The quick answer: To meet the national goal of 4-5 daily vegetable servings, eat a green salad most days.
I grew up in a large family where money, of necessity, was carefully managed. Our folks were hardworking and prudent. We drove older cars and took local vacations. Mom and Dad kept the wolf from the door. Our clothes weren’t the latest style but we felt secure. If we wanted any of those special things that revolve in and out of fashion, we had to earn them ourselves. So out of my growing up I offer this bit of wisdom: If money is tight in your home, be grateful. Your poverty just might force you to buy unprocessed food and cook it yourself.
Driving home from the grocery store I asked this question: What do I pay, on average, for a pound of food? So I weighted the groceries and calculated the cost. We paid $2.22 per pound. My horseback estimate of our average cost is $2.50/lb. In a minute I’ll estimate the annual cost to feed a family of six.
At Word of Wisdom Living we’re cost conscious. We really believe that it’s cheaper to buy natural food and prepare it yourself, than to buy the modern American diet (MAD) of processed foods. It takes more time to cook meals from scratch, but that’s how you put the love into your meals. This extra work requires that all the family participate. A meal shouldn’t be about mom slaving alone in the kitchen; rather it can be a daily lesson in family teamwork.
I did a little math for a family of six (two adults, two teens, two children, in total the equivalent of 4.8 adults):
- The family eats 95 pounds of food a week—all prepared my mom and her team.
- The family spends $1016 a month for that food. (This assumes food at $2.50/lb.)
- The annual cost is $12,191, but you can spend a lot more if you’re not organized.
- The key to provident living is to eat more natural foods in season that cost around 1 $/lb. and less meat, dairy, and processed foods that cost 3-8 $/lb.
- Two exceptions to #4: First, enjoy nuts—though they cost more, eat a daily serving. Second, take the beautiful wife out to dinner now and then.
A word about natural foods in season: Last summer I analyzed the produce section of a Smart & Final store. Of about 100 different produce items, all but two could be purchased for under 1 $/lb. (Avocados, for example, cost more.) I was so impressed with this food value that I vowed to mention Smart & Final in a post. I just did, but not to exclude Sprouts or Whole Foods, TJ’s, produce stores like Growers Direct, or the ubiquitous farmers’ markets.
The Vegetable Challenge
Of your 15 or so daily servings of food, try to make 4-5 of them vegetables. That’s the guidance of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and is congruent with the canonized scripture on diet called the Word of Wisdom. After a year of observation we’ve learned this: it’s hard to eat 4-5 daily vegetable servings. If you exclude French fries and the ketchup they’re dipped in, the average American eats about 1 daily vegetable serving. Just one!
Here’s the key to reaching 4-5 daily vegetable servings: Eat a green salad most days.
Growing up, dinner usually included a salad. We are a variety: Waldorf salad (apples, celery, walnuts); potato salad (a lot of work); carrot and raisin salad (really healthy except for the mayo); macaroni salad with canned shrimp (my favorite); and a relic of that time—Jello salad, usually with a can of fruit cocktail.
The beautiful wife grew up eating green salads so that became our standard. Over time the salads were improved by replacing pale iceberg lettuce with dark greens, like spinach, romaine, arugula and broccoli. That’s the new wisdom for greens: the darker the better. Greens cost more in the winter but year around a salad of dark greens is the best nutrition value you can find. Last night for dinner we enjoyed a super nutrition bargain: the last of the Black Bean Soup with a spinach salad. Simple, cheap, healthy, and green.
For more on the benefit of greens, check the YouTube lecture by University of Iowa professor Dr. Terry Wahls. Wahls successfully reversed her MS by turning to a diet of plant foods with lots of greens. It’s called Minding Your Mitochondria.
Traditional Salad Dressing
Enjoy your salad with a dressing made from healthy oil. In our view, olive oil is healthy oil but refined soybean oil, commonly used in commercial dressings, isn’t. In olden times, vinaigrette salad dressing made of olive oil and vinegar (in a 3:1 ratio), plus salt and pepper with any other seasoning, was kept on most tables. Substituting lemon juice for part of the vinegar improves the taste for some. If the tartness of vinegar bothers, add a little honey. Because oil and vinegar don’t mix, the dressing is shaken to create a temporary emulsion when serving.
There was real food wisdom in the vinaigrette tradition. Researchers have discovered that some plant nutrients, like carotenoids, are fat-soluble. These nutrients are more bioavailable if served with a little fat. So be sure to include a dressing made from healthy oil with your salad. For a Basic Vinaigrette Recipe, go here.
Please comment. We talked about cabbage salad in the post, The Joy of Coleslaw, and shared a recipe. In the next post we’ll share a pattern recipe useful for a variety of salad combinations. Please share your favorite green salad recipe, or healthy salad dressing.
Need a reminder? Download our Healthy Change. Print and fold, then place in your kitchen or on your bathroom mirror to help you remember the Healthy Change of the week.