This post is written by Michelle Miller my “virtual intern”. Read more about her below.
Recently, I was given an assignment in my Community Nutrition class where I had to live on a food budget of $24.85 for five days which is less than 5 dollars a day, ($4.97/day) based on the SNAP (what has been known as food stamps) benefit amount in Texas for one person. We were allowed to have salt, pepper, two traditional condiments and one cooking oil/butter/margarine that wouldn’t count against the budget. For five consecutive days, I had to adhere to the monetary constraints and also attempt to be in alignment with the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) of more than 80% and the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
I decided to keep things simple by eating the same thing for lunch and dinner every day. I had black beans and brown rice (made in my electric pressure cooker) with avocado and sautéed frozen pepper and onion blend for lunch and a baked potato with steamed carrots and broccoli for dinner. I alternated two breakfast meals. I either had a fruit smoothie made with bananas, frozen berries, soy milk and agave syrup or shredded wheat cereal with soy milk. For a daily snack I had dry shredded wheat or a banana, depending on what I had for breakfast that day (i.e. if I had cereal for breakfast I had a banana as my snack that day).
About two days into this project boredom set in even though I used to eat the same thing for lunch and dinner for a week at a time back in high school. In order to make this project work, each day I had to pack my lunch since I’m usually on campus for 10-12 hours at a time. That meant that I needed to get to my apartment fairly early in the evening for dinner since packing both lunch and dinner just wouldn’t work for me. I found eating this way challenging. However I was able to fully work within the budget, and I also met at least 80% of my DRI for every macronutrient, vitamin and mineral (which I tracked using MyPlate Super Tracker). Most people eating this way might not even know if they are meeting nutrition goals and that is likely not their top priority.
With the holiday season upon us now, many of us are gathering with family and friends, feeling grateful for what we have. We might be eating a wide assortment of our favorite foods for Thanksgiving, work parties, and holiday parties. Unfortunately, not everyone has this feeling of food abundance at this time. The need for donations at food banks increases significantly during the holiday season. In fact, about 20 percent of the yearly food donations that the United Way food bank receives occur now.
While it is especially important to donate to your local food banks during the holiday season the reality is that food insecurity occurs year round. An estimated 12.7 percent of American households were food insecure at least some time during 2015. This means that they lacked access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members. So rather than get stuffed during the holiday season think about helping others so that they can eat well, too – all year long.
Michelle Miller has been plant-based since 2012 when she was only a sophomore in high school. She is currently a junior nutrition major at Texas A&M University. Her college experience has been enhanced by being involved with the Texas A&M Women’s Chorus as well as with the Vegetarian and Vegan Aggies.