Category Archives: Food

Interpreting Information

Paying attention is huge. In everything we do, if we’re not paying attention we’re missing things, hurting others (unknowingly), forgetting where our keys are, over-eating, under-eating, driving too fast, too slow, cutting people off… on and on.

When I’m paying attention, I’m getting it done.

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12 Cheap Meals You Can Make on a Budget

Eating healthy does not have to be expensive.

If that’s the excuse you’ve been using to put off improving your diet, I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but it’s simply not true. Healthy food doesn’t mean $10 juices and $12 açaí bowls and so on. Healthy food doesn’t have to be elite. It also doesn’t have to be boring.

Sure, there won’t be much filet mignon on the menu, and you might opt for a 50-cent apple instead of a $5 basket of blackberries, but if you are willing to cook, there are a plethora of low-cost meals available at your fingertips. Also, meal planning can help reduce food costs. Before picking your recipes, look at store circulars before you shop and build your menu around what’s on sale that week. Shop the bulk bins for dry goods like whole grains, legumes, dried fruits, and nuts, and buy just what you need.

To test this “eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive” theory, I compiled a list of my favorite recipes from the Beachbody Blog and calculated how much a serving of each costs using prices gathered at Ralph’s, a Southern California branch of Kroger supermarkets. Since sale items change every week, I relied instead on the normal retail price. Also, I did not include the cost of common pantry items such as olive oil, vinegar, spices, honey, and maple syrup.

What are some of your favorite inexpensive meals? Let us know in the comments or tag us on Instagram @BeachbodyLiving, and we may include them in a future blog post.
Savory Slow Cooker Beans with Rice
Cost per serving: 70¢
Beans and rice are staple foods in many cultures for a reason: they’re cheap and can easily be transformed into a variety of meals. This savory dish flavored with garlic, chiles, and tomatoes, cooks all day in a crock pot, and is ready for dinner when you get home from work. Get the recipe.

Savory Slow Cooker Beans with Rice


Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins and Walnuts
Cost per serving: 45¢
If your mornings are busy, you’ll love these baked oatmeal cups made with walnuts and sweet raisins. They freeze well, too. Get the recipe.

Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins and Walnuts


Turkey Chili
Cost per serving: $2.72
Ground turkey was the most expensive ingredient, but this chili still costs less than $3. To save even more dough, use dried beans instead of canned. Get the recipe.

Turkey Chili


Spinach Salad with Quinoa, Chickpeas, and Paprika Dressing
Cost per serving: $1.48
Unlike most salads which get soggy within hours after you add the dressing, this leafy green version stays fresh for days even after you add the paprika dressing. It makes for a filling lunch that’s great year-round. Get the recipe.

Spinach Salad with Quinoa, Chickpeas, and Paprika Dressing


Lentil Soup
Cost per serving: 45¢
My frugal grandmother always made lentil soup for our family, and no wonder. It costs just pennies per bowl, and it’s good for you. This recipe has 13 grams of protein and 179 calories per serving. Get the recipe.

Lentil Soup


Chicken with Quinoa, Oranges, and Walnuts
Cost per serving: $2.20
Chicken is pricey when money is tight, but in this recipe, the bulk of the volume is comprised of quinoa, fresh herbs, oranges, and walnuts. To make each serving go further scoop half-portions onto fresh spinach or other greens. Get the recipe.

Chicken with Quinoa, Oranges, and Walnuts


Slow Cooked Steel-Cut Oats with Apples and Cinnamon
Cost per serving: 45¢
For this breakfast oatmeal, add the ingredients to a slow cooker before you go to sleep and it’ll be ready to enjoy when you wake up. Get the recipe.

Slow Cooked Steel-Cut Oats with Apples and Cinnamon


Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup
Cost per serving: $1.66
Another excellent way to turn a small amount of chicken into a lot of filling meals is by using it in soup. In this recipe, we combined butternut squash, red bell peppers, and corn to create a hearty winter soup. Get the recipe.

Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup


Sweet Potato Skins with Chicken and Spinach
Cost per serving: $2.57
These stuffed sweet potatoes look like appetizers, but they’re actually pretty filling since they’re packed with spinach and chicken. Get the recipe.

Sweet Potato Skins with Chicken and Spinach


Carrot and Spiced Chickpea Salad
Cost per serving: $1.05
If you’re trying to be budget conscious, definitely consider carrot recipes. Carrots, though starchy, are an excellent source of fiber and nutrients, and in most grocery stores a couple of dollars will buy a hefty bag of them. This recipe pairs them with another thrifty favorite: protein-packed chickpeas. Get the recipe.

Carrot and Spiced Chickpea Salad


Hearty Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Apples
Cost per serving: $1.85
It should go without saying that by using up leftovers from other recipes, you can stretch your food budget. This recipe calls for cooked chicken and sweet potatoes, so meal plan your week so you have leftovers of each. Get the recipe.

Hearty Chicken, Sweet Potato, and Apples


Lentil and Feta Salad
Cost per serving: $2.23
Once you’re done chopping the fresh vegetables and herbs to compose this lentil salad, you’re left with a large enough recipe to feed you all week. Plus, it’s a good vegetarian source of protein and fiber. Get the recipe.

Lentil and Feta Salad

*original post here, by BeachBody

Is Our Food Becoming Less Nutritious?

–Reposted From NYR Natural News

It’s a sad fact that the nutritional quality of our food is declining.

nutritional food

The main reason for this is the depletion of essential minerals in our soil. Modern intensive agricultural methods have left our soil mineral poor and this, in turn, impacts the food we grows and eat.

This is not new information and yet, it seems, every time we are confronted with it we treat it as if it were.

In 1940, British chemists Robert McCance and Elsie Widdowson published the first of what would be their periodical examinations of the nutrient content of food: The Composition of Food.

When the fifth edition of this impressive tome – which has over the years become a standard reference work on the subject – was published in 1991, a British geologist-turned-nutritionist David Thomas undertook the work of comparing the values as published in the first and last editions of the book.

Evaluating fruit and veg

He examined the data for 28 raw vegetables and 44 cooked vegetables, 17 fruits and 10 types of meat, poultry and game, and his findings make frightening reading. What he found was that, amongst today’s foods:

  • Potatoes have 30% less magnesium, 35% less calcium, 45% less iron and 47% less copper
  • Carrots have 75% less magnesium, 48% less calcium, 46% less iron and 75% less copper
  • Broccoli (boiled) has 75% less calcium
  • Spinach (boiled) has 60% less iron and 96% less copper
  • Swedes have 71% less iron
  • Spring onion has 74% less calcium
  • Watercress has 93% less copper
  • All fruits contained 27% less zinc
  • Apples and oranges had 67% less iron

Among the other worrying findings was that seeding the soil with only certain minerals (sodium, phosphorus and potassium) has greatly altered the natural mineral profile of our foods. Thus, swedes now contain 110% of the phosphorus they once did. Humans who eat this nutritionally altered food cannot help but experience an alteration in the natural mineral profiles of their body tissues and bones as well.

Not just veggies – animal products too

In 2002 when the 6th edition of the Composition of foods was published it incorporated new information on meat and milk which, according to Thomas showed that:

  • Beef contained 38% less iron and 84% less copper
  • Chicken contained 15% less potassium 26% less phosphorous and 69% less iron
  • Turkey 71% less calcium and 79% less iron
  • Cheddar cheese 38% less magnesium 35% less potassium and 47% less iron and Parmesan cheese 70% less calcium and iron
  • Whole milk had 21% les magnesium and 63% less iron

A similar exercise was carried out in the US in 1999 when nutritionist Alex Jack compared nutrient values in the current US Department of Agriculture (USDA) handbook with those published in 1975. He discovered a number of mineral deficits as well as the fact that cauliflower had 40% less vitamin C than it did in 1975.

Other analyses have found the same declines in the nutrient quality of fresh fruits and vegetables. For instance, a similar study of British nutrient data from 1930 to 1980, published in the British Food Journal found that in 20 vegetables the average calcium content had declined 19%; iron 22%; and potassium 14%.

Breeding nutrients out

A major study on the topic by Donald Davis and his team of researchers from the University of Texas (UT) at Austin’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry was published in December 2004 in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition.

They studied USDA nutritional data from both 1950 and 1999 for 43 different vegetables and fruits, finding “reliable declines” in the amount of protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and vitamin C over the past half century.

Davis and his colleagues chalk up this declining nutritional content to the preponderance of agricultural practices designed to improve traits (size, growth rate, pest resistance) other than nutrition.

“Efforts to breed new varieties of crops that provide greater yield, pest resistance and climate adaptability have allowed crops to grow bigger and more rapidly,” they reported, “but their ability to manufacture or uptake nutrients has not kept pace with their rapid growth.”

There have likely been declines in other nutrients such as magnesium, zinc and vitamins B-6 and E, but they were not studied in 1950 and more research is needed to find out how much less we are getting of these key vitamins and minerals.

In 2011, Davis and his team again compared the nutrients in US crops from 1950 and 2009, and found notable declines in five nutrients in various fruits, including tomatoes, eggplants and squash.

Most recently the magazine New Scientist published a special report also suggesting that food is getting less nutritious, and highlighting reasons why this might be.

It points out that intensive farming methods, which were introduced in order to solve malnutrition, may have affected the vitamins and mineral contents of foods: a 43% decrease in iron and a 12% decrease in calcium in US foods in 2009, compared with 1950; and a 15% decrease in vitamin C and 38% decrease in vitamin B2 between 1950 and 1999.

Data for fruits and vegetables grown in the UK were found to have 19% less calcium and 22% less iron in the 1980s, compared with the 1930s.

So what can we do?

The New Scientist article suggests that today there is a wider range of foods available today, which could make up for deficiencies in individual foods. The way we store and process foods can also make them more or less nutritious. For instance, during processing, some foods can lose nutrients, whereas peas retain their vitamin C if frozen soon after harvesting, and tomatoes increase their lycopene (an antioxidant with potential anticancer properties) during processing.

While true it is very much tinkering at the edges of the nutrient question.

The key to healthier produce is healthier soil. Alternating fields between growing seasons to give land time to restore would be one important step. Another key is to reduce our use of pesticides.

Many classes of herbicide can alter plant metabolism and, thus, nutrient composition. For example, herbicides that inhibit photosynthesis (such as triazine or phenoyacetics) produce effects similar to growing a plant in low-light conditions. Under such conditions, the carbohydrate, alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E) and beta-carotene (a precursor of vitamin A) content of a plant is reduced, and protein, free amino acid and nitrate levels are increased.

Equally, bleaching herbicides can reduce beta-carotene levels, and sulphonylurea herbicides are known to reduce levels of branched-chain amino acids (which humans need to maintain muscle tissue).

Not a quick fix

Fruits and vegetables are still great sources of nutrients and beneficial phytochemicals which you can’t get in other foods and we certainly should not be avoiding them or simply trying to replace them with supplements.

As consumers we can choose to buy foods from producers who take care of their soils and pay attention to producing nutrient dense foods. We can, for example, buy regularly from organic farmers and/pr from local producers who shorten the food supply chain and thereby help to deliver fresh foods with more nutrients.

But we do need to recognise that nutrient declines are symptomatic of other problems within our farming and food systems. And these will only get bigger if we don’t demand that they are urgently addressed in a much broader way at government, policy and farm level.

  • 2015 was declared the International Year of Soils by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. You can read more about the importance of soil here.

Two Weeks to Better Health?

Reposted from NYR Natural News

We hear it all the time – we are what we eat.


But two recent studies have brought home just how true that is – and how quickly we can change our lives if we change our diets.

In the first study Coop, Sweden’s largest grocery store cooperative, commissioned the Swedish Environmental Research Institute (IVL) to find out whether switching to an all-organic diet could reduce the level of pesticides found in people’s bodies

Over a two week period, the Palmberg family – parents Anette and Mats and their children Vendela, Evelina and Charlie – swapped their conventional diet for an organic one. Daily urine tests revealed that at the end of that period almost all traces of pesticides were out of their bodies.

Multiple pesticides in the body

Before the dietary intervention the family all had traces of multiple pesticides in their urine including:

  • MPCA – or 2-methyl-4-chlorophenoxyacetic acid an herbicide commonly found on citrus fruits that has been declared a possible human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC)
  • Ethylenebisdithiocarbamates – fungicides used on grapes and raisins (and found in wine) that is toxic to the thyroid and liver and is a potential carcinogen.
  • Atrazine – a hormone-disrupting herbicide widely found in groundwater and associated with growth and developmental delays and sexual abnormalities.
  • Chlorpyrifos – an organophosphorous insecticide known for its damaging effects on the human nervous system
  • 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D) – a chlorophenoxy-herbicide is a hormone disrupter and has been classified as possibly carcinogenic to humans.
  • Pyrethroids, such as cypermethrin and esfenvalerate – insecticides that have a damaging effect on the nervous system.
  • Chlormequat chloride (CCC) and mepequat– growth inhibitors used on a variety of grain products and even coffee linked in animal studies to developmental toxicity and neurological and organ damage, respectively.

Several toxic fungicides used on fruits and vegetables and associated with a variety of effects from skin rashes/sensitivity to liver and kidney damage were also detected.

A fast ‘clearout’

Before the experiment, eldest child Evelina’s urine was showing around 460 nanograms of chlormequat chloride per millilitre of urine (the ‘average’ that most of us carry is around 19 nanograms). Levels in children can be high because their diets can be higher in grain products –such as porridge, bread, and pasta –compared with the adult family members.  After eating only organic foods for two weeks, the chemical could not be detected in her urine.

The most profound effects were found in toddler Charlie’s samples. His chlormequat chloride levels were 675 nanograms but became undetectable by the end of the experiment. Despite his urine before the experiment showing particularly high levels of three other of the chemicals, after the experiment none of these were detected.

The way that an organic diet quickly cleared pesticides from the body is especially important for children, since children carry a higher proportion of these substances in their bodies and because their bodies are growing and changing may feel the toxic effects more profoundly.

The scientists at IVL notes in their report that this might be a good reason for following the precautionary principle, and finding safer agricultural methods for growing our food.

“Given how little we currently know about the combination effects of all the different chemical substances that people are exposed to in their day-to-day lives, it may be wise to apply a principle of caution in this regard,” they note.

Modern versus traditional diets

In a second study, also over a two week period, African-Americans were asked to swap their Westernized diets to a traditional African high-fibre, low-fat diet dramatically lowered their risk of colon cancer.  The key, according to the data published in published in Nature Communications is that the traditional diet has significant beneficial effects on gut flora.

Colon cancer is the fourth commonest cause of death from cancer worldwide, accounting for over 600 000 deaths per year. Colon cancer rates are much higher in the western world than in Africa or the Far East, yet in the United States, African Americans shoulder the greatest burden of the disease.

The study involved 20 African American volunteers and another group of 20 participants from rural South Africa. The two groups swapped diets under tightly controlled conditions for two weeks.

The volunteers had colonoscopy examinations before and after the diet swap. The researchers also measured biological markers that indicate colon cancer risk and studied samples of bacteria taken from the colon.

At the start, when the groups had been eating their normal diets, almost half of the American subjects had polyps – abnormal growths in the bowel lining that may be harmless but can progress to cancer.  None in the African group had these abnormalities.

After two weeks on the African diet, the American group had significantly less inflammation in the colon and reduced biomarkers of cancer risk. In the African group, measurements indicating cancer risk dramatically increased after two weeks on the Western diet.

Feeding a healthy gut

In switching to a traditional African diet, which was higher in wholefoods, the 40 people who took part (20 in the US and 20 in South Africa) increased the amount of soluble fibre in the diet – from approximately 10 grams to more than 50g per day. Although eating less animal fat and proteins was also seen as helpful, this was perhaps the most beneficial change in terms of reducing cancer risk

The study found that bacteria in the gut – known as the microbiome – altered their metabolism to adapt to the new diet. In the American group, the researchers found that the African diet led to an increase in the production of butyrate, a by-product of fibre metabolism that has important anti-cancer effects.

Principle investigator professor Stephen O’Keefe at the University of Pittsburgh commented:

“Studies on Japanese migrants to Hawaii have shown that it takes one generation of westernization to change their low incidence of colon cancer to the high rates observed in native Hawaiians. Our study suggests that westernization of the diet induces changes in biomarkers of colon cancer risk in the colonic mucosa within two weeks. Perhaps even more importantly, a change in diet from a westernized composition to a ‘traditional African’ high fibre low fat diet reduced these biomarkers of cancer risk within two weeks, indicating that it is likely never too late to change your diet to change your risk of colon cancer.”

And that really is the significant finding of these two studies. Whatever your age you can make significant beneficial changes in your life from changing your diet. So why not get started?