IBD & My Journey to Healthy Eating
A few years ago, I went to Brazil to teach English on a 6 month assignment. Brazil is my favorite place to travel and I’d been there several times before, but this time was different. Everyday I was exhausted, fatigued, weak, and my stomach was in constant pain. Every time I ate, I either threw up or had diarrhea. I had unbearable stomach cramps and there was blood when I went to the restroom (sorry for those of you who are sensitive things like this)!
I got so weak at times that I was hospitalized three times in four months from passing out due to being nutrient deficient. After dealing with more health complications, losing weight, developing skin problems and thin nails, I started to struggle emotionally. Feeling so bad physically and not knowing how to fix it, really took a toll on me and I had really low moments mentally. I didn’t want to sightsee, go to the beach, or hang out with friends. I was so miserable. I just wanted to feel better. So, I decided to cut my stay short and come back to the US early to get some help from a therapist and a medical doctor.
I visited a gastrointestinal (GI) doctor who put me through a series of tests, including a colonoscopy. Long story short, I discovered that the culprit of my health issues was Irritable Bowel Disease (IBD). IBD is caused by inflammation in the lining of your digestive tract or large intestine. A few symptoms of IBD are diarrhea, ulcers, bloody stool, and anemia.
Upon this discovery, my GI doctor told me that I will likely battle digestive issues for the rest of my life and I would need to make some serious lifestyle changes if I wanted to manage things better. Each day, I take vitamins, supplements, and on occasion, I’ll take medication if needed. But the biggest game changer for managing IBD, has been changing my diet.
I tried so many different diets; vegan, vegetarian, only organic, paleo, keto, and the list goes on. For years, I struggled to find a diet that worked for my body and was also enjoyable for me. I finally settled on eating vegetarian meals on weekdays and eating meat only on weekends/holidays. I buy whole, organic, non-GMO foods because my body responds better to cleaner ingredients.
I am so much happier now. Most importantly, I’m SO much healthier now!
After years of battling stomach issues, I always advise people to eat healthy, organic foods. But they always come back at me with the same rebuttal… “eating healthy is too expensive”. We’ve all heard this many times. You may have even said this yourself. Just buying generic foods can sometimes stretch the budget, so buying natural, organic foods can definitely push you over the edge.
But it doesn’t have to be that way.
Although food is one of the easiest places to go over budget, it is also one of the easiest budgeting categories to control. Heavily overspending on food was what caused me to start budgeting in the first place. Now, I’ve been able to save and invest more money than ever before.
Cooking cheap, healthy meals may be simpler than you think.
I know it is strange to discussed digestive issues and food recipes in the same post, but nonetheless, here are a few of my favorite inexpensive, healthy meals!
Cost per serving: $1.05
Calories per serving: 180
I know, I know, a lot of people are not fans of oatmeal. Oatmeal is one of my favorite meals! I eat it just about everyday. It is cheap, hearty, and super healthy.
- 1 cup steel-cut oats
- 1 cup of non-dairy milk (I like rice milk, but you can use regular dairy milk if you’d like)
- 2 cups water
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons honey
- Optional: 1 tsp of ground flax (I add this for extra fiber)
- Optional Toppings: fresh fruit, sliced almonds, chia seeds, or nut butter
- Add oats, milk, water, salt, and cinnamon in a medium-sized pot
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low.
- Simmer uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes until it reaches your desired thickness, stir occasionally.
- Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
- Add 1/2 teaspoon of honey and any other desired toppings to each serving.
Cost per serving: $3.10
Calories per serving: 200
Turkey is like the underrated protein powerhouse. It sure packs a nutritional punch by providing a high amount of protein, a low amount of fat, and a number of vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc, potassium, phosphorus, vitamin B6, and niacin, which are essential for the body’s energy production.
- 2 pounds ground turkey 93% lean
- 1 cup bread crumbs or rolled oats
- 2/3 cup onion minced
- 1/2 cup fresh parsley minced
- 2 large eggs
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 Tbsp of salt
- 1 Tbsp of seasoned salt
- 1 Tbsp of freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees
- In a large bowl, combine ground turkey, bread crumbs, onion, parsley, eggs, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, basil, oregano, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.
- Using a strong spatula or your hands
- Spray a baking sheet with nonstick spray
- Shape the mixture into 1-inch balls.
- Place meatballs on the baking sheet, brush them with olive oil
- Bake for 15 to 20 minutes
Cilantro Lime Chicken
Cost per serving: $2.85
Calories per serving: 236
This easy recipe for Cilantro Lime Chicken is full of flavor and so easy for busy weeknights. Make a simple marinade with cilantro, lime, garlic, and spices, then cook it in a skillet or on the grill. Serve with my favorite Cilantro Lime Rice, grilled veggies, or tortillas for a fast and tasty dinner.
- 4 chicken thighs bone-in, skin-on (about 1 1/2 pounds)
- 4 tablespoons olive oil or avocado oil
- 2 teaspoons lime zest (from 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup fresh lime juice (from the same 2 limes)
- 1/4 cup cilantro finely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin ground
- Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Whisk together 2 tablespoons of oil, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, cumin, and red pepper flakes. Add chicken and toss to coat. Let marinate in the fridge for 30 minutes and up to 2 hours.
- When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 425°. In a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat, heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Season chicken with salt and pepper, then add to skillet skin-side down and pour in remaining marinade. Sear until the skin is golden and crispy, about 6 minutes. Flip and cook 2 minutes more.
- Transfer skillet to oven and bake until chicken is cooked through, 10 to 12 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Serve over white rice
Cost per serving: $2.70
Calories per serving: 368
- 4.5 cups of water
- 4 medium carrots (sliced)
- 1 medium onion (chopped)
- 2/3 cup dried brown lentils
- 6 ounces of tomato paste
- 2 Tbsp minced fresh parsley
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 2 teaspoon garlic salt
- 1/4 Tbsp dried thyme
- 1/4 Tbsp pepper
Optional: This is a vegetarian dish, but feel free to add turkey sausage for extra flavor
In a large saucepan, combine the water, carrots, onion and lentils; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until vegetables and lentils are tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients; return to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.
I know it doesn’t always seem like it, but it is completely possible to maintain a healthy diet while sticking to your budget.
Just like with with everything else, you need to plan ahead and be intentional about your choices and you’ll be able to make it happen.
Now, go write out your grocery list and head to the supermarket!