#1 – Only eat food. Yes, it’s as simple as that, and the most important rule to follow. Unfortunately a huge portion of so called “food” sold in conventional grocery stores is closer to the ingredient list of house hold solvents! Fake foods cannot be properly metabolized by the body and if the body doesn’t know what to do with them, they become toxins the body has to work to eliminate. Those toxins can build up over time taxing the immune system in the process. One of the most damaging non-foods: Artificial sweeteners (including high fructose corn syrup; even though it has calories, it’s completely artificial). Artificial flavorings, like MSG, dull our taste buds and disallow the flavors of whole foods to be recognized. High intake of sugar (which is found not only found in treats and beverages, but also in sauces, cereals and most processed food), curbs one’s appreciation for the natural sugars found in many fruits and vegetables and disallows the flavor of natural ingredients to be savored. For a general rule, eliminate any ingredients you can’t pronounce or those that do not sound like food.
#2 – Get smart with appliances and kitchen tools. You don’t need a whole knife set, but you need one good knife and preferably two; a chef knife and a pairing knife that you sharpen after each use. Vegetables and whole cuts of meat become difficult to prepare without a sharp knife. Rice cookers are extremely valuable. Aside from making rice (which is probably the cheapest food on the planet) you can make beans, oatmeal and hot breakfast cereals. Don’t microwave your food. It kills off nutrition and ruins the tastes because it denatures the food. Instead, get a toaster oven that you can easily cook small portions in. A good roasting pan is also valuable for whole chickens and roasts (see below for ideas of how to prepare). You don’t need loads of pots and pans, just one large enough for pasta and homemade soup, and one small enough for quick reheating. A wok is great to have, and if your kitchen is tight on space, put a hook up to hold it next to your stove for storage. Lastly, a crockpot is fantastic for those who can get organized in the morning.
#3 – Avoid pre-packaged or take out food. You can triple your food costs by purchasing items that have been pre-seasoned or cooked. Plus the grocery store that sells roasted chickens will generally use the chickens that are ready to expire and don’t taste fresh. Buy sea salt, pepper, and a couple of herbs and seasoning blends. Grilling and roasting are both easy and do not take a lot of prep time. Buy oatmeal flakes rather than instant. Flavoring rice is easy when you cook the rice in stock and add some herbs and salt. Some of the most healing foods in the world are herbs and spices. Buy fresh varieties whenever possible and if you have a sunny window or patio, plant some herbs for free and fresh flavor anytime. Curries are some of the healthiest “medicines” in the world. Many of the ingredients in curry spices are used in natural medicine to boost the immune system and improve digestion. Spicy food is also great. Many people think spicy food gives them indigestion, but hot peppers actually kill parasites so many who have a problem with spicy foods might be dealing with pathogens rather than spice issues. If you have the funds to purchase frozen or prepared meals, go for Indian and Thai food options that are more likely to have an abundance of healthy spices and a lower concentration of processed wheat.
#4 – Eat protein! Especially athletes, but everyone needs protein three times a day. Protein contains amino acids, which are the building blocks for muscles and the brain. Here are some ideas for inexpensive protein options:
1) Eggs – a truly magical and wonderful food that is healthy, fast and easy to prepare, and very inexpensive. You will find that fresh and/or organic eggs taste remarkably better, so if you are near any farms, check to see what you can buy locally.
2) Whole chicken is often the same price as cut up chicken parts. Roast your whole chicken by sprinkling it with a little olive oil, spices, herbs, pepper, and salt. Bake at 350 until no longer pink. You can eat the wings, legs, and thighs on the bone, cut up the breasts for salads, and use the carcass to make chicken stock. If you simmer the carcass with some onions, celery, carrots or any other vegetable, you’ll make a wonderful stock that you can use to flavor rice or make homemade soups with.
3) Some of the most inexpensive chunks of meat are the most flavorful, and the flavor comes out by slowly roasting. Roommates and neighbors will be begging at the door with the smell of a roast slowly cooking in the oven. Prepare just like the chicken but add water to the pan. There are loads of great recipes you can find on YouTube. Add potatoes for the last hour of roasting. Crockpots are also fantastic for this use and the busy student can start a roast before classes and return to a piping hot meal. You can also puree or chop leftover vegetables into a meatloaf that will last for days.
4) Beans (along with rice) are inexpensive and easy to prepare. Uncooked beans soaked overnight, will release enzymes making them easier to digest, making for less gas. Canned beans are a great staple food to have for fast meals. Use beans in soups, salads, or puree them with some good oil and make dips or burritos. Make bean salads with canned or cooked beans with a vinaigrette and lots of chopped up vegetables, or make a black bean dressing with lime juice, oil, cilantro, salt and cayanne. Beans also make a fast protein addition to nachos. Hummus is easy to make with some garbanzo beans and sesame seeds and even easier with a food processor or a really good blender. Limit your soy. Tempeh, miso, edamame, and small amounts of tofu are fine, but soy milk products will hinder digestion. There is no doubt that chili is a college food staple, but use lots of beans to keep the cost down and if you are struggling eating your vegetables, puree them into the chili; you won’t even taste them.
5) Nuts are a simple “on the go” food. For optimal health, buy them raw and roast them slowly yourself, but pre-roasted nuts can also be great. They may cost a bit more than a bag of chips, but they are nourishing and have the good fats that hormones need. Peanuts are actually a legume, but are used in the way most nuts are. With peanut butter, try to buy only natural varieties. You can very easily make homemade granola with a variety of nuts and oats and snack on it throughout the day or toss it over some yogurt. 6) Fresh fish is not always easy to get in some areas, but canned fish can be a great option. I wouldn’t recommend eating canned fish everyday because of heavy metals, but twice a week is fine. Salmon or tuna packed in olive oil is great because you can mix a little vinegar in with the oil and make a wonderful salad dressing.
#5 – Eat GOOD fats! There is a HUGE difference between healthy fat and fats that resemble plastic. There is nothing healthy about margarine and just because it has the word “vegetable” in it, know that vegetable oils are bad for you. Also avoid corn and soy oils. Best oils: Coconut, olive and oils that are cold filtered and expeller pressed. Butter is a wonderful natural and very healthy fat and gives our brain a lot of inexpensive nourishment. Plus, butter is delicious so if it’s been a challenge to eat vegetables, instead of melting artificial cheese sauces on them, melt some butter, sprinkle some salt, and enjoy. Salad dressings are easy to make and prevents the consumption of bad fats, high fructose corn syrup, and MSG laden prepared dressing. You can shake 1/3 part vinegar with 2/3 part olive oil, herbs, and salt in a jar. Indulge in a good extra virgin olive oil and some aged balsamic vinegar for better flavor. Remember that oils can turn rancid, so if the oil smells bad, it probably is. Eat foods that naturally have good fats like avocados, nuts, meats, and coconut. Many hormone problems develop with people who are on low fat diet. This causes the body to crave good fats. Depriving the body of good fats, decreases its ability to feel full. However, it’s equally important to avoid bad fats. French fries, artificial cheeses, and chips are some of the foods containing fats the body cannot use. Also, many people cannot breakdown the fats in milk products, even natural ones, because through pasteurization the enzymes needed for digestion are destroyed. Cramping after consuming dairy products, is an indication they should be avoided. There are more usable calcium and minerals from vegetables than from dairy.
#6 Eat your Vegetables! Farmers markets are an affordable source of produce and although organic is unquestionably beneficial, freshly picked produce is the most nutrient dense. Fruits and vegetables loose vitamins and minerals over time, so sometimes frozen vegetables can be a better option than wilted produce. A bag of potatoes can be baked, fried, or mashed. Baking several potatoes together allows them to be used over the next few days, cubed or sliced into many recipes. With a juicer, produce that is looking unappetizing can be easily turned into a burst of antioxidants and vitamins. Don’t over indulge in corn. GMO varieties are becoming harder to digest and corn is more of a grain than a vegetable. Stir-fries are quick meals that can be thrown together with even the most bazaar of food combinations. Also, raw vegetables are more appealing when they are sliced and ready to grab so prepare ahead of time and store in a closed container to keep fresh. When impatiently hungry while cooking dinner, munch on raw vegetables.
#7 Portable fruit is easy to carry in back packs. Buy fruit that is in season for the best flavor and most nutrition and once again, shop at local farmers markets for freshness. If your fruit is starting to turn, use a juicer to help salvage it or make smoothies with some raw local honey, coconut milk, or yogurt.
#8 Grains are most beneficial when they are in a whole format that adds fiber. Brown rice and whole grain breads and pastas will aid in digestion and keep stools regular. When grains upset the digestive system, consider being tested for gluten intolerance or Celiac disease. There are many wonderful gluten-free alternatives including a wide variety of rice and quinoa, both are extremely good for athletes or vegetarians because they are very high in protein. Make quinoa like you would rice.
#9 Drink Water!!! To know “how much is enough”, take a body weight, cut it in half, and that is how many ounces a body needs minimally to stay properly hydrated. Soda, coffee, most teas, and especially alcohol, dehydrates. Carbonation leaches minerals out of the bones causing a greater chance of breakage and osteoporosis. High caffeine drinks can decrease the ability to build muscle, while harming adrenal glands (creating fatigue), and causing back pain. Water is nourishing, cleansing, and free. Buy a portable filter to help take out impurities. Chlorniated water can be improved with fresh lemon juice which helps flush the lymphatic system and is especially useful for swimmers.
#10 Enjoy and celebrate food! In most countries, meal time is filled with love and gratitude. Our country could benefit from more people utilizing meals as a time to quiet the day, enjoy the company of others, and to appreciate all of the people (farmers and merchants) and animals involved in giving of themselves for the meal. Make food a priority. Your body will thank you with more strength and endurance. You’ll also be rewarded with skin and hair that will shine, and a brain fired up, active, and ready to learn.