Friday, October 28, 2011

What Happens When Stuff Happens?

Friends of Northeast Florida Community Gardens staffer, Katie Salz, is doing a series of articles on her experiences trying to eat a healthy, balanced diet with only the resources provided by the safety net for Americans, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). To see all of the articles to date, Katie's SNAP Journey.

My shopping trip on Day 1 drove home the importance of planning when trying to eat on a limited budget. 

My experiences on Day 2 drove home the importance of preparation and reiterated the need for planning. 

Our dog has been sick again, and had an appointment for the vet. For breakfast, I had eaten a grilled cheese with an extra piece of bread and a peanut butter sandwich for lunch. With no idea how long I would be at the vet, I should have packed an extra peanut butter sandwich. I went to the wrong location, which set us back an extra hour. By the time we were in the right location I was so hungry that I had a headache.

Normally, I would accept the high cost of a fancy power bar. At almost 50% of my daily food budget, I was searching for something other than my usual Luna bar. The Snickers bar I had eaten before my 1/2 marathon served me well, so I checked out the nutrition stats again:

Calories: 280
Total Fat: 14 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Fiber: 1 gram
Sugar: 30 grams
Protein: 4 grams

Without a 13-mile run in my afternoon, I decided to investigate other candy bar labels. The Peanut M&Ms seemed a slightly better choice:

Calories: 250
Total Fat: 13 grams
Saturated Fat: 5 grams
Fiber: 2 grams
Sugar: 25 grams
Protein: 5 grams

I was hungry and we were late, so I checked in with my headache and stomachache one more time before quickly buying the M&Ms. I arrived at the vet's office to find their Halloween candy. After much debate I decided that it was reasonable to assume that anyone utilizing SNAP (Supplemental Nutitrition Assistance Program) would come across a desk with Halloween candy, likely at a school or city building. I washed down my M&Ms with 2 bite size Kit Kat bars, a bite size Three Musketeers and a bite size Snickers bar. All the sugar held me over for the next few hours, but I still felt guilty for not having been more prepared.

It turns out that being that hungry was going to be par for the course. I had plenty of food and lots of calories, but there was a lot missing that kept me hungry. Here is the nutritional breakdown for Day #2, using
Breakfast: 2 pieces wheat bread, 2 ounces cheddar cheese
Snack: 2 pieces of wheat bread, 2 tablespoons of peanut butter
Lunch: Cup of brown rice, 3/4 cup of vegetarian baked beans, applesauce
Dinner: 2 tablespoons peanut butter, 60 grams cornflakes, 1 cup yogurt
Daily Total:
What do all those numbers mean?

The numbers say I had a little too much fat, too much sodium and that I didn't get enough fiber or calcium. I know my body, and it thought it was way too much sodium and not nearly enough fiber. Keeping my body tuned properly requires about 40 grams of fiber daily, 100 grams of protein and around 1,800 milligrams of sodium. No wonder I am hungry! I need a lot more fiber and a lot more protein! I am also not used to this amount of high fructose corn syrup - it's in the cereal and in the bread. I am eating a lot of modified cornstarch and aspartame as well as natural and artificial flavorings. I typically avoid all of these ingredients and can't help but wonder if they are making me feel hungrier, less settled in my stomach and already causing my fingers to swell. 

Had I planned my shopping better, could I have gotten more frozen veggies and some fresh veggies? Relied more on yogurt and cereal for protein and fiber? Avoided so many chemicals? I'm not even through this week and I'm already planning another challenge week! 

~ Katie Salz
October 27, 2011