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)
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
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.
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.