Monday, May 30, 2011

7 Day Challenge--Everyone's a Winner!

OK, I'm going to get all touchy-feely here. Unlike the race of immortals in the Highlander, I'm declaring all three people who participated in the Real Food On a Budget winners. Thanks, Brendon, Jonathan and Margaret, I'll be contacting you about your prizes. Also thanks to Richard for really getting the word out.

There can be only one...button on our shirts
Aside: why did Highlander have a Frenchman play a Scot, a Scot play a Spaniard and an American play a Russian? Also, has there ever been a bad movie with a Queen soundtrack?

So the official prize portion of the Challenge is over, but if anyone still wants to guest post their paleo-ish on a budget eating for a week, I'd be more than happy to put it up.

To summarize, Brendon spends $30-35 a week in South Korea. Jonathan spent $27.75 for a week, simply shopping at his local supermarket, and Margaret spent $85.49, around the national average, for very high quality food (grass-fed beef, etc). Hopefully these folks and others can help to dispel the myth that eating a paleo-type diet composed of real food, not crap-in-a-box, frankenoils, or "heart-healthy" whole grains, need be an expensive proposition.

Update--Here are the three books they chose:

Brendon: The Protein Power Lifeplan

Jonathan: The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet

Margaret: Imagining Head-Smashed-In: Aboriginal Buffalo Hunting on the Northern Plains

Saturday, May 28, 2011

I've Been Slimed!!!

"He slimed me"
A few days ago, Mark Sisson wrote about meat glue, and damned if I didn't manage to buy a couple of meat glued "steaks" the very next day!

Here's the video from Australian TV:



As they point out in the video, a fake "steak" should easily be pulled apart. And these (I bought two) were:


Real meat doesn't do that, of course.

That translucent stuff reminds of something from of Aliens. Here's a closeup, look away if you have a weak stomach:

"Kill me"
The ironic thing is that I bought these at the local organic "bio" store. Here's the package, the green label is some sort of EU bio/organic thing. Hooray.


Transglutaminase doesn't have to be labeled in the EU.

I'm not a huge fan of government regulation but if things are going to regulated, and food is very heavily regulated in the EU, it would be nice to know when transglutaminase is used to make a fake "steak".

Most of the bacteria in meat reside on the surface, which is why hamburger goes bad so fast, so there's an excellent case to made that this sort of thing is dangerous to one's health.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Roasted Vegetables and Breakfast of Champions

I've been roasting a lot of vegetables lately, especially parsnips after being inspired by this post from Jan's Sushi Bar. Here's some cauliflower, parsnips and tomatoes, tossed with olive oil and salt and roasted on 250C for about 45 minutes:


Roasting veggies makes them tangy and crunchy, more meatlike in other words, and that's a good thing.

A typical dinner lately:


Did some expensive shopping at the local high-quality deli:


850 crowns (~$50) for Kerrygold butter, awesome (unadulterated) olive oil, stuffed grape leaves, cheddar cheese, goose paté, caviar paste, eggs, a little coach class bottle of white wine, and 300 grams of pancetta. I don't go to the high-end deli that much, cause it's easy to drop 100 bucks there, mostly to to stock up on olive oil and grey sea salt.

The fatty smoked pancetta makes a great breakfast for young kids with developing brains. My kid loves it.


My breakfast was pancetta wrapped around slices of cheddar. A little of that goes a long way.

XKCD Has Its Moments

The epitome of 80s cool
As far as web comics go, I find xkcd only mildly funny and often annoying for some reason I'm not quite sure of. I appreciate that it was one of the first web comics to be successful (the first to be successful enough for its creator to quit his dayjob I believe), and helped pave the way for comics that are actually funny, as opposed to the lumbering syndicated dinosaurs, but I think as far as geek type humor goes, SMBC is an order of magnitude better and more consistent.

Still, xkcd has its moments and the alt-text from the most recent comic was something I had to try for myself. It was the following:

Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy."

I started with a tab that happened to have a Wikipedia page open (I almost always have a couple open) and it was suitably random, Perry the Platypus (I have to answer numerous questions about my son's favorite cartoon characters).

It took twelve clicks but I got there.

Here's the path it took:
Boom baby! Philosophy is the Kevin Bacon of knowledge.

Speaking of geeky comics, they all are derived from the genius of Gary Larson, of course.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Real Food On a Budget--Margaret in North Carolina

I've recently been corresponding with Margaret who put together a detailed spreadsheet of her eating for last week. It's not super cheap, but at 85 bucks a week is a great example of how eating really high quality food doesn't have to be any more expensive than the average American spends per week.

So what is the average person's weekly food budget?

I've seen different numbers so I decided to calculate it for myself. I took the numbers from this ERS/USDA report for 2009. Americans spent 607,422 million dollars on food-at-home and 574,541 million dollars on food away from home for an annual total of 1.18 billion dollars for 300 million people or $75.77/person per week. Note: I didn't include money spent on booze (167,028 million dollars). Margaret spent $9 on wine and beer (what a lush!) so her actual amount of 76 dollars for food is only 23 cents more than the national average for 2009. But the quality of what she ate is an order of magnitude above the national average.

Margaret writes:
Here's a typical spring week for me in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.  I have some backyard chickens and a vegetable garden, plus I'm a member of a local meat CSA.  Also, we have a great grassfed beef farm just west of town.  I try to cook food with leftovers in mind.  In the winter, it's chuck roast.  In the summer, it's quiche.  Whole Foods, Trader Joe's, and the Asian market are where I shopped this week.  The local food co-op (Reduced for Quick Sale good meat is always a draw) and the farmer's market are also popular stops for groceries.  As you can tell, this isn't an attempt at doing bargain basement paleo, but a realistic look at how I spend my food budget.

I tried to get most of the details on what I cooked this week, estimating costs when only part of an item was used.  My boyfriend and I love to cook, and don't eat out a whole lot.  The grill comes in handy for making crispy chicken and smoked pork roast, along with grilled veggies.  Butternut squash cut like french fries, tossed in bacon grease, S&P is a favorite, and butternut grows easily in the garden and keeps in the closet all winter.  Now I just have to wait a few months for this year's crop.
Here's Margaret's spread sheet for the week:


Margaret also sent me some food pron shots. These weren't taken during the week she was logging food prices, but represent typical meals she eats.
Every month I get 14 lbs. or so of meat from my CSA.  Sometimes there's a ~3.5 lb. fresh ham. On the gas grill for 4 hours with indirect heat, salt and pepper, it comes out great.  Here are some slices with collards from the garden and mashed potatoes and celery root.  Celery root is great to mix in with mashed potatoes for a more distinct flavor (or leave out the potatoes altogether) but it's expensive (4 bucks a lb. last I checked).  I'm attempting to grow it in the garden this year, and it should keep in the closet all winter.


(Mixing celeriac with mashers is a great idea, I cook with celeriac a lot, so I will be trying this in the very near future.)

Here's a pic of local grassfed bone marrow with a side of parsley.shallot.olive oil/lemon juice salad, maybe $2 for the whole thing?  Not including the 2 bucks for the marrow spoon, of course.

Chicken thighs are a cheap cut of meat, fatty too.  That makes them an easy choice for the grill. Steve Raichlen writes my go-to grill cookbooks.  These thighs had a rub and a mop, maybe an hour on the grill.  Fun to do once a month or so.

Thanks Margaret, for this detailed account of eating high-quality food for the same price the average American spends on crap!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Real Food On a Budget --Jonathan Vaudreuil in Boston

Jonathan gives a detailed account of his last week's experience of paleo on a budget. Jonathan's write-up is noteworthy in that he did all his shopping at the local supermarket and he the week's budget to the SAD diet he was eating before--which would've cost 13 cents more.

Jonathan also posted this on his blog JV Gets in Shape.

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For the past few months my diet has been more of a paleo/primal diet than Tim Ferriss’s slow-carb diet. The diets are all quite similar, and in both instances there’s a huge push towards grass-fed beef, seafood, and buying organic. If you follow all these suggestions you’ll see a skyrocketing food bill, which is a huge turnoff for a lot of people. While that might be ideal, if you’re on a budget you can easily have a reasonable food bill and still eat paleo.

I decided to see if I could put together a delicious paleo menu for a week without breaking the bank.

First off, I didn’t go to lots of local grocery stores, small markets, and the massive bulk-buying warehouses to determine how to save every penny possible. I did the easiest thing possible: I went to the local supermarket, determined a menu based on the full price of each food item, and came up with the best ways possible to lower the cost of food. If I can do it this way, then anyone can. I believe that’s the most important aspect of this challenge, making it something anyone can do, otherwise you might throw your hands up in the air and say, “I don’t have a Sam’s Club/local Greek market/supermarket discount chain near me, guess I can’t do this!”

I’m also going to point out how this compares cost-wise to the standard American diet (SAD) on a budget. The end result might surprise you.

Let’s start off with some background: I live in the greater Boston area and shop at Star Market on Mount Auburn St in Cambridge, MA. For those not familiar with the area, it’s about a mile and a half from Harvard University.


Star Market Cambridge Mount Auburn Street

The cost of living index for food here is about 20% higher than the national average, so keep that in mind when I list food prices. I’m also going to round food prices to the nearest dime.

Now, about me? I’m 6′ tall and I weigh around 175-180 lbs. This is based on a close approximation of what I’d eat in a given week if I were going to eat 3 meals a day. I’m not going to factor in eating more from working out, 16-24 hour fasts, or eating out, things I do every single week. We’re keeping it simple.

For breakfast let’s stick with simplicity: 5 egg omelet with spinach. Eggs looked like the cheapest source of protein and I usually aim for 30g+ of protein out of breakfast, so 5 eggs/day it is. I add spinach for it’s nutritional value, it’s deliciousness, and the fact that we’re going to buy leafy spinach instead of the frozen stuff so we can make a few salads and munch on greens for other meals.

The cheapest eggs I found were $2.20/dozen, which was actually less per egg than buying a carton of 18. Sometimes buying “bulk” isn’t the better option! A 10 oz bag of store-brand loose leaf spinach was $2, and we’re going to get a lot out of that single bag. Breakfast for the week just cost us $8.60, a mere $1.23 per day, and we’ll have lots of spinach for a few salads.

For lunch and dinner we’re going to create a few different meals so we don’t end up eating the same things every single day. That’s another thing I do – I eat the same lunch almost every day. Not for this experiment! Paleo has a lot of room for variety.

First thing we’re going to do is buy a 5 lb chicken and roast it in the oven. Store-brand chicken is the cheapest at $1.60/lb, so a 5 lb bird will be $8. We’ll get leftovers out of some of what we’re going to do with the chicken, and from this point on I’m going to start breaking costs down in terms of how much each meal would be.

When we’re done roasting the chicken we’ll have about 2.5 lbs of lean meat and 1.5 lbs of bones, so we’ll say each lb of chicken cost us $2. Let’s take the bones and make some chicken stock! Cook the bones in 4 quarts of water and add an onion ($1) and a pound of frozen vegetables ($1.50-1.80: we’ll call it $1.60 for simplicity’s sake). Out of this magical concoction we should get enough stock for 18 good-sized portions when we make our soup. Cost: $0.31 per serving.

To make the hearty soup, mix 1.5 lb of the cooked chicken and 1.5 lb of mixed frozen veggies in with 1/3 of the stock. We now have a hearty and delicious soup to eat any time for only $1.21 per bowl.

We still have 1 lb of chicken and enough spinach for about 3 salads. We’ll pick up 3 plum tomatoes ($0.50 apiece, estimated) and use some oil and vinegar we’d have in the kitchen for a simple dressing. Since we’ve already factored in the cost of the spinach with breakfast, the other ingredients cost a mere $1.17, and it’s the perfect lunch to take to work a few days this week.

For the rest of our meals the most reasonably priced meats we can get are boneless chicken thighs ($3/lb), chuck steak ($4/lb), or pork ($4/lb, variety of different cuts). Most of the time we could stock up on pork or steak when they’re on sale, but for this menu we won’t. We’re not going to buy any seafood, as the cheap stuff is often $7-8/lb unless we buy cans of tuna fish when they’re on sale for $1 apiece.

We’re also not going to buy any bacon, since it’s at least $5.50/lb and yields very little protein/lb compared to other meat.

Most of our veggies will be store-brand frozen ones, which range from $1.50 – $1.80/lb. As I said before, we’ll call it $1.60/lb to make things easier.

Our dinners will be quite simple: a 1/4 lb of meat and a 1/4 lb of veggies. It’s all about cooking them in interesting ways.

Mustard-crusted chicken, for example. A cheap paleo way to do this is to crush up some pork rinds for breadcrumbs, coat the chicken in mustard, then the rindcrumbs, and bake at 425 degrees for 10 minutes on each side, along with roasting vegetables in the oven with a little olive oil and seasoning on them. Cost?

$0.75/lb of chicken, $0.25 per serving of rindcrumbs, and $0.40 per serving of veggies, totaling a mere $1.40 per meal.

Another favorite of mine: the fajita bowl! We’ll cook up 1/4 lb of steak and mix in a little diced onion and pepper (cost: $0.25) and either a few scoops of sugarless salsa ($0.25 for a double serving) or if you’re feeling like a moneybags add 1/4 of an avocado ($2/avocado). It ends up costing only $1.50 – $1.75 per fajita bowl.

Most anything else you cook within these basic ingredients will cost about $1.15 – $1.50 per meal.
I’m going to add one last thing to the week’s menu: a stick of butter for cooking, $1/stick. I use it for my eggs when I don’t have any animal fat to cook them in.

How much does eating this way cost? Let’s add it all up. Breakfast is $8.60 for the week with some leftover spinach. We’ll have soup 4 times, 3 salads, and mix up other meals that’ll cost around $1.40 each. And a stick of butter. Add it all up and you get… $27.75 for the week.

That’s right. Under $30.

How much would a week eating a SAD cost? We’ll base it on something very close to what I ate before I changed my diet.

Let’s say the person eats the following for breakfast: store-brand bran cereal, needing half a box each week ($1.20/wk), with some toast ($0.10/slice of store-brand bread), a glass of OJ ($2.50/wk) and milk for the cereal ($2.80/gal, 1% of course, the rest to be consumed as part of a “healthy” dinner).

Lunch: sandwiches, of course, and we’re buying the super-cheap bologna for $4/lb ($7 total since I’d eat about 1/4 lb per sandwich). Also need a healthy snack, so an inexpensive $3 bag of pretzels will do.

Dinner: pasta ($0.15/serving) with sauce ($0.25/serving) for 3 nights with small amounts of ground beef and veggies added in ($0.80 total) for $1.20 per meal. Breaded chicken and veggies 3 more nights at $1.40 per meal. One night we’ll splurge and have a 1/3 lb steak with a baked potato, clocking in at $1.83 for the ultimate in American cuisine.

Oh, and a stick of butter to cook stuff in.

The SAD for the week would cost… $27.83.

Absolutely no cost savings at all.

Remember, this is a comparison of how I eat now and how I used to eat, and I felt it would not be fair to cut out any food items just because I could save a few dollars. If I took something out I probably would replace calories with something else, and then it’s no longer an accurate comparison.

Paleo is not just for people making big bucks. It can be a simple and inexpensive way to eat better without a lot of extra effort.

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Thanks, Jonathan, and keep 'em coming, folks!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Falcons!

We've had falcons nesting outside out kitchen window for the last six or seven years now. It is extremely difficult to photograph them, or even get a good look at them, though. If I stick my head out the window they spook and will often start dive-bombing me. And if the cats stand in the window they pull a full on screeching assault. So I really try to leave them alone. But I did manage to a couple shots today just sticking the camera out the window.

Here's a couple shots of me being warned off just standing in front of the window:


Here are the parents hanging out on the chimney accross the street:


 Here's Mom just hanging out at the nest:


A closeup:


And here she is, feeding the kids:


The fledglings should soon venture out to look around and I'll try to take a picture without having my eyes gouged out.

Real Food On a Budget --FAQ Update

A lot of questions came up and interesting points made which I will try to address here.

First of all, the time frame. In order to give people time to participate, the challenge and prizes will stay open until Friday, May 27. Speaking of prizes, and what constitutes winning, I will probably divide it up into three categories, perhaps cheapest, most interesting, best presentation, something like that. We'll see how it pans out.

The point is to show that paleo-type meals neither have to be expensive nor dull, something that is pretty obvious to anyone who has done it. However, different circumstances mean that some people can eat more cheaply in absolute terms than others, which is why I'm going to run a PPP location cost analysis on every entry, and include carbon footprint data.

OK, I'm joking. But it is why I've decided to pick three "winners" for this, and three book prizes.

Now here's my short FAQ:

How strict need one be?

Personally, I'm no paleo puritan. I've no problem with heavy cream, eggs, potatoes and white rice. However, for purposes of demonstration it would be nice to see the starches kept pretty low. But I'm certainly not going to disqualify someone for eating a little rice or potato with their meal.

What about long term food already in stock?

Short answer: let's not sweat it too much. I didn't really think about this because all we keep in the freezer is than meat, ice cubes, coffee and soup stock. Many people, of course, stock up on items like coconut, and coconut oil, nuts, frozen vegetables, etc. I think it is pretty easy to come up with a standard price for a bag of frozen peas, or whatever, using the internet if this is a big part of one's challenge diet.

What if I supplement with food from my garden?

Then you are really cool. Like the long term food question, I think the cost of homegrown veggies can be estimated from looking at store prices.

Do you want guest post submissions, or do you want people to post on their own blog?

Either way is fine with me. I think the best would be for you to post on your blog and guest post as well.

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I will add to this if necessary and thanks to everyone for participating.

I've been trying to document my food but it requires a lot of organization and discipline so I'm failing miserably. But here's what I had for late lunch/dinner yesterday, pork cutlets chopped up and stir-fried with a red bell pepper, an egg, some green onions, ghee and a little soy sauce (yes, soy sauce, damnit!).


And sweet potato pancakes, a large sweet potato, microwaved, mashed with an egg fried in ghee.


Of all that the only thing I know the price of is the pork which was 44 Czech crowns ($2.54). The meat was store-bought prepackaged, so not as cheap as the local butcher, the sweet potato has been around for a couple weeks. And I haven't been keeping track of my vegetable purchases, but veggies aren't that cheap here. So probably 5 bucks for a big meal for one person, but basically my only meal of the day. Not super cheap but less than a 12 oz bag of Doritos from Amazon (when bought in a three-pack no less!).

My wife bought a big jar of ghee a while back and it wasn't cheap, 230 kč ($13.30) but it really lasts a long time and we use it a lot, and really like the taste so it turns out to be a pretty reasonable investment, the actually ghee cost/meal is quite small.

Real Food On a Budget --Brendan in South Korea

I haven't even started writing my update and I've got my first entry. Brendan is in SOUTH Korea, but that's not going to stop me from using this as an excuse to post a pic of my favorite character from my favorite movie:

I'm so ronery . . .
It's great to see how much a budget paleo-type diet costs outside of North America and I hope to see more international entries.

Brendan photographs all his meals, so he was able to last week's and give a detailed estimate of what he spends per week.

So, without further ado, here's Brendan:

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Mind you I'm in Korea, a rice and noodle country (though with fantastic bbq restaurant options).  So, I will speak in terms of Korean Won, which is roughly 1,100 KW-1 USD.  It's not difficult to work out.

Well my weekly costs vary from week to week depending on the availability of certain meat products.  I head to the supermarket (Home Plus, a big Korean chain store) at about 9:45 PM.  This is the time I get out of work, and it's also the time that the store has rolled out the on-sale meat.  This is meat that will "expire" in a couple of days and can therefore no longer be considered fresh.  Luckily, this is not at all the case.  I have not had any trouble keeping this meat fresh, and if I ever have any worry that I won't use it by week's end, I'll throw it in the freezer.  Usually I'll spend 20,000 KW (Korean Won) on meat, as it makes up the bulk of my diet.  I like to buy 500-1,000 grams of American or Australian beef, 500 grams of pork, and 500 grams of chicken breast.  These are all relatively cheap when on sale.  If I was at home in the states I could buy meat of comparable or better quality for about half of that.

Vegetables/fruit usually cost around 5,000-6,000 KW.  I will always buy a bag of hot green peppers for around 1,000 and a bag of massive green onion stalks for 1,000.  Then I will buy whatever is in season and looks good.  Sometimes it's eggplant, other times its a variety of bell peppers, cabbage, or broccoli if I can get it.  Fruit purchases are minimal, though sometimes I can't resist buying some apples.  Either way, it usually is the equivalent of around 5$.


I will also buy about 30 eggs for 5,000 KW some weeks.  Currently I have not been purchasing too many eggs, simply to take a break and try new recipes.

I don't do much dairy, but I do consume a bit of whey protein powder each day (20$ a bag which is used over the span of two months, so the price is negligible and not included), and I did recently pick up some whipping cream to put in my morning coffee (2,000 KW).  Other infrequent purchases include butter (Koreans don't really have real butter though) and olive oil.  I supplement with fish oil and vitamin D.  I don't include these in the weekly price.

That's about it.  With these ingredients (and only a frying pan; small Korean apartments do not often have ovens, and I don't have a microwave), I make dozens of meals, usually stir fries, fritattas, omelets, pancakes with coconut flour (6$, i-herb.com), sweet potato pancakes, burgers (pork, beef), among other things.  I have one-two very large meals per day a-la' IF, which often consist of 1,200-1,800 calories per meal.  I work out four times a week, and my caloric intake hinges on that.  Every Saturday I have a cheat day/meal (something I keep from my slow carb diet days) where I go pretty overboard on beer, soju, wine, makkoli, and possibly some carbs/sugar, though I barely crave those things.  I decided not to include cheat meals in the calculations, because they are unnecessary and not paleo.

The totals are...

2000 grams of meat: 20-25$
Various fresh vegetables: 5$
30 eggs: 5$

That's around 30-35$ a week for high quality eating that fuels my workout and work-day exceptionally well.  I won't go into the benefits I feel/see, but it's been three months of eating this way, and I don't see any reason to stop.  Here are this week's meal pics.

I've had beef stir fry with an egg in the middle because "why not"


a 6-egg omelet with bacon and sweet potato pancakes



Pork burgers with sweet potatoes and fried eggs


chicken stir fry with purple cabbage and other vegetables


Eggs and bacon with bacon-fried apples


6-egg fritatta with chicken breast and vegetables. 



[Ed. Brendan didn't label this pic but I'm gonna take a wild guess and say it is seven eggs and chilli peppers]


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Thanks Brendan

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Real Food On a Budget, Quick Update

Thanks everyone, the response has been fantastic.

I need to be more specific in the details and address some questions, I will get around to that tomorrow.

And a quick link, Dr Annika Dahlqvist has been allowed to work again in the county of Västernorrland, where she was blacklisted three years ago for daring to not demonize saturated fats--in Swedish and run through Google Translate to English.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Salt!!! (Fist Pump)

I'm a big fan of salt, which I've written about several times.

I'm also skeptical of the alleged dangers of salt, but I do think it is important to invest in some real unpurified salt that has plenty of trace minerals. Now, a new study, which contains a lot of threes, finds that the third of people who ate the lowest amount of salt died three times more often than those in the upper third of salt consumption.

Roger Federer sums up my reaction to this nicely:

Hooah!
Via Robin Hanson, a notable economist who is beginning to suspect there might be something very messed-up and politicized in the field of nutritional science.

Welcome Robin, would you like to swallow the blue pill or the red pill?

Friday, May 06, 2011

What Is The Real Cost of Eating Real Food? An Open Call to Healthy Eaters on a Budget

There are two core criticisms that seem to come up a lot with paleo/LC/whatever diets.
  • They are boring.
  • They are expensive.
The boring canard is quite old, Atkins addressed it way back in the 90s. William Banting probably addressed it way back in Victorian England. Nowadays, there are plenty of amazing paleo food pron blogs around that easily lay that one to rest.

The second one is not a falsehood, exactly, more of an excuse and typically an exaggeration. I'm going to dub it the Hamburger Helper Hypothesis (HHH). It's not a hypothesis, of course, I think we can all agree that a bowl of spaghetti costs less than a bowl of meatballs but I couldn't resist the alliteration. Also, I think it is really cool that Hamburger Helper has it's own Wikipedia page.

The Hamburger Helper Hypothesis is an excuse along the lines of, "Exercise takes too much time" (and believe me, I'm the king of excuses). Anybody who poses that excuse needs to read Body-by-Science, or Skylar Tanner or any of the other myriad of people who look fantastic working out 10- 20 minutes a week.

The Hamburger Helper Hypothesis is something I've never really seen properly addressed even though it is brought up quite a lot. A while back Don Matesz did a series of posts on budget paleo with prices in response to an earlier complaint about expensive ass paleo on Richard Nikoley's blog (here, here, and here and a several others). They are great ideas (especially the fish head soup) but it would be nice to see a more comprehensive post somewhere, along the lines of: this is what I ate this week, this is how much I spent and here are some pictures.

As far as I know, no one has done this, but this being the internet and all, someone probably has and I simply haven't come across it.

OK, enough hemming and hawing. 

I'm offering an open challenge/invitation to anyone who wants to document their shealthy (or Real Food or whatever you want to call it) diet on a budget experience for a week and the winner shall receive a year's supply of grass-fed beef!!!

Sorry, I got a little carried away there. I can't afford that by a long shot. What I will offer is a health book of your choice, Paleo Solution, Perfect Health Diet, and yes, even a T*m F*rr*s' book (but not Lindeberg, I ain't made of frickin' money). Also, you get to guest post on one of the least prestigious health blogs around.

This particular challenge/invitation came from recent comments on Richard's site. In particular, Leah wrote:
I guess it depends. To be honest, since I was (and still am, more for household stuff, now, though) a major couponer, my budget went up drastically since switching to a whole food diet. I do eat less now, and rarely snack, but since I was getting all my snacks nearly free previously and pasta/rice/starchy fillers for pennies, it has definitely made a difference. Actually, it has almost doubled my food budget, and even now I use coupons for frozen veggies, avoid buying pricey items like nuts, and only buy free range/grass fed about 50% of the time (and I stick with mostly whole chicken, ground meats and organ meats).
In the long run, though, I can’t complain, because I have more energy, weigh less, and will hopefully save on medical bills down the road :)

I should probably add that I still only spend about $50-55/week to feed myself and a ravenous toddler- so it’s probably not an average person’s definition of “expensive” ;)
To which I responded:
I’m sure it is more expensive to eat paleo than to buy bulk grains, but how many people actually do that? And what are the actual differences in terms of cost?


The offer stands for anyone who wants to document this for a month or so to write a guest post on my blog, or perhaps even a “real” paleo blogger like Richard would be interested :)

Unfortunately, Leah didn't reply. So this is my formal offer to people like Leah to document their budget eating of real food for a week (a month is really redundant) with real prices.

Obviously, fresh salmon costs way more than macaroni and powdered cheese, and obviously fresh salmon is way more healthy. Much less obvious is the cost of cheap home-rendered lard vs crap like industrial rapeseed oil.

I'd love to see the Hamburger Helper Hypothesis really laid to rest, or more specifically, put into its proper perspective of overall health.

Also, I'd like to point out I'm no absolutist on the subject of diet. I really try to avoid grains, frankenoils and sugar, otherwise I'm pretty flexible.

Addendum: thanks to Richard for spreading the word. If you are interested, leave a comment or send me an email at praguestepchild@gmail.com.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

The "Myth" of Persistence Hunting

The starting point, for me at least, was this famous video from BBC Earth of San tribesmen wearing down a kudu using persistence hunting.



David Attenborough could make a documentary about drying paint fascinating.

Outside magazine just did a persistence hunting experiment/article, where they pitted some world class marathoners against a pronghorn on the plains of my native state of New Mexico. Interesting stuff. The marathoners claimed they sort of, kind of won, except the buck was still standing at the end, unlike the kudu in the BBC documentary.

Pronghorns are an intriguing choice in that they are the speed ninjas of the animal kingdom, only cheetahs are faster but the pronghorn can maintain a longer sprint. This is very likely because they co-evolved with the American cheetah. And the American cheetah is interesting because it is most likely a wonderful example of convergent evolution, the American Cheetah and the Old World cheetah independently evolved the same way to do the same thing. Also, the American Cheetah went extinct 11,000 years ago, most likely under pressure from humans.

Damn those pesky humans!

Getting back to the persistence hunting thing . . .

Persistence hunting, assuming it existed, was certainly about more than being in great shape, so these guys were at a disadvantage in that sense. On the other hand, a modern world class marathoner has a hell of a lot of advantages over their ancient ancestors, a knowledge of medicine, diet and vitamins, weight training, easy access to large amounts of calories, massages, gatorade, ice baths, professional trainers, GPS, etc. OK, I joke a little, but if these people who can probably run 26 miles faster than any other humans since the existence of humans can't manage to wear down this animal, then you can color me skeptical on the efficacy of the whole persistence hunting thing.

The thing about long distance running is that it can turn into a religion. Just as vegans try to prove that humans aren't designed to eat meat, long distance fanatics try to prove that humans are Born to Run. If you don't mind strong language and naked pictures (I certainly don't), Jamie Lewis has an excellent series debunking the health aspects of high intensity distance training (parts 1, 2, 3).

If people want to run marathons as a hobby, fine, but let's not fool ourselves that Alberto Salazar, who suffered a heart attack at the age of 48 (three years older than me),

OUCH! Classic heel strike
was ever, in any way, shape or form healthier than Roman Šebrle (pronounced Chevrolet, no I'm not kidding) who has held the points record in the decathlon since 2001.

Those bulges in the midsection ain't love handles
There's already been a lot of ink, real and virtual, spilled on this subject by people much more knowledgeable than I. So I'll just close with this quote from Robb Wolf from The Paleo Solution:
It appears the default mode for our species is the physique of a decathlete. Lean, muscled, and prepared for almost anything nature can unleash. We know this to be true based on the observations of modern HGs and the anthropological evidence: Thick, strong bones and muscle insertions typical of a hard-working athlete. The bones are evidence of relatively large, strong muscles [...]

Sunday, May 01, 2011

FTC To Regulate Food Advertising

Think of the children!

The US Federal Trade Commission is doing just that.
The guidelines, produced in response to a congressional directive, specify minimum amounts for favored nutrients ("fruit, vegetable, whole grain, fat-free or low-fat milk products, fish, extra lean meat or poultry, eggs, nuts and seeds, or beans") and maximum amounts for disfavored nutrients (sugar, salt, trans fat, and saturated fat) in food advertised to consumers who are 17 or younger.

[...]

As the father of three girls and the parent who does all the grocery shopping in our family, I can testify that there is a lot of crap out there. You know why? Kids like crap, and their parents buy it for them. It has always been thus. But healthier food options are more plentiful and widely available today than ever before, because there is a demand for them as well. The government should allow that market-driven process to continue, instead of trying to strong-arm food companies into complying with arbitrary standards created by bureaucrats who disapprove of the way other people raise their children.
So companies would be 'voluntarily' coerced into not marketing whole milk to children, hooray for that. Trans fats and sugar are definitely unhealthy for anyone at any age, of course, but it isn't the government's job to regulate their consumption for children, it is the parents'. And what does salt have to do with childhood obesity?

The idea that fat free milk (or lactose sugar water) is healthy for children is batshit crazy. The idea that the government would regulate the marketing of something like whole milk to children is quite simply surreal.


Speaking of milk and government idiocy, the FDA did a year long sting operation on an Amish farmer for selling raw milk. Seriously? A year? To bust an Amish farmer?

I don't want to brag or anything, but I know quite a bit about the Amish after having seen that Harrison Ford movie a couple times and I'm pretty sure the US government could be spending its time setting up elaborate sting operations on people who actually deserve it. Any current or former executive at Goldman Sachs would be a great place to start.