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There has been a good deal of discussion lately on poor nutrition. Several posters have suggested that nutritional foods cost more and/or take more work to prepare. That is not necessarily true. I eat (mostly) according to my health needs, I eat cheaply, and I spend little time on preparing my food.

I want to emphasize that my personal answers won't fit many people's needs or situations. What I recommend is my questions. My answers are merely to show what one person did with those questions.

Most Yanks ingest far too much salt, sugar (and/or corn syrup), fat, and protein. All of those, except the sweeteners, are necessary for your health. It's just that we get more than is good for us. Conventional wisdom acknowledges this with regard to fat; it often regards more protein as good.

If you have healthy kidneys, you can handle the stress that the normal high-protein American diet puts on them. Still, stressing them gives you no benefit. Unless you are getting your protein needs from animals -- meat, fish, or fowl -- then you need to take care that you consume enough of both grains and beans. Each one has an imbalance of protein compared to animal -- and thus human -- needs. The imbalances, however, go in opposite directions.

Okay, when I was diagnosed with (type II) diabetes and some other problems, I looked at my diet in terms of 2 questions:
What was healthy for me?
What of that would I enjoy eating?

I must emphasize the order of these questions. Time and again, I've seen people who have nutrition-related health problems start with what they liked before their diagnosis, and then they try to approximate that within their restrictions. The results tend to be something that neither suits their taste nor is healthy in their condition. Start with what is healthy, millions of foods are, and select among the new tastes those that appeal.

My answers below the orange vortex.

If I were going to cut down on salt and sugar, where was I going to get taste? Well, I enjoy strong tastes. I decided -- after some consideration and a little experimentation -- on onions and chiles. Either of these is more expensive than salt, but enough for a taste is remarkably cheap. I now cook rice with one -- or occasionally two -- dried red chiles broken up. That costs something like a penny a day. Onions are more expensive per taste needs, but they also provide nutrition.

Rather than cut back on oils, I went to canola oil. It is unsaturated, and I avoid cooking it, which would turn it into trans-fats.

Among carbohydrates, the bane of diabetics, I can tolerate rice. (I use brown rice, another expense, but not a great one. My 15-lb or 20-lb bags cost less per pound than cheap bread does, and then cooking nearly triples the weight.)

For almost every meal, I eat rice with a topping and a side dish of vegetables. (I don't, but should, eat salads.) The vegetable I normally eat is green beans; this specialization on one vegetable is a quirk of mine, and probably an unhealthy one.

The toppings I use are:

Tomato topping:
One 28-oz can of diced tomatoes. I onion.
Chop the onion up fairly small, put it in with the tomatoes and stir. This makes 5 servings usually. (The local Jewel grocery store sells canned tomatoes as diced, petite diced, crushed, and tomato sauce. When I'm shopping, I get an assortment. Any style works with the recipe. My wife, who somehow thinks I have restricted tastes, gets only the diced and petite-diced styles for me.)

Fish topping:
One 15-oz can of mackerel. Greens. One onion.
Put a cup of water into a 1-quart saucepan. Put it on the fire. Rinse and chop some greens. When the water comes to a boil, put in enough greens to fill the sauce pan. Put the rest of the chopped greens in a plastic bag back in the refrigerator. (I am unable to estimate how many greens will fill a quart before I chop them.) Open the can of mackerel almost all the way. When the water comes to a boil again, pour the juice from the can over the greens (holding the remains of the lid on the can so the fish don't come out) and cover them. Set the timer for 30 minutes. Chop the onion. When the timer sounds, turn off the heat, empty the fish into the pan and crush the fish slices into smaller bits. Then add the onion. This, too, makes five servings.

I generally eat the tomato topping on rice with a side dish of green beans for breakfast and supper. I generally eat the fish topping on rice with a side dish of green beans for lunch. Many lunches, I eat the tomato topping instead. On Sundays, my church often has food after the service, and I often can eat that food instead of my own lunch. Most months, I have supper at the NDFA meeting, which is held in a restaurant. I, of course, have other exceptions to the menu I've laid out.

Now, as I said above, my answers are not going to appeal to many. My questions, however, I will push. The recipes I've shared in this part might appeal to people looking for cheap, quick, nutritious meals.

Of course:
1 Much of the quickness of these meals comes from my cooking four meals worth of rice and five meals worth of topping at once. If you insist on your meals being served warm, you need to add in heating time as well. (On the other hand, I cook for one person, and I cook only one dish at a time. Needing to cook both rice and topping is a crisis.)
2 A great deal of the cheapness of the meals depends in buying in sufficient quantity. I buy rice in 20-lb or 15-lb sacks, onions in 3-lb sacks, and canned tomatoes in 28-oz cans. If you want to eat these recipes once a month, you might find that the food spoils while you wait between servings.
3 My prescriptions depend upon my shopping situation. On the north side of Chicago, there is enough diversity of ethnicity that large sacks of rice and (relatively) large bags of dried chiles are available.

If I were going to cut down on salt and sugar, where was I going to get taste? Well, I enjoy strong tastes. I decided -- after some consideration and a little experimentation -- on onions and chiles. Either of these is more expensive than salt, but enough for a taste is remarkably cheap. I now cook rice with one -- or occasionally two -- dried red chiles broken up. That costs something like a penny a day. Onions are more expensive per taste needs, but they also provide nutrition.

Rather than cut back on oils, I went to canola oil. It is unsaturated, and I avoid cooking it, which would turn it into trans-fats.

Among carbohydrates, the bane of diabetics, I can tolerate rice. (I use brown rice, another expense, but not a great one. My 15-lb or 20-lb bags cost less per pound than cheap bread does, and then cooking nearly triples the weight.)

For almost every meal, I eat rice with a topping and a side dish of vegetables. (I don't, but should, eat salads.) The vegetable I normally eat is green beans; this specialization on one vegetable is a quirk of mine, and probably an unhealthy one.

The toppings I use are:

Tomato topping:
One 28-oz can of diced tomatoes. I onion.
Chop the onion up fairly small, put it in with the tomatoes and stir. This makes 5 servings usually. (The local Jewel grocery store sells canned tomatoes as diced, petite diced, crushed, and tomato sauce. When I'm shopping, I get an assortment. Any style works with the recipe. My wife, who somehow thinks I have restricted tastes, gets only the diced and petite-diced styles for me.)

Fish topping:
One 15-oz can of mackerel. Greens. One onion.
Put a cup of water into a 1-quart saucepan. Put it on the fire. Rinse and chop some greens. When the water comes to a boil, put in enough greens to fill the sauce pan. Put the rest of the chopped greens in a plastic bag back in the refrigerator. (I am unable to estimate how many greens will fill a quart before I chop them.) Open the can of mackerel almost all the way. When the water comes to a boil again, pour the juice from the can over the greens (holding the remains of the lid on the can so the fish don't come out) and cover them. Set the timer for 30 minutes. Chop the onion. When the timer sounds, turn off the heat, empty the fish into the pan and crush the fish slices into smaller bits. Then add the onion. This, too, makes five servings.

I generally eat the tomato topping on rice with a side dish of green beans for breakfast and supper. I generally eat the fish topping on rice with a side dish of green beans for lunch. Many lunches, I eat the tomato topping instead. On Sundays, my church often has food after the service, and I often can eat that food instead of my own lunch. Most months, I have supper at the NDFA meeting, which is held in a restaurant. I, of course, have other exceptions to the menu I've laid out.

Now, as I said above, my answers are not going to appeal to many. My questions, however, I will push. The recipes I've shared in this part might appeal to people looking for cheap, quick, nutritious meals.

Of course:
1 Much of the quickness of these meals comes from my cooking four meals worth of rice and five meals worth of topping at once. If you insist on your meals being served warm, you need to add in heating time as well. (On the other hand, I cook for one person, and I cook only one dish at a time. Needing to cook both rice and topping is a crisis.)
2 A great deal of the cheapness of the meals depends in buying in sufficient quantity. I buy rice in 20-lb or 15-lb sacks, onions in 3-lb sacks, and canned tomatoes in 28-oz cans. If you want to eat these recipes once a month, you might find that the food spoils while you wait between servings.
3 My prescriptions depend upon my shopping situation. On the north side of Chicago, there is enough diversity of ethnicity that large sacks of rice and (relatively) large bags of dried chiles are available.

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