A Minimalist Diet: A Thought Experiment
Minimalism lifestyles focus on the essentials – which inherently has some cost-savings associated with it. When you are not buying things you don’t need, you save money!
What’s the diet equivalent? Trying to make your dollar go as far as possible – in terms of reaching all the nutrients you need without excess in any one category. All the nutrients we need include: essential amounts of protein and fat, as well as the 28 micronutrients. And while it’s not essential, most everyone agrees that a healthy daily dose of fiber is health protective.
So, the question becomes – what is the fewest and cheapest items to hit these nutritional targets?
Some of the best ways to save money on food is selecting frozen or canned options. Fresh food is so expensive to keep it looking fresh in transit from the farm to the store. Lots of costs in labor and transportation are necessary to ensure it looks good enough to eat. As such, fresh is usually the most expensive.
Unfortunately, frozen or canned goods usually come with some stigma about being “less than” in terms of nutritional value. Yet, these items are often processed at the peak of freshness and can contain just as many nutrients (if not more) than fresh counterparts shipped across the world and sitting in the bottom of your refrigerator.
Because these items don’t have to look as good (we only see the cans or bags), as well as the preserved form makes them more durable, this cuts costs dramatically. (Be sure you look for canned items in water or frozen items without sugar and sauces.)
Some people have raised concerns about the coating of cans (bisphenol A or BPA), yet the FDA has determined canned food is safe. And it’s always important to remember there is a risk of not eating these items. Said another way, if canned items are how individuals afford fruits and vegetables the potential exposure risk (particularly when deemed safe by the FDA) is worth it because there is also a risk of eating a more processed food diet.
What’s a cost effective #800gChallenge®?
One of the common concerns about the #800gChallenge® is that it’s too expensive. It can be if you are trying to do larger amounts of locally sourced raspberries, or eating exotic tropical fruits shipped halfway around the world. But many of us have relatively cheap options most of the year.
For example, items like black beans, sweet potatoes, bananas, and carrots are typically below $1 per pound. This means you can get 800 grams of fruits and vegetables (1.76 pounds) for less than $2. Items like spinach and broccoli are also relatively cheap (and have good frozen options).
Many people unfortunately see these items as “less than” then say berries or kale when in reality all of these are really healthy options and are just as good as berries or kale. We have to remember that each food contains an array of nutrients, from calories to macros, to varying compositions of the 28 micronutrients.
There is no one perfect food for the diet. Many foods are needed to meet your nutrient needs and with that understanding, we can stop looking for “perfect” foods.
Healthy Foods are Not Just Fruits and Veggies
Of course fruits and vegetables are healthy, but they are not the only foods with not too many calories and lots of vitamins and minerals. Things like eggs, milk, tuna, and oatmeal are some of the cheapest staples and provide a ton of nutrients.
Again, people often see them as “less than” vegetables – when there is actually a limiting factor of vegetables: you don’t get that many calories, and you don’t get much protein.
While filling up on low-calorie items is a good thing in our modern food environment, the truth is, we need other foods in our diets to reach our caloric needs.
For example, carrots are more calorically dense than other vegetables like kale. Yet, to eat 2,000 calories in carrots, you would need to eat more than 5,700 grams! It’s practically impossible; you would literally be full of carrots. And you’d only eat 34 grams of protein.
This is great example of how we need other foods besides fruits and vegetables in our diet, and things like eggs, tuna, and oatmeal help round out protein and calorie needs.
So what is this Minimalist Diet?
To achieve diet minimalism, the challenge was to reach:
• 2,000 calories,
• 120g of protein
• 30g of fiber
• 100% of the RDA of vitamins and minerals with data in the app Cronomter.
With the cheapest and fewest foods possible. If you want to learn what this magical combination of foods was, listen to this episode of The Consistency Project (above).