Sometimes, Robb likes to remind me that I can come off as, well… not the most warm and nurturing person in the world. I admit that my passion (and sensitivity) can sometimes come off as unsympathetic, but it’s only because I actually really give a shit about things. Maybe being a nutritionist was the wrong career choice for me. I love helping people, but can get frustrated when I hear excuses for why they “can’t” follow my advice. I REALLY care about how people treat themselves, and it’s super hard for me to see them sabotage themselves. I sometimes feel like people are paying me to give them a life preserver and instead they’re choosing to swim in the opposite direction, towards the sharks.
Last week, I was working with a young woman and her husband who are trying to lose weight and start a family. They eat out a lot and often make poor choices regarding food. As I was trying to illustrate how important it is to cook food from scratch instead of getting takeout, I got some push back. She told me she doesn’t have the time to cook. I asked her how she spends her weekends, and it was pretty typical of your average millennial. She totally had the time, but it was her priorities that were out of whack. I see this a lot. I also hear that it can cost too much to eat real food. Even though many of you have probably heard all of this before, I figured this warranted just a small and gentle reminder that yes, in fact, you probably do have the time and the money to eat well.
What are your priorities?
This is a very basic question but something that really requires some hard thinking if you’re using excuses to shortcut your health. I get that some people are just struggling to make it day to day, and in the basic hierarchy of needs, long-term health can sometimes take a backseat.
Let’s look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs:
Nope, a strong Wifi connection is not at the bottom. I’m sort of joking. But not really. I think a lot of people have their needs and wants way mixed up. If you’ve got a safe place to sleep and clean water (which, I acknowledge, some people legitimately do not have), then food is one of the next items on the hierarchy. How you choose to fuel yourself is often an afterthought. But if you consider that the only thing we actually “have” is time here on earth, you can make a choice to help yourself feel great while you’re here, or you can feel like crap. Some things are of course out of our control, but good food should be placed BEFORE you upgrade to the iPhone 7, next monthly subscription of clothing you don’t need, or whatever it is you do to keep up with the Joneses. The time spent in the kitchen is much more important than spending time watching reality TV or on social media. Time and money spent on clean food is an investment in the quality of life you’ll have while you’re walking the planet.
I know it can seem like life is hard, and things are expensive, but actually, we’ve got it pretty good. The Western Hemisphere is currently war-free. Let’s look at all of the other things that are going our way…
1. Look at how many people didn’t have electricity until 1950
2. Today, hardly anyone only has a landline
3. You’re much less likely to die from a violent crime
4. More people have high school diplomas than ever before
5. Look at how cheap it is to fly
Now let’s look specifically at how we’re spending our food dollars and using our time that could be spent in the kitchen…
6. As a %, less of our disposable income is spent on food
7. We’re spending more money going out to eat, and less at the grocery store – and when we go out to eat, people generally do not choose “clean food”
8. Look at what we’re buying when we are at the grocery store – in the 20 year span, spending on processed foods & sweets has doubled.
9. Check out how we’re spending our leisure time – nearly three hours a day on TV!
10. And, how much time are you spending on social media?
Finally, if you compare many processed foods to nutrient dense foods, you’ll see that the healthier foods are actually cheaper. For example:
The average price of a snickers bar (2015) in the US is $1.24 for a standard bar. That’s $0.66 per ounce. I don’t see my clients complaining about the price of candy.
Now, let’s take something that people do complain about to me: grass fed beef. Consumer Reports purchased 300 packages of ground beef in 103 stores in 26 cities across the United States in 2015. They paid an average of $4.95 per pound for conventional beef (which, I would argue is better than a snickers bar) and an average $7.83 per pound for grass-fed organic beef. That’s $0.39 and $0.49 per ounce, respectively. So, even grass-fed organic beef is $0.17 cheaper by weight than a snickers bar.
And we’re not even including the fact that beef is so much more nutritious than candy bars. It’s full of bioavailable iron and other vitamins and minerals. Contrary to many reports, beef does not take a billion gallons of water to produce a pound of meat, and pasture-based herbivores can help sequester carbon. Processed food takes incredible amounts of resources to make compared to an animal raised in a natural way. In fact, I bet that if someone were to compare a life-cycle analysis of what it takes to produce a snickers bar (so, all the inputs required from the fossil fuels, crops, water, electricity, etc.) and compared it to what it takes to produce the same weight in grass-fed beef, the beef would win hands down.
If you can afford a smart phone, a wifi connection, a winter vacation, or a snickers bar, then you can afford healthy food. If you generally spend your leisure time in a similar way to most Americans, then I challenge you to spend less on food “away from home,” more on the raw ingredients. A little more time in the kitchen is an investment in yourself.
Need some ideas on how to incorporate cooking into your routine, have a medical condition, or have you hit a plateau and could use some advice? I love working with people who are excited to make change, and who are done making excuses for why they “can’t” spend the time or money on good food. If you’re ready to take the life preserver, check out how to work with me.
Absolutely love all of this. Sometimes tough love is all that works. Setting priorities is number one, you cannot live without proper nutrition, or live well that is, you can live without TV. I’m still in shock that average time watching TV is so high, who has that kind of time!
Anyway, props to you for putting this out there, it’s such an important message.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
Great article. Sure wish you had a share by email selection as I would love for some of my friends to read this but I am not on any social media (no wasting time there).
Diana Rodgers, RD says
Can you put the link in an email the “old fashioned” way?
Just copy and paste the page link into an email! Works every time! : )
Stephanie Welch says
It surprises me that people think food should be a minimal part of our budget, instead of one of the best investments we can make. I think the Jaminets have said: there is nothing more expensive than bad health. It would help, of course, if we had the government subsidizing types of food that actually serve our interests on multiple levels of health and sustainability, instead of the foods that are actually sabotaging our health and environment.
It’s also hard to imagine having 3 hours a day to spend watching TV; I wonder if this is the problem with using averages (subsets of people, who may not even be thinking about what they eat, watching >5hrs a day, offsetting those who care more and watch little or none?).
In any case, it is definitely about priorities, but with all the other mad distractions we now have, people do need systems (education, scheduled time, and deliberate meal planning) in order to be able to follow through in our current environment.
I think you’d really enjoy learning a change-oriented technique called Motivational Interviewing Diane. I bet you’ll find it smooths the way with more resistant clients. Best wishes.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
I’m very educated in motivational interviewing. I also find it annoying to have to play games with people though – just not my style. I do great with people who are willing to grab the lifeline. There are lots of RDs who are happy to spend lots of time with people, wasting their money and listening to them talk about how hard it is to resist soda. I just can’t do it. – Diana
Very well written, and so true. I find that people ask questions, but dont like the answers so change nothing. I have also wondered what would happen if the government taxed fast food and subsidised fresh vegetables. I am appalled to find that young mothers I know do not even know how to prepare fresh vegetables. So much awesome information and recipes are out there, but they are not using it.
Elizabeth Resnick says
Totally agree with this Diana! And real food doesn’t have to be that hard, either. I’ve found so many shortcuts that I can throw stuff together very quickly. I’m with you…I have so little patience when people say they don’t have time or money and I see them blowing both on other things. Three hours a day on TV boggles my mind…I don’t even have one. I do get a little distracted by social media at times, but somehow have time to feed my self nutritious food!
What I liked was the comparison between a snicker bar and grass fed beef. Great idea to put it in that perspective. I just started doing research for an article on my blog about Paleo and founds this article very helpful. It is like Hippocrates wrote. “let food be they medicine and medicine be they food” To many people have their priorities wrong.
Thanks for sharing.
Diana Rodgers, RD says
Thanks! – it’s Diana, with an “a” 😉
I was one of those people who thought she was too busy to cook from scratch. A typical meal was frozen orange chicken, rice, and microwaved broccoli. Then, my dad had a double bypass and we took him to our house to recover. He was on a no salt diet at first and he had already lost 15 pounds. I learned that I did have time to cook. A typical quick meal now is boneless, skinless chicken thighs with a teeny pinch of salt and lots of herbs (Dad still lives with us and is doing well at 91 years), cauliflower rice (we bought a cuisinart at costco), and oven roasted veggies. It takes a little longer, but we are all healthier and happier thag Dad/Grandpa is still with us! It can be done. Buy good tools. New knives have made food prep so much more fun!
I used to use this argument with my husband when everybody was hungry, tired, and cranky: “it’ll take 10 minutes to get us all in the car, 15 minutes to get to a restaurant, 10 minutes to park, walk in, get seated, and then who knows how long it’ll take to get our food? If we’re talking a minimum of 45 minutes, I’m sure we could throw together something much cheaper and better for you right here at home in that time!” I would take about 30 minutes once a week to throw together some simple dinner menus for the whole week and a shopping list and I’d spend about an hour grocery shopping. If we wanted to go out to dinner for fun, we could always do that, but restaurant food never had to be our main way of feeding ourselves.
Becky Davis says
Loved the snickers/beef comparison! I recently compared food budgets with a friend. We spent the same amount but I bought high quality ingredients while he ate out more.
I’ve noticed many people I talk to who constantly fall back on the “it’s so hard to resist soda/I don’t have time/it’s expensive” mantras are, at their core, just intimidated by learning to cook from scratch without pasta, bread, and bottled sauce. They are either convinced it’s hard and they’re going to fail so they make excuses not to try or else they have tried and failed and don’t want to give it another shot.
I’ve been lucky enough to screen these people out so far but I can imagine the frustration! As much as I would love to help everyone, it has to be internal unless someone starts a “paleo rehab” center, haha.
imagine spending the same amount in junk foods vs real food that you actually cook, I think with proper time management you can cook really great food or just purchase a cook book 30 minute meals.
So I used to design health and wellness programs and I am an RN. I can totally feel your pain regarding people who have serious prioritizing issues…. I finally told them ” when your ready to cross the river of denial then we will talk”! I also live on a farm and have now “retired” from nursing (I’m only 44 lol) and decided to raise and sell grassfed beef and other non tainted meat and veggies straight off the farm!
Sally Joseph says
Very informative artical.
Thank you for shearing useful tips for weight loss
I am a guy and do most of the cooking at home and baking, we rarely eat out and when we do we are very picky to go to places that serve real food, farm to table stuff. I find now after 5 years eating clean that any processed, canned, remade restaurant fare leaves me feeling like crap for a week.
Is so easy to cook at home, and as you said so many great resources for great recipes.
First, thanks for this article. I totally agree with you that most people actually have the time and money to eat real food.
But it’s a matter of choice. And if you’ve made so many “bad choices”, you’ve probably turned it into “bad habits” that are hard to break.
What I’ve found to work for me, was having a mentor or a coach that supported and guided me along the way as move towards eating more real food.
Leo Tat says
Eating a plant-based diet (i.e. meat less diet) is still associated with being “clean” and “pure.”
Now i know where that perception came from, oh dear.
As for how much protein we should eat, I just eat as much as it makes me satisfied. Paleolithic humans don’t have a scale to weight how much meat to eat. They just eat as much as is available until satisfied.
Patti W. says
I came to the conclusion that if I could afford to buy cherry-flavored sweets, pastries, drinks, etc. then I could afford to buy real cherries (and freeze them to enjoy throughout the winter too)…. and that’s just one small example. When you crave real food the flavored stuff doesn’t really satisfy and you are going to eat too many empty carbs. So now when I crave something I have the real thing and bypass the junk.