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30-day fast turns into a way of life

August 13, 2010|By ALICIA NOTARIANNI
  • Alicia Notarianni
Joe Crocetta,

There is a common notion that good food costs more than junk food.

I believed that idea to be true.

After all, you can pick up a box of mac and cheese for 50 cents or less. Throw in a pack of hot dogs for $1.50, along with a bag of white buns, and there you have a meal for less than $4.

Try serving a lean meat, a healthful side and a vegetable for that price, and you'll be hard-pressed. That's the way I saw it. Then I started to view food a little differently.

Last July, I did a 30-day fast. Basically, it went like this. No meat, flour, sugar, dairy or chemicals. Going in, I wondered, "What's left to eat?"

This is what I discovered - a lot of wonderful food.

Real food. Not boxes of processed, preserved pseudo-foods like powdered cheese and fruit snacks with the consistency of a bath-time rubber ducky, but real, grown-from-the-earth, God-given stuff to eat.

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Before you get an image of me walking around in Birkenstocks munching on nothing but nuts and berries, let me set things straight. I grew up in a family of straightforward food eaters. Meals consisted of meat and potatoes during the week, pasta on Sundays. Our kitchen was stocked with Oreos and potato chips as well as bananas and grapes.

To this day, I can't speak with any confidence on the subjects of tofu or couscous. I guarantee you've never seen me volunteering at the natural food co-op. So this idea of no flour, no sugar, no chemicals was new to me.

Things did not start off swimmingly, I admit. Leery of life without bread, I'd learned of a flourless, whole grain variety called Ezekiel 4:9. I nearly fell over in the frozen food aisle when I saw the price tag - $4 and some change.

That stung. I wondered who would pay so much for a loaf of bread and why. Meanwhile, because I had committed to the fast, I lobbed the loaf onto the checkout counter and coughed up the change. Once home, I slathered the victual in peanut butter and found that it tasted quite good.

The peanut butter was not my usual sugar-laden Jif or Peter Pan , but a natural type with one ingredient listed on the label - peanuts. To my surprise, it too, was tasty, and it defied the oil and dried lump mixture I'd envisioned natural peanut butter to be. What was more, it didn't cost any more than my old standby brands.

Things were on the upswing.

For breakfast, I ate smoothies made of ice, bananas and strawberries. I got bananas for 29 cents a pound and strawberries for no more than $2 per pound at a local discount grocery store. Delicious and cheap. Some days, I'd make oatmeal. I don't know of a more wallet- or diet-friendly cereal than a 42-ounce drum of old-fashioned oats.

For lunch, I ate a lot of salads. Nearly every week, I could find some type of lettuce on sale. I'd toss in some inexpensive red, black, or garbanzo beans and change things up with whatever veggies I found on sale.

Dinner was where the fun really began. I'd make soup using a generic tomato or vegetable juice base. Still not an all-natural stickler, I'd rinse a variety of canned or frozen veggies and toss them in along with an onion and some garlic.

For a change, the soup was good scooped over a baked potato or a pile of brown rice, both of which fit my bill of growing from the earth. Or I would mix the soup with some rice and stuff it inside a hollowed out green pepper or tomato.

The more I used these inexpensive staple foods, the more inspired I became to change them up and enjoy them more.

Between meals, I'd snack on fruit and almonds, or popcorn popped in a little oil. A small bag of kernels makes numerous pots of popcorn, and costs far less than a bag of chips. When I would get a hankering for a chip, I'd indulge in a $2 bag of blue corn chips made only of pressed corn and oil and preserved with sea salt. A chopped tomato mixed with a spoonful of olive oil and a dash of Italian seasonings made a satisfying salsa-like dip.

Other than the bread, none of the foods I ate were unreasonably priced. Most were staple foods or seasonal produce that regularly go on sale.

Just over a year later, I continue to base my everyday diet on that 30-day fast. It was healthful and nutritious. I feel better physically, and I lost weight without feeling hungry.

I save money because I'm not regularly spending on junk, and the foods I do buy have value.

Alicia Notarianni is a reporter and feature writer for The Herald-Mail. Her e-mail address is alnotarianni@aol.com .

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