the morning.  It’s a real problem for me.  Add to it the cookies and desserts that accompany social gatherings and suddenly I’m not feeling 100%.  My allergies are acting up.  I just feel run-down.  I’m strong, yes.  I’m burning calories, yes.  But, I’m not healthy and my runny nose is the proof.

CrossFit forced us to eat well.  If we didn’t eat well we wouldn’t be able to recover between workouts.  When we were in the Zone my allergies disappeared, my blood pressure dropped, my waking heart rate was low, my cholesterol was awesome.  Recently I got busy and allergies have returned.  I’m realizing the shortcuts I have been taking in recent months come with a cost.  It’s time to clean up my diet.  Not just to skip the sugar but to add in lacto-fermented foods like sauerkraut.

I know better than to treat my body this way.  I’m not living up to my own expectations.  This post is part confession, part line in the sand and, I hope, part encouragement.  Want to feel better?  Modify your diet and add in a dose of intensity to your activity.

Changing your diet

We found Nourishing Traditions to be the best challenge to our notions of a healthy diet.  Their recipes are historically normal but are nothing you’ll read in current magazines.  Also, spend some time researching the Paleo diet.  Both of these will rock your diet and may help you tighten your belt as well.  Most of it comes down to avoiding processed grains.  It turns out Cheerios aren’t part of a nutritious breakfast at all.  Breads, grains and pastas may not be the best things for your health…though the government recommended them as the base of our diet for years.  Pasteurized milk may not be such a good idea.  Everything is upside down.

Energy Levels and Rest

I need to maintain a high level of energy.  I have a full-time job and a full-time farm.  That means I have to make time to rest.  Yesterday (Sunday), I got up early and did my normal chores then I took a nap.  After my nap I went to lunch at my in-laws…and took another nap.  I was feeling so good after that I picked up our milk at the dairy then drove home to watch a little Star Trek with the kids…and took a nap.  Then it was dinner, a few more chores and an early bed time.  If I don’t make it a point to rest on the weekend I risk shorting my employer, my chickens or my children.  Any of those would be a disaster.  Many of us fall into the trap of maintaining social relationships and work by sacrificing sleep.  That’s not sustainable.  Weather managing pastures, work schedules or intense workouts we have to allow for recovery and rest.

Work with intensity, eat right and rest.  If any of these are lacking you will suffer.  Your farm will suffer.  Your customers will notice.  Finally, if you want to try CrossFit scaled for mere mortals, scaled versions of the workouts can be found here.  Thank God because I’m not as young as I used to be.