The Mental Health Diet

and how it made me fat:

I treat my body like a temple/ 

You treat yours like a tent.

Jimmy Buffet

I’ve definitely been in the “tent” camp lately.  (Get it?  Tent?  Camp?  Yuk yuk.)

via Wikipedia

We left the Perfect Health Diet (“PHD”), after over a year of inconsistent-but-persistent resolve.  Pat lost some weight, and we felt pretty good overall.  But I didn’t lose weight, and it seemed like a lot of work for negligible results.  So we quickly slipped from PHD to mostly whole foods to . . . what I call the Mental Health Diet (“MHD”).

The MHD consists mostly of convenience foods, take-out pizza, dinners out, and fast food (I discovered the Taco Bell cantina bowl–yum!).  I started a tasting tour of sorts, trying out all of the kids-eat-free nights at our local restaurants.

My mental health diet

 

Not surprisingly, my weight has skyrocketed.  At least I think it has.*  I haven’t weighed myself in several months.  But all my clothes are tight.  I’m kind of dreading fall because even the jeans I was so excited about recently are feeling uncomfortably snug now.

Harumph.

This got me thinking that maybe the PHD helped me more than I realized.  I didn’t lose any weight but I also didn’t gain any.  On the other hand, my weight has climbed steadily ever since coming off it.  Also–now that I think of it–my weight was starting to climb before we got on the PHD.

I stopped breastfeeding Girl 2 around September 2012.  Shortly thereafter I switched from Zoloft to Lexapro.  Due to some combination of those factors (I think), my weight started climbing.  Then in November 2012 we started the PHD and the weight gain came to a halt.

All this is making me want (“want” in a limited sense of the word) to get back on the PHD bandwagon.  Or maybe even do the Whole 30 for a clean break.  Jenny’s experience, among others, makes it sound . . . hmm, not appealing, but . . . like-a-good-idea-ing.**

{Pat is never ever critical when we fall off the healthy-eating wagon and yet he is always game for healthy eating, bless his heart.

Me: “Honey, I think maybe we should try this thing called the Whole 30.  [15 second summary of Whole 30]  What do you think?”

Pat: “Yes, I’m in.  Good idea. . . . There’s always apples and peanut butter, right?”  (PB&A being Pat’s go-to meal.)

Me: “Uh, yeah, about peanut butter . . . .”

Pat: “Um, well, how about homemade hummus??”

Me: “Well . . . .” }

At the same time, I don’t regret our stint with the Mental Health Diet.  Junk food is never good for one’s mental health in itself.  Not feeling the pressure to cook, though, was a definite boon.

The MHD has been one facet of a change of course I’m taking in life wherein I focus less on doing more.  I’m here.  I love.  I’m enough.

We ate junk; ordered out; I hardly ever cooked.  Yet the world kept on spinning.  My kids are as healthy as they ever were (not saying much), and Pat and I are fine.  There’s just more of me to love.  Nutrition and physical health are important but they’re not all-important.    (As usual, I love Amelia’s thoughts on this topic.)  Eating junk probably didn’t help my low energy woes, but the slug life led me to the MHD, rather than the other way around.

All the same, I’m sick of treating my body like a tent.  I don’t want to be forced to wear a tent.  I think it’s time for a change.  Stay tuned.

 

*Update: Since drafting this, I weighed myself and, sure enough: I’m up 10 lbs over the last four months, 20 lbs over the last 14 months.

**Update 2: I decided the Whole 30 would be setting myself up for certain failure.  I signed up for Weight Watchers instead.  More on that later.

Advertisements

Menu Plan Monday Plus Healthy Avocado “Ranch” Dressing

Lately I recalled something my sister-in-law unexpectedly said when she spent a semester Rome and was talking to us over the phone:

You know what I miss? . . . Raaaaanch dressing.

There she was in Italy, eating wonderful food every day, and she missed that uniquely American blend of soybean oil, buttermilk, and high fructose corn syrup.

I know exactly how she felt.

I am sick of oil and vinegar on my salad.  So I concocted a little Avocado-Ranch-ish concoction.  It might not taste exactly like Hidden Valley, but it’s delish and it’s Perfect Health Diet compliant (or at least it can be, if you make your own mayo).  Here it is:

Primal Avocado Ranch Salad Dressing

  • 1/2 avocado
  • 2T mayonnaise (you can make your own from olive oil and egg)
  • 4 T olive oil
  • 2/3 c. whole-milk yogurt (preferably not Greek)
  • 2 T rice vinegar (or white vinegar or lemon juice)
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried dill

Mash up the avocado and then mix everything together well.  Makes about 1.5 cups.

Primal avocado "Ranch" dressing

Primal avocado “Ranch” dressing

You can leave out the mayonnaise and increase the yogurt a bit.  It’s tangier and a bit less creamy, but still good.

I’m  linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday today.  Our menu has stayed pretty much the same the past few weeks.  Here’s what it looks like:

  • Breakfasts: Usually banana-egg “pancakes”
  • Lunches: Leftovers, plain yogurt with frozen blueberries, or rice cakes with cheese

We usually eat rice or potatoes on the side, along with either a green salad or a cooked, frozen vegetable.

Have a delicious week!

Shopping for the Perfect Health Diet at Walmart

The Results Are In.

English: Walmart Home Office, the headquarters...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

  • Our total grocery spending for September was $1078.  (This includes diapers, paper products, cleaning supplies, and over-the-counter medications.)   I made all of our main, weekly grocery shopping trips at Walmart
  • This is a slight increase from our August total of $1059, when I did the bulk of our shopping at Aldi.
  • Factoring in the $22.40 required for gasoline to shop at Aldi that month, however, the total was $1081, which means . . . .

My grocery costs were basically the same at Aldi as at Walmart.

  • Our 12-month average before I started this experiment was $1188.  Wal-mart always has been my primary grocery store in theory, but I had slipped into shopping more and more at the closer, more expensive “regular” grocery store.

Shopping at Aldi and Walmart resulted in a net savings of $107-110 per month, or about 9% of our average monthly grocery expenditure.  

  • During both months, we made smaller trips to other stores as needed.  In August, these smaller trips added up to a full 50% of our grocery bill.  I attribute this to Aldi having a smaller selection.  In September, our smaller trips to other stores were only 20% of the total.

My spreadsheet has prices for various items at Walmart, Aldi, and our local grocery store (Martin’s).   You can see it here: grocery price spreadsheet.

Advantages of shopping at Walmart:

  • It is in near to our house,
  • It has low prices, and
  • It has everything.

Disadvantages of shopping at Walmart:

  • It has everything.  I can’t seem to walk out of Wally World without spending $230.  Why $230?  I don’t know, but the total is usually $230-something.  Our non-grocery household expenditures were $250 more the month I shopped at Walmart than when I shopped at Aldi.  Coincidence?  Probably not.  But there are so many other factors involved here that I’m not including this in my analysis now.
  • Okay, it doesn’t have everything.  I still have to go to other stores for items like rice syrup.
  • Also . . . I hate it.

Man, I really hate shopping at Walmart.  It’s huge.  It’s ugly.  It’s depressing.  I know I’m being classist here, but the general population there . . . you know . . . .  (As Pat put it, “We always see people we know at Target, but we don’t see as many people we know at Walmart.”  Yeah.)

Sometimes we went together as a family on the weekend.  This works, but Walmart is such a crowded, depressing place to be on the weekend.  It’s not so bad on weekday mornings, but that entails my taking the girls on my own.  That never, ever ends well.  And Walmart at night, after the girls are in bed, is a very scary place.

But a slightly more pleasant grocery shopping experience is not worth $1300 a year to me.

My plan going forward: Regular weekly trips to Walmart, plus one monthly trip to Aldi for items like maple syrup, frozen blueberries, and cheese, that consistently are cheaper at Aldi.  I’ll also try to make a monthly trip to the nearest grocery outlet (over 30 minutes away).  It has great prices but its selection varies widely.

What about you: where do you do your grocery shopping?  And if you follow a whole foods/ paleo/ GAPS/ Perfect Health Diet type of diet, how do you keep costs down?

****

I Say M&Ms, You Say Scrambled Eggs: M&Ms! Scrambled Eggs! M&Ms! Scrambled Eggs!

. . . And Calf Liver and  . . . Epsom Salt Baths

I’m finally reading the second edition of Perfect Health Diet (“PHD”).   I’m particularly intrigued by their advice on nutritional supplements.  Apparently deficiencies in copper, zinc, and magnesium are quite common, even for those following a healthy diet.  You know what contains all of those nutrients?  Chocolate.  You know what I crave almost all the time?  Chocolate.  Hmmm.

Dark chocolate also contains iron, which I might be deficient in also.  I’ve started taking Floradix.  It’s too early to tell for sure, but I think it’s improved my energy levels.  PHD warns against iron supplements . . .  except for menstruating women.  Well, guess what I am?  And guess what I crave at those particular times of the month?  Hmmm.

I must admit I tried to follow the PHD supplement recommendations early on, but I quickly tired of taking so many pills, especially as I have to stagger them throughout the day to avoid stomach ache.   According to PHD, it’s basically impossible to get enough copper unless you eat liver every week, or possibly a LOT of chocolate.  I just cannot do organ meat.  Not. Going. There.  And chocolate prices are on the rise.  So, supplementation it is!

Problem is, sometimes M&Ms call out my name like you would not believe.  The dark, more bitter stuff just doesn’t compete.  PHD mentions that cravings for sweets often indicate a need for protein.  I have noticed that if I’m craving sweets but eat protein instead, the cravings go away.  The hard part is force myself to eat protein instead of the sweets.

So, I’m hoping not be undone by M&Ms (or chocolate peanut butter) so much in the future.  Next time the cravings hit, I’ll quickly down some scrambled eggs, with a chaser of dark chocolate, and then jump in an Epsom salt bath for some extra magnesium-y oomph.

We’ll see . . . .

Reading PHD again also reminded me that I should be eating less chicken and more beef  . . . or lamb or goat or liver so . . . beef it is!  Here’s my menu plan for the coming week, with an extra helping of beef.  I’m  linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday (better late than never):

Melt-in-your-mouth parmesan chicken breasts

  • Lunches: Leftovers, salads, and um, leftovers.  Oh, and plain yogurt with frozen blueberries.  Pat eats rice cakes with cheese a lot.
  • Dinners:

Monday: Paleo crockpot beef brisket (Really tasty and easy; I use chuck)

Tuesday:  Pan-fried salmon with rice and green beans

 

Wednesday: Yummy Baked Thingy (ground beef casserole)

Thursday:  Tilapia with spinach and tomatoes baked in foil

Friday: Shrimp stir-fry with rice noodles

Saturday: Parmesan chicken (using Greek yogurt instead of mayo)

Sunday: Crock-pot lime beef stew (trying out a new recipe)

Have a delicious week!

This Week’s Menu Plan

Real quick-like, here’s my menu plan for the week.  I’m  linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday:

  • Lunches: Leftovers, salads, and um, leftovers.  Oh, and plain yogurt with frozen blueberries.  Pat eats rice cakes with cheese a lot.
  • Dinners:

Monday: Shrimp stir fry with rice or rice noodles

Tuesday: Man-pleasing chicken  (so good; one of our favorite recipes)

Wednesday: Spinach and tomato frittata


Thursday:  Paleo crockpot beef brisket (Really tasty and easy; I used chuck)

Friday: Salmon cooked one way or another

Saturday: Cajun-spiced tilapia

Sunday: Back-to-school BBQ with Girl 1’s school

Have a delicious week!

 

New & Improved Menu Plan

I added some new recipes to our weekly meal lineup:

Easy chicken and spinach from Paleo on a Budget.  This is very easy and yet so good.  The lemon and basil flavors blend so beautifully.  I left out the garlic.  (**Just made it again using frozen spinach, which the recipe calls for.  It’s fine but better with fresh spinach.)

Easy spinach and chicken from Paleo on a Budget

Yummy baked thingy, also from Paleo on a Budget.  It’s kind of a cross between a hearty bolognese, a meatloaf, and chili.  So simple, endless variations.  Very satisfying.

Wilted spinach with scrambled eggs and avocado.  For breakfast!  Thank you Michaela for this idea.  Never would have thought of it on my own, and it’s great!

Hearty sausage fried rice a la Jen Fulwiler: I made this last night.  Very yummy.   I couldn’t fit the full four cups of rice in the pan along with all the other ingredients, so mine ended up being more sausage and veggies and less rice.  I used Jimmy Dean’s Italian sausage because it doesn’t have MSG, unlike some of the other varieties.   Will be making this again.

Finally, salmon with zucchini baked in parchment.  (I used foil.)

This reminds me of these guys:

Can anyone tell me why???  Is anyone out there as much of a creepy fan as I am?? *

So here’s the menu plan, linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday:

Monday: Sausage fried rice (above)

Tuesday: Paleo crockpot beef brisket (I’m using chuck; we’ll see how it turns out)

Wednesday: Chicken and spinach (above)

Thursday: Yummy baked thingy (above)

Friday: Salmon and zucchini in parchment (or aluminum foil, as the case may be) (above)

Saturday: Man-pleasing chicken  (so good; one of our favorite recipes)

Sunday: Shrimp stir fry

Have a delicious week!

* The answer can be found in this article.

Can You Shop for the Perfect Health Diet at Aldi? Yes, but . . .

**Update: I get a number of hits on this post from people searching for whether Aldi has coconut oil.  As of November 8, 2014, the answer is now yes!  They have a 14 oz. jar of unrefined coconut oil (“Simply Nature” store brand) for $7, as I recall.  It was near the baking ingredients and cooking oil.****

 

I made my four main weekly grocery shopping trips at Aldi last month, hoping to lower our grocery spending.  Here’s the lowdown:

  • Our total grocery spending for August was $1058.72;
  • Our 12-month average before last month was $1188.32 (I had miscalculated this slightly in my earlier post);
  • I spent about $22.40 more in gas, as Aldi is a ways away from our house;  therefore we achieved a

Net Savings of $107.20, or 9% of our average monthly grocery expenditure.  

This is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s less than I had hoped.

The disadvantages of shopping at Aldi were

  1. The distance (not an issue for everyone, obviously),
  2. The self-bagging system: I find this especially burdensome when I have the kids in tow, and
  3. The limited selection: I still had to make trips to other stores to get things like coconut oil, coconut milk, dish soap, unsweetened almond milk, and all-natural peanut butter.
It takes all my moral courage plus a bag of chocolate pretzels to get through a grocery trip with this one.    And then I have to bag my own groceries???

It takes all my moral fortitude plus a bag of chocolate pretzels to get through a grocery trip with this one.  And then I have to bag my own groceries???

The advantages of shopping at Aldi are

  1. The limited selection: this has an upside.  I made do without some items or buying less expensive alternatives.  For instance, Aldi doesn’t have jasmine rice  (they had it when I went on Nov. 8, 2014), so I settled for less-expensive regular rice.  Aldi only has artichoke hearts in cans.  I prefer buying them in glass jars, which is more expensive, but I made do with the cans.  Etc.
  2. The price.  Obviously.   Aldi beats out the other stores for almost every item on my list (you can see my slightly updated grocery price spreadsheet).  I was tickled to find a good price at Aldi for real maple syrup:

IMG_3446

It’s sooo much better tasting and better for you than the fake stuff.  It isn’t Perfect Health Diet compliant, as far as I know, but I use it in small amounts for this recipe, a favorite of ours:

Man-Pleasing Chicken (woman-pleasing too!)

and for occasional treats like this:

For September I plan to make our weekly grocery shopping trips at Walmart, which is much closer to me.  Its prices are higher than Aldi but only marginally so.  I am hopeful that price difference will be cancelled out by the savings on gasoline.  We shall see . . . .

****

Amazing Steak From Aldi {Ye Olde Sometimes-Weekly Food Poste}

I made some delicious steak a few nights ago and just have to share.

IMG_3309

I used these frozen sirloin filets from Aldi.  They were $5.60 per pound, which is not cheap but it’s much less expensive than you would usually pay for this cut of beef.

IMG_3310

I wasn’t sure what to expect from frozen steaks.  Maybe a connoisseur would find fault with the texture or something, but Pat and I both thought they tasted great!

I defrosted them on the kitchen counter (I like to live dangerously).  Then I seared them in a pan on the stove on medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side.  Then I broiled them in the oven.  Our broiler has “high” and “low” settings.  I used low because I’ve set things on fire before using high.  I don’t remember how long I broiled them, but they ended up medium-well, which I like.

I sautéed some fresh onion and mushroom in the pan with the steak drippings, adding some coconut oil, water, salt, and pepper.

Delish!

Aaaand, wouldn’t you know, just as I’m planning to write this post I read about how U.S. beef is all horrible and stuff (prior link didn’t work; sorry about that).  Anyway . . . if you can’t eat organic, grass-fed beef all the time, and you want some good but inexpensive steak . . . try the frozen sirloin filet from Aldi.

Linking up this week with Cari at Clan Donaldson for Theme Thursday.

For More About How We Eat, Read These:

Can You Shop for the Perfect Health Diet at Aldi? {Menu Plan Monday}

I mentioned a few weeks ago that our grocery spending has been wickety wack lately.  As in, averaging $1,119.50 per month for two adults and two small children.  (The amount includes diapers, paper products, household cleaning supplies and the like.)

So, for the month of August I’ve resolved to do our weekly grocery trip at Aldi, instead of the local grocery store, to see if it makes a difference.

I’ve done a price comparison chart you can see here if you’re interested.*  Aldi wins on paper, but we’ll see how it shakes out in real life.

Aldi and I have an uneasy relationship:

  • It’s about 25 minutes away, and I have to subtract about $7/trip from any cost savings.
  • Also, you have to bag your own groceries. . . . There was that time I bagged in a hurry because Girl 1 was pitching a fit.  I got home and dropped an over-stuffed bag of pasta sauce in the carport, sending tomato sauce and tiny shards of glass everywhere.
  • Then there was the time sensorily-sensitive Girl 1 held her hands over her ears for the first 15 minutes or so, sobbing pitifully that her arms hurt and she was scared, because of the buzzer that occasionally goes off near the dairy section.
  • Another time I was so exhausted after a trip that I gave Girl 1 a whole bag of dried apricots to eat on the way home.  And she did . . . too many of them . . . and had an unfortunate accident later on . . . at the library . . . in the middle of the kids section . . . in full view of several other families.  Fortunately, she’s still a bit young to get embarrassed easily.  I sent flowers to the poor librarian who had to clean up.
  • And just last week I got cocky and, despite prior mishaps, took both girls with me again.  Only about 10 minutes into the trip, Girl 2  tired of reaching behind her into the cart and throwing groceries onto the floor, stood up in the front set of the cart despite the buckle, and threatened a terrible tantrum.  I let her and Girl 1 run loose and throw grapefruit at each other while I aborted the mission, checked out with only half my list completed, and got the h*ll out of there.

Already I’m talking myself into grocery shopping at Walmart instead.  But I get so sick of Walmart.  And even though their prices are low, they sell, you know, everything, and I can’t seem to leave there without spending $230.

So I’m determined to give Aldi a fighting chance.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

* Not all the items on the chart are PHD compliant.  We still feed the girls sandwiches on regular bread.  And we can’t quite give up peanut butter.

****

I’m linking up with Org Junkie for Menu Plan Monday.  I’m trying out a couple new recipes this week from Paleo on a Budget.  At least I’m planning to if I can get back to Aldi without both kids.

Breakfasts:  Scrambled eggs with avocado OR two-ingredient grain-free “pancakes,” OR  oatmeal (not completely Perfect Health Diet compliant)

Lunches: Our main meal (see below)

Dinners: Leftovers, some variation of a big-ass salad, a smoothie, or a baked sweet potato

Monday: Bare minimum mode chicken and potatoes (probably my favorite recipe ever)

Yummy baked thingy from Paleo on a Budget


Tuesday: Yummy baked thingy

Wednesday: Steak with mushrooms and onions, potatoes or rice, and a veggie

Thursday: Salmon some way or another

Friday: Cheese pizza using Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free pizza crust mix

Saturday: Easy paleo chicken and spinach

SundayFrittata

Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard {Ye Olde Sometimes-Weekly Food Poste}

Swiss chard is still in season in some places, I believe.

English: Swiss chard (Beta vulgaris) with vari...

Swiss chard

We all know leafy greens are super healthy, but it can be intimidating to prepare them.  Here’s a quick, easy recipe for it that I really enjoy (from a vendor at the farmer’s market; no copyright that I know of).  It uses both the stem and the leaves.  It has a bit of sugar, so it’s not completely Perfect Health Diet compliant.  You could probably substitute stevia or rice syrup, but I have not tried it yet.

IMG_2988

Sweet and sour swiss chard, served with Cajun-spiced Tilapia

Surprisingly Tasty Sweet and Sour Swiss Chard

  • 1 lb. Swiss Chard
  • 1 Medium onion
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 c. raisins
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons cider vinegar
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

Rinse and pat dry the chard.  Chop the stems diagonally in small pieces and set aside.  Chop the leaves into 2 inch pieces.  Set aside.  In a deep frying pan over medium-low heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the chard stems, raisins, garlic, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper.  Cover and cook for 8 minutes.  Place the chopped leaves on top of the mixture (do not stir in).  Cover and cook another 4 minutes.  Remove from heat, stir, and serve.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I don’t have a menu plan yet for this week.  You can bet your buttons, though, it will include some beef, some chicken, some salmon, some tilapia, some rice, lots of green salad, lots of eggs.  *Yawn*