Fighting the hunger demon

Today I fought another battle in a long standing, internal war. I had a craving for fast food.

My current favorite is to stop by McDonalds for a small fry and hamburger, which costs around $3. This little tasty dish is not only fast, easy, and cheap, it also instantly quells the hunger demon I have inside.

When I become hungry, it happens instantly and severely. I go from perfectly fine to voracious faster than Formula 1 cars can get to 60 mph. It is an all-consuming hunger that turns me into a single minded gargoyle that will rip off anyone’s face who stands in the way. Bottom line, she isn’t pleasant.

Because of that, sometimes I can make the worst food choices when hungry.

I love food, and all types of food. I love healthy foods as much as the unhealthy ones, and can happily eat either. However, what seems to tip the scale, sending me into the bad decision realm, is the convenience.

I could say it is cheaper, but based on how much money I spend compared to the nutritional value, I am just tossing money out the window and ensuring I will pay more money in doctors bills down the road, too. Plus, there are many things that can be bought at the grocery store that would make a great lunch around $3. Most notably are sandwiches.

And that is exactly what I succeeded at doing today. I am proud to say I drove right past McDonalds and made a toasted roast beef sandwich at home, instead.

The roast beef cost about $6 for half a pound, and makes about 4 sandwiches, costing $1.50 per sandwich. The loaf of whole wheat bread — with only recognizable ingredients — was $3. At 20 slices per loaf, bread for each sandwich costs $.30. The Mayo was $4 for the jar — the olive oil version. The jar says 60 servings per container, and I believe it, it takes me forever to go through a jar of mayo.  Each serving is about $.07. Then, I added tomatoes and butter lettuce. I paid $4 for 5 vine ripe tomatoes, each tomato makes 3 to 4 sandwiches, which is about $.35 per sandwich. The lettuce I picked myself from a garden I volunteer at, so there was no monetary cost. In total, my sandwich cost about $2.22.

However, on the nutritional side…

• The McDonald’s small hamburger with small fry are:

480 calories

31 percent daily value of fat (based on a 200 calorie diet)

14 percent fiber

15 grams of protein

2 percent vitamin A

10 percent vitamin C

12 percent calcium

19 percent iron

• Compared to the sandwich:

218 calories

8 percent fat

19 percent fiber

7.5 grams of protein

24 percent vitamin A

8 percent vitamin C

17 percent calcium

8 percent iron

2 percent potassium

(Nutrient information gathered from Caloriecount.about.com and from McDonalds websites.)

After I calculated the nutrition information, I was surprised to see so many nutrients listed for the burger and fries. However, the sandwich still won overall with more vitamins and having less fat.

Making healthier food choices are better, even if it costs a bit more. It is hard to factor the quality of life from having energy and feeling fit, and a healthy diet is key to improving both.

Working at a desk job, and eating plenty of snacks while I was there, brought me to the heaviest weight I have ever been and a BMI of 35 percent. Over the past year, my husband and I have made incremental changes like this to our diet, and it has improved our health immensely. And although I still have plenty of bad food habits — mainly sugary sodas — I have reduced my BMI to 26 percent. In that time, I also quit smoking, a task that usually is rewarded with unpleasant weight gain.

By making many small changes,  I don’t feel like our lives are lacking either, we eased into a new normal.

Here are some changes we made:

We traded the cheap white bread for whole wheat bread, with real ingredients.

We stopped going down the cracker and cookie isle.

We stopped buying cereal. (It is loaded with sugars and not much else.)

We traded potato chips for pretzel sticks.

We make our own pizza with whole wheat flour and stopped ordering pizza from restaurants.

We stopped buying margarine, and since butter is more expensive, we use it sparingly or substitute with olive oil.

Instead of sauteing chicken, we bake or broil it.

We go to the produce section first, and pick as much as we want. The half-full basket discourages over filling it with processed foods later on.

And the biggest improvement is we cook together and share ideas with each other and friends. There is nothing like a shared, tried and true recipe to get you excited about new ways of eating.

Food is a central part of our lives, whether we live to eat, or eat to live. The diet choices we make effect every aspect of our world, from our budget, to our health, environment and even happiness. Although it might not seem as important in today’s civilization, food is paramount to our survival, and quality of life.

I would love to know how you make healthier choices with your food. Pease, feel free to share your tips with me below in the comments.

Tip to keep the hunger demon at bay:

When I was planning a weeklong camping trip for July, I bought apples for us to eat every day as a simple fruit to have. Best part is, It keeps long and doesn’t need to be stored in a fridge. Since then, I have kept up the practice and carry an apple and a granola bar with me in my bag where ever I go for when that sudden bout of hunger hits me.  The snack gives me enough nutrition and sustains me long enough to plan a proper meal.

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