Tuesday, December 16, 2008

final grades

You may recall from the rules that the challenge was not just to stay alive or get adequate calories, but rather to eat a healthy, reasonable diet for $25/person/week. So to answer that question we need some numbers. I'm using the USDA recommendations based on age, gender, height, weight and activity level.

A's daily requirements
6 servings bread/grains
2.5 servings vegetables
1.5 servings fruit
3 servings dairy
5 servings meat/beans/nuts/eggs (protein)
1800 calories

S's daily requirements
9 servings bread/grains
3.5 servings vegetables
2 servings fruit
3 servings dairy
6.5 servings meat/beans/nuts/eggs (protein)
2600 calories

Originally I had planned to calculate calories and exchanges for every single meal for each of us individually, but it turns out that's a lot of work. So instead, I made a spreadsheet with everything we bought this week and subtracted out what we didn't eat, which provides a nice summary of everything we put in our stomachs this week.

Here's all the stuff left over that we didn't eat.

It's actually quite a nice pile. It would be a good head start if we were doing this again this week. For the detail-oriented, we had this much left.

1 lb 4 oz carrots
12.5 oz rice
10 oz. bacon scraps
3 lbs 4 oz flour
9 tea bags
3 cloves of garlic
4.5 oz mayonnaise
1.25 oz oatmeal
2.25 oz salt
a bit of cinnamon, red pepper flakes, and chili powder
2 oz peanut butter (I forgot to put it in the group photo)

So I subtracted that from the original list, calculated servings and calories for everything else, and here's what we ate this week

One week's worth of (inexpensive) food consumption for one couple
188.5 servings bread/grains
52 servings vegetables
26 servings fruit
36 servings dairy
102 servings meat/beans/nuts/eggs (protein)
35,991 calories

It seems like a lot and it really was. It's a little weird to read in that format so I think it might help to think of it terms of in daily requirements and daily consumption.

Combined Daily Requirement for both of us
15 servings bread/grains
6 servings vegetables
3.5 servings fruit
6 servings dairy
11.5 servings meat/beans/nuts/eggs (protein)
4400 calories

Our Average Daily Consumption
(what we actually ate)
27 servings breads/grains
7 servings vegetables
4 servings fruit
5 servings dairy
15 servings meat/beans/nuts/eggs (protein)
5142 calories

The moral of the story? On the "success" side we definitely cleared the bar for adequate consumption of vegetables, fruit, and protein. We were one dairy serving shy each day, which isn't a huge deal, but it is one point of failure. It's annoying. I spent a huge chunk of my budget on dairy products (20% of my total), and the prospect of having to spend even more on them is daunting. Powdered milk would be a great money saver over time, but I just didn't have the money upfront for the initial investment. (It's cheap for each serving, but really expensive for a box of it.)

Our primary failure was one that I never even remotely suspected. It was the over abundance of calories. Way, way, way too many calories (I suspect from endless loaves of white bread). We would gain weight on this diet, and we would gain it quickly. It takes 3,500 extra calories (above and beyond your daily caloric needs) to gain one pound. So this week, we ate enough extra calories to gain 1.5 pounds between the two of us. (Sorry, I don't have a scale to be able to confirm that). Over a month, that's 6.4 extra pounds, and over a year, a whopping 77 pounds. If we split that weight gain 40/60 between myself and S., we would go from normal weight to over weight in a single year of eating this way. Of course, those calculations are predicated on the notion that we would continue to eat excess calories every week without regulating our intake toward a natural baseline, but nonetheless, it is pretty educational.

So it's not exactly clear whether we were successful or not. We ate healthy with respect to meeting exchanges, and we didn't starve. On the other hand, that many extra calories is not a good thing. It's really weird. I didn't expect over-eating to be our downfall.

I'm giving myself a 'B' for a final grade.

Next up: lessons learned


Tracey said...

Well, it's certainly no wonder why obesity is an 'epidemic' in poor areas.

Betty Ann said...

..right Obesity happens this way.