Aug 27, 2012

Healthy Eating On a Budget: Getting Started

So here you are; you know you need to be eating healthier, you know you should make some changes, and maybe this blog is the first time you've heard about Nourishing Traditions and the Weston A. Price Foundation. But there is so much information! Where does one even start? 

In My Nutrition Philosophy I explain in more detail what I believe true healthy eating looks like and how I've chosen to apply it to my life. I refer to it as a "relaxed" version of the Nourishing Traditions/Weston A. Price diet. I have now known about this nutritional way of thinking for almost two years and have enjoyed studying nutrition and healthy recipes as a hobby during this period of my life. Hence the blog. So with what I have learned I have come up with a short(ish) post on ways you too can begin your journey to a nutritious diet and better health. If these changes were the only ones you ever made in an effort to eat healthier, it would still be very significant. 

Oils and Fats

Eliminate the bad oils and fats: 

To the best of your ability eliminate all the hydrogenated fats you may be using. The main sources of these in a normal kitchen would be Crisco (shortening) and margarine. Breads in a tube like biscuits and crescent rolls are also common sources. Hydrogenated fats are the most unhealthy oils labeled as "food" you can buy. (Read more about why hydrogenated oils are so bad in my post here). Unfortunately it would be very difficult to avoid eating hydrogenated oils all together as they are found in many pre-packaged foods and restaurant meals. But assuming the majority of your food is what you are consuming at home, avoiding hydrogenated oils at home will make a big difference.

Try as much as you can to not use vegetable oils such as canola, soy, and corn oils. Unfortunately these oils are already rancid before they hit the shelves but are produced with special deodarizers so you can't tell. They do not provide are bodies with the regenerative healthy fat we need to maintain good health.

Hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils are a leading contributor to heart disease. (Read more about that here.) Avoiding these while using good oils instead could be the single most important thing you do to improve your health.

Use only the good oils: 

Instead use real butter, extra virgin olive oil, and coconut oil. 

Walmart sells Spectrum brand coconut oil at a good price but there are several online sources where you can order it as well. Tropical Traditions and Vitacost are where I have found the best deals on coconut oil. Virgin coconut oil has the coconut taste which does not go with everything, so if you are new to using coconut oil I would start out with the non-virgin coconut oil.

Palm oil shortening is another healthy oil that is a great substitute for Crisco. I found spectrum brand palm shortening from a local higher-end grocery store.

Lard is also a healthy fat, contrary to popular belief, but unfortunately most lard being sold is partially hydrogenated. I have yet to learn where to find good quality lard, but when I do I will be sure to share it on this blog. 

Here is an excellent post by another Nourishing Traditions follower about good and bad fats that explains in more detail what I am saying here: Good Fats, Bad Fats, And Why I Eat Plenty Of Butter.

Don't be afraid of the fat in meat:

Begin using meat with skin and bone still on. Our bodies need the animal fats and minerals that come from the bones. Boneless meat like ground beef and boneless-skinless chicken breasts are fine for some meals, like spaghetti sauce and stir fry, but when you are having things like baked chicken, for example, get the kind that comes with the skin and bone. 

Use full-fat dairy: 

Start doing your very best to only purchase full-fat dairy. The majority of the nutrients found in dairy are in the fat so eliminating the fat significantly lowers the nutrient content. If you can't find full-fat, at least use low-fat.

Read my post Why Dairy is Good For You, Especially the Fat, where I explain in more detail why full-fat dairy is important.


Changing your breakfast food is the area you will probably find takes the biggest adjustment. Breakfast will have to be planned and will not be super convenient.

Do your best to eliminate boxed cereal from your diets. Boxed cereals are overall so unhealthy that they should be viewed the way we view dessert - a special treat - not something  to be eaten every morning to begin your day. 

Instead breakfast should contain a lot of protein, soaked whole gains, yogurt, nuts, and fruit. 

Basic baked oatmeal with plain yogurt and fruit.
Eggs with bacon and sausage (really!) are a good breakfast, also egg bakes that you can make in advance and reheat in the morning. My Crust-Free Cheese Quiche is one recipe I have shared that is great for breakfast, and I will be sharing more egg bakes on this blog in the future. Look for recipes that do not call for bread - potatoes are fine.

My baked oatmeal recipes are another healthy breakfast idea. So far I have three recipes on this blog and I will be adding more over time.

My Basic Baked Oatmeal recipe includes three ways to make basic baked oatmeal, so no matter what you have on hand or whether or not you remember to soak the oats, you can still have it for breakfast.

Cocoa Beach Baked Oatmeal is a delicious chocolate coconut recipe I developed.

Blueberry Banana Baked Oatmeal is a fruit based recipe.

Here is also a Nourishing Traditions approved version of "instant" oatmeal that I found from another blog that I think would be very useful as well. Easy NT Friendly Cold Cereal/Instant Oatmeal


Lunch is is typically a meal that is not overly planned. Many people rely on sandwiches, usually made with white bread and highly processed meat and cheese. Lunch is another area that is going to take more planning in order to be healthy. 

Making a bigger quantity of food for supper in order to have the leftovers for lunch is probably the easiest thing to do. I also have some good recipes that you can make in advance, refrigerate and eat for lunch. My Southwestern Roasted Sweet Potato Salad and Creamy White Bean and Avocado Wraps are the first lunch recipes I have shared on this blog. (All the ideal lunch recipes I will share here will be labeled as "lunch" on the sidebar.)

Creamy White Bean and Avocado Wraps.
Another good idea for lunch is a big salad of dark leafy greens, chopped veggies and fruit, chicken or other leftover meat, cheese,  and nuts. Do your best to use homemade dressings made from nutritious, quality ingredients like extra virgin olive oil and yogurt.


Rethink how you view portions. The USDA recommends your smallest serving of food be the meat/protein, the next being veggies, and the largest serving being the carbs. The carbs most commonly eaten are usually refined. The truth is we don't actually need these carbs to be healthy. The Paleo diet has a very similar premise as that of Nourishing Traditions, but they advocate no grains at all. Many traditional societies in the past have lived on diets free of grains and enjoyed great health.

Marinated Garlic Lime Chicken
Rather, your largest portion should be your veggies, second should be the meat, and last carbs - if you have carbs at all. When I am on a low-carb diet (like when I was pregnant or trying to lose the baby weight) I won't even have any grains, white rice, or white potatoes. If I am still hungry, I have another serving of veggies or meat. 

Vegetables should be fresh - like in salads made with dark leafy greens, lightly steamed frozen veggies or Broiled Frozen Vegetables. Be sure you are adding butter to your steamed vegetables as this not only provides a healthy fat, but makes the nutrients, particularly the fat soluble vitamins, more available to our bodies.

Carbs should be brown rice, baked potatoes - preferably sweet potatoes, or breads made from soaked grain like this recipe here. Pasta is not a healthy carb choice as it is made from refined, unsoaked grains and has very little nutritional value. Instead of pasta I eat my spaghetti sauce over spaghetti squash and my Easy Ground Beef Stroganoff over steamed green beans.

Snacks and Beverages


Avoid highly processed and carb laden snacks like crackers, cookies, and chips. Instead eat nuts, dried fruit, popcorn (air popped), fruit, cheese (cheese sticks are very convenient!), or plain yogurt or greek yogurt with a little natural sweetener or some fresh fruit.

Look for nuts that are labeled as "raw" or "dry roasted". Those simply listed as "roasted" have been fried in unhealthy oils.

Right now there is a great selection of dried fruits available at most grocery stores. Check the ingredients to see that they do not have added oil. I was dismayed to find some dried fruit I recently purchased had hydrogenated oil added!


Water is the best and cheapest drink on the planet. It should be the main thing you drink in a day. This may seem very basic to some people, but others will find they go through a whole day without drinking more than a glass of water after they brush their teeth. The average person needs eight eight-ounce glasses a day, but some people need more than that. I drink according to my thirst which ends up being more than a gallon a day. Other drinks should be used as special treats and not where you are getting most of your liquids.

Do your best to stop drinking sodas, especially diet sodas made with artificial sweeteners, and other heavily sweetened beverages.

Juice is not the healthy drink it's touted as and is basically sugar water wtih a few vitamins tossed in and often artificial colors. Some drinks labeled as "juice" aren't even that. If you really love juice, then at least make sure it is 100% juice and does not have any additives. But even juice like this will cause your blood sugar to spike even though it contains natural sugars. Because the juice is separated from the fiber and other parts of the fruit, it is digested much faster and thus enters the blood stream very quickly.

Note: I am referring to processed and pasteurized juices sold in stores, not juice made from a home juicer. Juices from a home juicing system are good because they are made from raw fruits and vegetables and thus the enzymes and vitamins are still intact. They are good as supplements and for the occasional cleanse.

How about coffee and tea? Nourishing Traditions doesn't recommend drinking anything that contains caffeine, but I personally don't think it's a big deal to have one or two cups of coffee or tea a day. Just be sure if you are adding sweeteners or creams you use natural sweeteners like whole cane sugar or honey, and half-and-half or heavy cream, as most prepared creamers contain lots of artificial ingredients, including hydrogenated oils.

A Word on Organic

If you are able to afford buying organic food that's great! But just buying organic does not equal healthier eating. A meal consisting of organic boxed macaroni and cheese followed by organic ice cream really won't be making that big of a difference in your diet whatsoever.  The changes that need to be made for true healthy eating are much more involved than simply switching to organic foods. I have no doubt that organic food is more nutritious,  but if you are on a very tight budget, then don't feel bad that you can't buy organic everything. Eating a salad that is not organic is still a healthy choice. Eating butter that is not organic is still going to be very good for you and WAY healthier than margarine. Like I've said; any change for the better will benefit your health, even if you can'd do everything "right".

Start Doing Your Own Research

All of what I know I have learned from personal research and I certainly do not claim to be a nutritionist. As with anything, you should do your own research and decide how you want to move forward. I do hope that what I have shared will give you a place to start and help you to know what info to look into first.

I learned most of what I know from the Nourishing Traditions Cookbook and the  Weston A. Price Foundation website. The website is filled with extremely informative articles on all topics relating to diet, food, and health. 

A little review on the Nourishing Traditions cookbook: I found the nutrition information in it absolutely fascinating, but the recipes were overall not very useful for your average, low budget family living in the US. I love creating recipes so a lot of what I do now is find recipes that already are Nourishing Traditions approved, or make adjustments to existing recipes to make them qualify. Or simply make a recipe more nutritious by what I have learned from the book. So the book is worth getting if you are serious about learning more about this kind of diet, but if you don't have much time, stick to googling things like "Nourishing Traditions, recipe blog" and other blogs like mine will pop up with recipes you might be able to use. Click here to order the Nourishing Traditions cookbook for yourself.

My posts on nutrition:

What is Phytic Acid? Briefly explains the importance of soaking grains and such, and the science behind that.

Informative Posts and Articles by others:

The Low-Fat Diet Debacle

Good Fats, Bad Fats, And Why I Eat Plenty Of Butter

Coconut Oil Benefits: When Fat is Good for You - Short article on coconut oil.

A New Look at Coconut Oil - Long article on the amazing health benefits of coconut oil.

Cholesterol Lowering and Low-Fat Diets for Children - A very informative article on why children should never be fed low cholesterol and low-fat diets.

Movies and videos:

Fat Head - (Watch it online).  "Comedian (and former health writer) Tom Naughton replies to the blame-McDonald’s crowd by losing weight on a fat-laden fast-food diet while demonstrating that nearly everything we’ve been told about obesity and healthy eating is wrong. Along with some delicious parody of Super Size Me, Naughton serves up plenty of no-bologna facts that will stun most viewers, such as: The obesity “epidemic” has been wildly exaggerated by the CDC. People the government classifies as “overweight” have longer lifespans than people classified as “normal weight.” Having low cholesterol is unhealthy. Lowfat diets can lead to depression and type II diabetes. Saturated 
fat doesn’t cause heart disease — but sugars, starches and processed vegetable oils do."

Though the movie/documentary Fat Head was obviously not a very high budget project, I found  Tom Naughton's sources were reputable (Sally Fallon who wrote Nourishing Traditions even makes an appearance!), and the cartoon animations of how our bodies process fat and such quite helpful. This movie is very light-hearted and funny, and you don't get bogged down with lots of scientific data.

Below is a brief video explaining the findings of Dr. Price of the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Search terms:
How to start to eat healthier
How do I begin to change the way I eat
Where do I begin in following the Nourishing Traditions Weston A. Price diet
I want to eat healthier - what are the most important things to do / to change / to add / to take away from my diet

1 comment:

  1. Great recipes. You really showed us that healthy meals can be appetizing.