About Me,  budgeting,  self care,  THM

Trim Healthy Mama hacks: cheap and cheats

One of the most frequent questions I’ve gotten about THM since I first mentioned it back in August has been “can you do this on a budget?” And to that I answer a hearty “yes,” yes you can. I did buy a couple of the recommended “specialty” ingredients when I first got started (and I bought the THM brand of them because having it land on my porch 4 days later was easier than hitting up Whole Foods or Natural Grocers, and cheaper too) and I’ve been happy with them. But, aside from the collagen powder, I actually don’t think they’re necessary to do the plan well.

I have fallen in love with the collagen stirred into my black espresso in the morning and it has made my nails fantastically indestructible and long. Like pregnancy long. My hair has yet to be impacted, but I have big dreams. Big dreams, I tell you.

Anyway, in retrospect, were I to do it over (and when I do reorder in a couple months) I will probably only get the collagen again. I also bought their gelatin, the super sweet stevia/xylitol blend, and their whey powder. I do use the whey powder in my smoothies occasionally, but I can’t detect a real difference whether or not I do. The sweet blend is fine for sprinkling into drinks or adding to aforementioned smoothies, but I don’t like it in baked goods and my kids don’t like it in everything. The gelatin I just find to be redundant when I am already using the collagen so much. And since it “sets” when cooled, it makes leftover stew turn (temporarily) into jello when refrigerated, which is kind of entertaining but also kind of gross.

Some of my real staples for doing this plan, however, are just regular grocery store items that haven’t impacted our budget bottom line at all. Here are some of my absolute necessities for making THM work for me:

Frozen okra. This one I was majorly skeptical about, but it actually does have the magical, thickening quality they talk about in the book and it actually does make smoothies taste like milkshakes and gives chilis and soups a restaurant-quality mouthfeel. It is completely tasteless to me, so I use it with reckless abandon in white chicken chili and chocolate peanut butter smoothies alike. My King Soopers (maybe Kroger to you) sells it for $.99/bag in the frozen section, and I go through about a bag every 2 weeks. It’s dirt cheap.

Peanut powder. This was one of those ingredients I rolled my eyes haaaaard over when reading about it in their encyclopedic book. Because come on, live a little. Peanut butter is awesome.

Well, peanut butter is awesome, but in THM world it’s also always a crossover food because it’s loaded with fat and carbs. So it’s not a good weight loss option. (Duh? But what can I say, I have the palate of a 5 year old.) I found this Jif brand pressed peanut powder that has about 80% of the calories and really most of the flavor of peanut butter. Allegedly you can add water to it and reconstitute it to approximate something spreadable, but since I don’t hate myself I’ve kept to stirring it into smoothies and yogurt.

Which brings me to my next favorite: Oikos triple zero greek yogurt. I’m late to the greek yogurt fan club because frankly, what’s the big deal about yogurt? Well, when ice cream is off the table, yogurt suddenly looks pretty dang good. This stuff is on plan and tastes great when mixed with either the peanut powder I mentioned or straight dark cocoa powder (I prefer Trader Joe’s brand). It’s a satisfying “dessert” kind of thing after dinner, or it’s a good standalone snack in it’s own right. I can find these for about $3.50 per 4-pack at the store, so they’re not dirt cheap, but they’re a sight more affordable than Ben and Jerry’s or anything at Starbucks.

Speaking of the green monster. Listen, I try to use my consumer dollars to advocate for truth and justice and the American way as often as I can, but when fall rolls around I am putty in the hands of the PSL. But the PSL (that’s pumpkin spice latte for you non basic b’s out there) is emphatically not THM approved. I actually can’t think of a diet or wellness plan that artificial pumpkin sauce does fit nicely into, come to think of it…but, BUT. Sometimes you need a PSL. And so I give you:

“Poor mom’s PSL” (also works great for peppermint mocha!)

-order a short (that’s child sized but trust me, it’s plenty of caffeine and sugar) dark roast. Right now Thanksgiving blend is my jam

-add one small (definitely emphasize to them the smallness) pump of pumpkin puree

-ask for room for cream and top off with milk of your choice. I like half n half because I’m not significantly motivated to get to a size 8.

You will spend around $2 and you will consume around 1/4 the calories of a traditional handcrafted beverage, depending on what milk you choose. This is not strict THM by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a lot closer to “on plan” than bombing through a grande PSL with 600 calories and 19 grams of sugar in it.

A few more must-haves for getting through the day and feeling full and satisfied:


nitrate free turkey/ham (Trader Joe’s has this for about $3.99/pack, which I can stretch about 5 lunches)

mustard and mayo (and ranch because I’m a forever cheater)

romaine hearts for making lettuce wraps (as low as $1.99 for a 3 pack and will make endless lettuce wraps)

eggs. Just so many eggs.

your favorite cheese.

old fashioned GF oats (I eat small portions of this when I eat it so it’s still considered on plan)

sweet potatoes

chicken thighs or breasts, baked ahead of time (thighs would be considered S meals most of the time)

a pot of chili or chicken tortilla soup (minus the tortillas. Sob.)

And that’s basically it. I eat pretty similar looking meals from day to day, and I don’t feel hungry. I also cheat a lot. Like, maybe I’m on plan 75% of the time? Some days are more cheat-y than others, but this still seems to work. I think the biggest reason is that when I do eat “off plan,” I just acknowledge that “you know, this Chipotle taco is off plan” and then I go back to eating the fats/carbs separated way at my next meal time. Usually I bomb off of restrictive diets after a bad date night or birthday party or event…you know the shame spiral of doom of which I speak?

I hope this is helpful to someone out there thinking about giving it a go. I would strongly encourage you to try it now and don’t worry about Thanksgiving and Christmas because guess what? I am going to eat a pound of mashed potatoes and gluten free pumpkin pie and not give any cares. And then on black Friday/boxing day? Back to the plan.

I do want to say that I think one reason this has worked so well for me is because nothing is outright “illegal” or “bad,” except for white sugar and white flour (which I can’t eat anyway, and which I acknowledge to be harmful in the first place.) I’ve struggled with weight and body image issues for most of my life, and a big chunk of time was lost to the abusive demands of an eating disorder. For that reason I tend to not do well with super restrictive diets for the sake of diet, like the Whole 30. It puts me back into a mental place of “good food/bad food,” and I almost always end up rebelling by eating something naughty around day 20 and then just blowing it.

For whatever reason, THM has clicked really well in my brain and has actually helped to repair my relationship with food. I have self control and moderation that I’d kind of given up ever feeling, and best of all it’s really easy to derail the shame spiral of “oh no I ate something I wasn’t supposed to” by just shrugging it off and starting fresh at the next meal.

Here’s a little progress snap from trick or treating last weekend, when I want dressed as these fine ladies

mom jeans

and nobody in my family  got it, so I untucked my shirt and took off my belt and just looked vaguely middle aged and haggard. But in pearls.

progress halloween

I don’t think it’s magical. I think it’s about blood sugar control. And I think the weird carb/fat separation rule essentially keeps your blood sugar in check more than anything else, because by nature you can’t really overdo it on carbs and eat the foods they recommend you eat. But I’m not too sure that any of us – food sensitivities or not – should be eating white flour or sugar every day, let alone at every meal. I’ve talked about it with a friend who’s also dabbling in the plan and we think what it comes down to is “eating like a grown up.” And grown ups don’t get to eat french fries every day. Or pancakes. Which is admittedly sad, but then again, once a week french fries are still good!

I’m down about 19 pounds since starting this in August (and more than 50(!!) since Luke was born, incidentally), and I think I have about 20 to go. I’m holding out on Old Navy until I can comfortably rock the size 10 jeans and making do with some questionable jeggings from Rome and baggy 12’s for now, but I did buy a handful of size M tops at a thrift store last week, and fitting into a Gap medium feels huge. Yuge, I tell you.


  • AnneMarie

    Nice job! You look great. I’m gonna have to give okra a try; I don’t think I’ve ever cooked with it before. Thanks for mentioning that!
    I don’t know if you’re a cheesecake person, but I recently discovered Greek Yogurt “Cheesecake,” and it’s awesome. A Baking Girl website has a recipe that doesn’t call for any cream cheese, only fat free greek yogurt, and it’s awesome (I don’t know if y’all have Aldi, but they sell big containers for pretty cheaply which work great).

  • Amanda

    No sugar or oil added peanut butter doesn’t have too many carbs! Try the Trader Joe’s. I should try mixing th on flour into more stuff though. My kids (and I) love the broccoli soup from the thm cookbook, I can’t believe how much. Hidden okra!

    Basically, I go through a pint of cream a week and am back to my size two, maybe three, babies ago. Also, I have less trouble getting up in the morning, which may be enough to keep me on plan by itself.

  • Theresa

    After reading your post I started THM on Oct. 7 and I’m down 8lbs! The best part is I have a healthier relationship with food. I just wanted to say thanks for introducing me to THM.

  • Lesley

    Jenny the book got panned w pretty awful reviews; verbose, tedious, too long. I was intimidated by the work involved. At age 62 1/2 and 10 lbs over my delivery weights (3 babies) can you offer words of encouragement ? It just looked like too much work for this working girl!

    • Jenny Uebbing

      Lesley, the book is not all that awesome. I did read it and it was overwhelming, but implementing the plan “in the spirit rather than the letter” of the law has worked for me. I tend to categorize it in my own mind as Colleen said below, as cycling between either eating low fat or low carb meals, always founded on protein and always 3 hours apart. Add to that avoiding white sugar/flour for the majority of your meals and snacks and you have, in my experience, a pretty effective and simple formula – at least simpler than their explanation of it!

  • Ann-Marie

    I started during my last pregnancy. My baby is now seven months old and I am below my pre-marriage weight (three kids later). Always before losing the baby weight was excruciating. This time it has been really good – mentally, physically, etc. I’m not fully on plan all the time. I still have a lot of crossovers since I am exclusively nursing, but it is so much better than anything I’ve ever tried. I think the best part is that I am never hungry. Knowing that I can always have yogurt and berries makes me so much more secure. Thanks for sharing your journey.

  • Brittney

    I bought the book after you and Dwija’s glowing reviews but I cannot seem to wrap my brain around the S and E meals. I think I am forever in crossover territory. I’ve done two successful Whole30 plans and had a sneaking suspicion that carbs (even good ones! were/are slowing my progress down). Did you just reference the book at each meal or make a list or what?! Any websites with meal plans that you loved?

    • Colleen Martin

      Brittney, I had the same reaction, but in my head I was able to make this distinction – eat a low-card meal or a low-fat meal. That’s basically it! Don’t eat sugar or junk food and just alternate between low-carb and low-fat and you’ll do great.

  • Cami

    Jenny, so happy for your success! I don’t know how you stretch TJs lunch meat 5 days! Ha, ha! My kids eat so much we can go through most of a pack in one lunch with me and both boys eating it. Also, I’ve been cooking and baking gf for awhile. I’ve made great gf thanksgiving stuffing so let me know if you need recipes! I also know of the most amazing gf chocolate cake recipe.

    • Cami

      Oh, and if you’re into pumpkin cheesecake, you can make one with TJs gf ginger snaps mixed (processed) with pecans and butter for a crust. Definitely still indulgent with sugar but like you said, back on plan the next day. I usually make it with a homemade caramel sauce but since we are all either light dairy or no dairy right now, I’m skipping making this dessert this year. Probably will do a gf pumpkin pie or something.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        that sounds aMAzing. Will have to stick that in my back pocket for the holidays.

        And the lunchmeat only stretches if mama isn’t sharing with the beasts 😉 turkey dogs for the rabble, black forrest ham for me.

  • Rachel

    I guess I still don’t get the basic concept in really plain terms. I’d love to try, but it seems VERY complicated. Whole30 at least seems simpler “don’t eat X, Y, Z.” I agree, this may be better in the long term, but it is SO lost in translation for me.

    • Jessi

      I just started a couple weeks ago and feel much better. The way I see it there are basically three rules (1) don’t eat super starchy things because that will spike your bloodsugar, (2) separate your fats and carbs if you want to lose weight (3) have some protein with every meal and (4) eat every 3-4 hours.
      Rule One has a couple of no-no’s: Don’t drink your calories (juice, milk, soda…), limit your sugary fruits intake (mango, banana), nothing super starchy (white rice, potatoes, flour or any sugar including honey). Rule 2 is not really as tricky as it sounds. Starchy (E) things like fruits (except berries), sweet potatoes, legumes, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, sprouted grain or fermented bread should be eaten with as little fat as possible though up to a tsp is fine. Fatty things (S) can be eaten, but don’t have any of the starchy things with that meal.
      Then there are things which are neither fatty nor starchy that can be eaten with every meal– fat free cheeses, yogurts, low fat sandwich meat, egg whites, those sorts of things– the more you eat these meals (which feel diet-y) the more you will lose, but your body will hate you if you limit yourself only to these things, so don’t.

      I actually love it because my husband and daughter don’t have to be on board and I can make basically the same meal, but just eat the parts I want.

      Pinterest is super helpful for ideas.

      • Jenny Uebbing

        Jessi, I’ll second the easy meal planning. I can make one meal and then just not serve myself certain parts of it to make it “on plan.” And I think your breakdown of the rule is much, much simpler and better communicated than the million pages of their book, haha. You should write a cliffs notes version!

    • lesley sargent

      I agree with you, Rachel – seems like it is more complicated than it needs to be? And, a lot of work to decipher. I’d love more feed back from others using or considering the program.

  • Jenny Uebbing

    Lesley and Rachel, I’ve found these blogs to be the most helpful for recipes/meal planning, but I’m a pretty simple girl myself and really don’t ever bake or make anything too complicated. That being said, these ladies have done their homework and come up with some really ingenious recipes that are THM:

    also a lot of Skinny Taste or Whole30 meals (look on Pinterest) can be easily THM-ified. But I tend to just mentally categorize my meals as either “low fat” or “low carb,” and that helps me decide whether or not I can include a certain food in any given meal. Last night I made chicken tortilla soup with black beans, so it was an E meal. I had cucumber slices but no ranch (which is sad), but then this morning I had an S breakfast with eggs and sausage and melted cheese. Cycling between the two types of meals leaves me feeling full and not deprived, because I can always eat something at the next meal if I have to forgo it for this one. I’ve followed the THM Facebook group a bit and there are tons of middle aged women and grandmas who are losing weight that’s hung on for years, so I think there is really something to the theory of blood sugar stability!

    • Jessi

      Thanks for those!
      I would add http://gwens-nest.com/ . She has a fridge fermented bread that is good and other tips for making your recipes THM friendly.

      I also bought the cookbook (which has been meh, sort of like their book)… and there have been a couple of winners which apparently everyone in the world knew about but me anyway; e.g., egg roll in a bowl is on the weekly rotation, per the hubs’ request, cauliflower rice is awesome, using radishes as potatoes and the cauliflower “mashed potatoes” is my new favorite thing. But mostly they have weird ingredients that I don’t want to buy. They use Gluccie for thickening everything (because no flour, no corn starch)– I would love to know how not to buy that and make gravies, sauces and thicken stews as we get into winter if anyone has any tips!

    • Rachel

      Thanks! I have major blood sugar issues, and I’ve always just tried the low-starch method, but I feel like THM is on to something. I’ve checked out the book from the library, but I think pinterest, blogs, etc. might be the way to go for me. 🙂

  • lesley sargent

    To all of you – thank you for helping to inspre me to give this a whirl. I will try it without buying the book and see how well I do. Thank you to all!

  • Melissa

    I started Sept 4 after reading about Dwija and I’m down 21 pounds, 2 pants sizes and 2 shirt sizes. Just bought some super skinny old navy jeans for $12 when they were on sale this weekend! The last time I lost 20 pounds I was walking five miles a day and tracking every calorie in MFP. This is so much easier. I just eat yummy food! I think people get hung up on the silly names and letters they use and make it harder than it is. Just switch up meals that are either low carb or low fat. Throw some in that are both low fat and low carb. Make sure you eat protein. Don’t eat sugar, while flour or white potatoes.

    I second the collagen suggestion. I also think MCT oil has been helpful to my weight loss. I like oolong tea with collagen and MCT oil mixed in. I also love desserts. I’m glad I can have them on the plan. I have them every day–and sometimes more than once. My favorite is their “trimtastic” cake but instead of zucchini, add 1/2 of pumpkin (you can’t taste it) and baked in a loaf pan. You have to bake it a bit longer, but it’s so amazing. Especially topped with whipped cream!

    Okra is also awesome. I like it in the smoothies and soups. The single serve black bean and loaded “fotato” soups are great.

    I don’t make special meals for myself. I may just leave out something my family eats. If I make burgers I wrap mine in lettuce and put cheese and ketchup and mustard and mayo on it, but don’t have fries. I eat cucumbers or celery with ranch dressing. If the family eats rice I eat cauliflower rice. Family eats pasta I eat spiralized zucchini or spaghetti squash. I make enough for the family and several of the kids like it too.

    I found this helpful. https://www.facebook.com/notes/trim-healthy-mama/5-ways-how-not-to-do-thm/939877329399448/ After reading it I realized I tended to an “E faker”. I wasn’t really eating enough carbs. I upped those and dropped more weight very quickly.

    • Theresa

      I agree Melissa. I used to count calories and often restrict my calories to an unhealthy number. I was in the gym at least 5 days a week and exhausted, grumpy and generally unhappy. I finally gave up the strict restricting and working out and gained about 10 pounds. I’m so happy I found THM (because of Jenny, Thanks!) I’ve lost almost 8 of the 10 I gained back and don’t kill myself in the gym anymore. It’s so freeing not to stress over counting calories. Your right, people stress too hard over the THM rules. But once you figure it out, it is so easy to live by. I tell anyone willing to listen about THM.

  • Tanya Vigneau

    I have been doing THM since Sept and although I dont have much weight to lose per say ( just that pesky last pregnancy/nursing 10). The lack of bloat is amazing, My tummy still looked 3 months pregnant ( Im 10 months pp) and on THM my tummy is so flat!! Also I love all the fat we are allowed to eat ( hmmmm eggs, cheese, sausage etc. The recipes in the cookbook are just meh…. but you can THM most things besides. I am a big fan of the plan. I think the formula is very successful and does leave you full and healthy. Anyone struggling def read the second book ( its wayyyy shorter than the original). The most helpful part was joining the facebook groups.. THM and THM for nursing/pregnant women.

  • Anamaria

    It seems like you were already not eating white sugar and white flour (well, most of the time) before the plan, but had stalled on weight lose. Is this true? I am slowly losing weight with my consistent, moderate exercise and generally healthy diet and just cutting sugar as much as possible, so I am wondering whether or not it is worth it to do this vs. just really cut the sugar/white flour. Thanks!

    I cook a lot of really classic food, like from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking, where carbs and fats are mixed (almost never pasta, but like a artichoke-ricotta torte). But dropping weight faster is certainly appealing.

  • Diana

    I’ve been very intrigued by this plan, even after reading the massive book, but not enough to implement it. I think I’m just worried about the learning curve? And all of my favorite foods I’d have to give up. The results are pretty tempting though…probably something I should look into more, find good recipes, and then actually do.

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