Eat frugally but healthy
Years ago we had a restaurant in town that specialized in a buffet style breakfast. Everyone referred to the place as a “heart attack on a plate.” It was easy to see why, there was so much food. You had your pick of various eggs, meats, breads, gravy,
sweet rolls… They had some healthy choices, too—salads and fruit. If something came close to being a breakfast food, it was available.
It was a great place to go—occasionally. They had dishes I really like but never make an appearance on my table. (Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m a guy, and I like quiche, and they had it on the buffet.) I enjoyed eating there. But … It could be a disturbing experience, too. I’d see many people make trip after trip after trip to the bar for more and more food. They may have seen it as “getting their money’s worth.” That said, consuming huge quantities of food in one sitting is never healthy.
“Getting your money’s worth” is certainly a frugal concept, but I did mention the nickname for this place was “heart attack on a plate.” Jeopardizing your health over a few dollars is not frugal—it’s cheap. We’re frugal with our money to enhance the quality of our life. “Cheap” doesn’t accomplish that. In fact, in this case, being cheap could lead to major medical bills and a restricted lifestyle.
How to eat frugally and healthy
This is not going to turn into a rant on counting calories or points. It’s about portion control. Eating correctly sized portions is both frugal and healthy.
In other posts I’ve talked about a friend from work. Routinely, he’ll order in a large pizza for dinner and eat the whole thing himself. Sometimes he brings a tub of Hamburger Helper; I’m talking about a tub that holds the whole prepared box. He’ll consume every bit of that by himself—in one sitting. (That’s five servings in one meal.) He’s not big on veggies, but occasionally, he’ll bring a good-sized salad. That in itself isn’t bad, but he also brings a new bottle of dressing. He pours half the bottle of dressing over the salad as soon as he sits down, and adds “splashes” of it as he eats. By the time he’s finished, there’s not enough dressing left in the bottle to make it worth taking home.
This guy’s really packing on the pounds. He’s become so large; he can’t bend over without requiring help when he goes to straighten up. Several times, I’ve said something to him about weight and health and the quantity of food he eats, but he just blows me off—says we’ll all die of something. Because we’re friends, we talk. I know he has quality of life issues. He takes meds for high blood pressure, and he’s a prime candidate for a stroke or a heart attack, but ultimately it’s his decision.
I’m not a dietitian, but I know that if you’re constantly putting on weight, it’s very possible you’re overeating.
Every time I go out to eat (which isn’t all that often), I’m amazed at how much food is served.
In a previous post, I’ve talked about the amount of food that comes in a plated serving at most restaurants. In that post I addressed the cost, and said I often split a meal with someone or take home about half the food. Putting aside the money issue, this can be a workable solution to overeating.
Seriously, if you look at the size of what a portion should be, you’ll see you’re being served a lot more than one. Take steak for instance; 3 oz. of steak is the recommendation for one serving portion. Now, get on the internet and find a steakhouse that offers a 3 oz. steak. They’re hard to find; believe me. I’ve tried. You don’t have to eat it all right now. Take some food home. It’s frugal from both a monetary and a health perspective.
Back to the Buffet
If you think about it, when you’re being frugal by splitting a meal or taking half of it home, you’re exercising self-control. Self-control is even more important when the offerings are “all you can eat.” I’ve already said I’m not going to make this about calorie or point counts. (You can research those as well as the size and number of portions you should consume of any food group.) What I would like to make is a simplified point about metabolism: The purpose of metabolism is to process fuel (food) into energy for the body to use right now. And, your metabolism doesn’t really have an “off switch.” As long it receives fuel (food), it continues processing it into energy. When more energy is produced than the body can use right now, it converts it into a form of potential energy (fat) that can be stored in the body—storing it against a (potential) future “fuel shortage.” We all talk about how storing a lot of that potential energy makes our bodies look. What most of us don’t think about is that it’s also stored deep inside our bodies; there it can drastically interfere with how our organs and various systems work. So … I’ve said all this to urge self-control when you’re presented with a great variety of foods and no imposed limit.
Consider a buffet an opportunity to make choices. (More than likely you’ll return to this place. It’s one of your favorites, after all… You can make different choices then.)
I’m hungry: What’s the big deal
As I said earlier, I’m not a dietitian. I’m not a fanatic either. In fact, if you take a look at one of my earliest posts, you’ll see I admit to being a foodie (albeit a frugal one). So, overeating—occasionally—probably won’t hurt most people. If, and it’s a big if … If you remember “occasionally” mean “not very often at all.”
The big deal is this: When we overeat, we consume greater quantities of food (fuel) than our bodies need to be energized—right now. So, there is a need to find places to store the excess. That food, also, contains substances (elements, chemicals, vitamins, minerals, etc.) that bodies use to maintain health. In the course of digestion, these substances are absorbed into the blood and carried to where they are needed. Excess is filtered out and eliminated with other body wastes. When we overeat too often, those substances can overwhelm the body systems that govern waste removal. Because of their makeup, many of these substances cannot be stored as or in fat. So, they continue to circulate with the blood until the elimination process in the body can catch-up. That sometimes doesn’t happen. The substances continue to build up in the blood or precipitate out and settle into spaces in the body where they can cause inflammation and other maladies—the opposite of their intended purpose.
If you overeat regularly, it’s likely you’ll be looking at health problems in the future.
Have you ever noticed when someone decides to adopt a formal eating regimen (to lose weight, to heal an organ, or for whatever reason) a large factor in the program is portion control? There are some plans that advertise “eat whatever you want.” They do not give a blanket “eat as much as you want.”
Portion control (both size and number) is a major key to healthy eating. As I said earlier, information about portion control, as well as calorie counting and the point system (used in some commercial diet/nutrition programs), is readily available in books and electronic resources. There’re even guidelines printed right on product packaging. I can’t possibly give all these topics justice here, but since I’ve already focused on portions, I’ll pass along a few bits of info; ones I, consciously, work to practice. Foodie that I am, you see, I have to keep my mind into this. Otherwise, I would find it very tempting to go the way of my coworker.
Meat: Remember, I said that 3oz. is the recommended size for as single serving (portion) of steak. I, also, said it was difficult to find a restaurant that served a steak that size.
Visually, 3oz. of steak is about the size of a deck of cards.
The last steakhouse I ate at took pride in the size of their steaks. The dinner plate was completely covered with steak—the meat even overhung the edge. That steak was larger than a dinner plate, and while I was there, I saw several diners each
eat the entire thing—and, of course, there was more to their meal than just the meat.
I ordered that steak and shared it with a companion. We each cut off and consumed a piece that would have come close to the 3oz. mark. I took the rest home. (What I took home made four more servings and a hearty soup. It took me awhile to eat it. (When I got home, I portioned the meat and froze it.) That 3oz. piece of steak, along with our side dishes, made a very satisfying meal.
Now, I’ve been talking about steak: One serving (portion) of pork or chicken is the same—3oz. or a piece about the size of a deck of cards.
A quick look at sugar:
I’m talking about added sugar, like the sugar you put on your cereal, or add to tea/coffee, or that comes in a soft drink, or cake/ice cream…
The World Health Organization and the American Heart Association recommend the average man consume no more than 37.5 grams of sugar a day. That’s 9 teaspoons. The recommendation for the average woman is 39 grams—about 9.3 teaspoons a day. (Note: Teaspoon does not mean a heaping teaspoon. It means a leveled, measuring teaspoon and includes all added sugars, regardless of their origin.)
To put this in perspective, one 12oz. coke contains about 39 grams of sugar—in one form or another. If you drink one can of coke, your sugar intake has maxed out or exceeded the average, daily amount you should consume. (And, you know you’re going to consume other food containing sugar in the course of a normal day.)
While there are a several reasons not to over consume (added) sugar, there are two I want to focus on. The first is that your body works to eliminate excess food stuffs (fuel), but if it can’t get to it quickly enough, it will—eventually—store it, resulting in fat. The second is that sugar stimulates your body to produce certain hormones (Insulin being the primary one). Hormones govern body processes like growth, healing, behavior… As long as excess sugar remains in your blood, it signals those organs those organs to keep producing. So, one excess leads to another—and that to another, and to another—as your body systems try to restore a normal balance. If the imbalance endures, over time, some body parts sort of “wear out” and stop producing, others can become resistant to the hormones because of over stimulation. In either case, the body ceases to function properly; illness results. (Remember, this is a layman’s simplification.)
Sugar is not the only substance to initiate hormonal imbalances. Over doing caffeine—present in coffee, tea, chocolate, added to some soft drinks, and more—can over stimulate your heart. Oh, by the way, that crackle you hear when you rotate
your neck? It might be caused by caffeine precipitating out of your blood and settling in the joints of your cervical spine (neck vertebrae). A lot of us have that.
Of course, sugar and caffeine aren’t the only things we over consume, nor does every compromising substance have to be “added.” For example, fruit juices have plenty of natural sugars. Over indulging in those can have the same effect as drinking too much soda. And since I’m talking about beverages at the moment, water is almost always a good alternative. Your body can use a lot of water. Among other things, it’s beneficial to the systems that remove the excesses from your blood. In addition, if you’re dining out, it’s usually free—and that’s frugal.
What about salads
What about salads? Salads are healthy, aren’t they? The answer can be a resounding “Yes,” if the salad consists, mostly, of leafy greens and enough chopped vegetables to make it interesting. You can eat as much of those salads as you want and it will be fairly healthy. When you start adding in things like caramelized nuts and pasta, it doesn’t take much to overindulge.
Where a lot of people go wrong with their salads is in the use of salad dressings. On the average one serving of salad dressing is 2Tablespoons. Many people take a bottle of dressing, turn it upside down and use half of it. (Remember my friend from work?) If they’re at a salad bar, they’ll use two or three ladlefuls (in additions to loading it with tons of the less healthy toppings). If you are out to eat, having your salad delivered to the table isn’t much better. A lot of restaurants will use about ¼ cup of dressing on their salads; that’s 2x the recommended serving, and most dressings are loaded with fats and sugars.
The solution is to have your salad dressing “on the side” whether you’re at home or out. (If it’s a large serving, just don’t use all of it.) Now, you can capture a bite of salad on the tines of your fork and dip it lightly in the dressing. An alternative is to dip your fork in the dressing before you go after your bite. Either or these methods will give you a taste dressing with every bite, and you’ll use considerably less dressing.
Frugal means prudent. Prudent means making good decisions. Overeating is not a good decision. There are too many people who overeat way too often. There is good news: Simply by consuming portions in line with recommendations published by dietitians and nutritionists, you can do a lot to help your body return to normal. I’ve given you a few tips that can help you avoid overeating. If you do a bit of research, you can get many more. To eat frugally and healthy, is a choice.