Friday, June 18, 2010

Is Low-carb an Expensive Diet?

If high quality meat and cheese are upwards of $5 per pound and potatoes, bread and bananas cost a fraction of that, the low-carb meat-and-cheese diet sounds like it would be much more expensive than the high-carb diet. Does it work out that way in real life?

Since I buy almost everything with a debit card and record all the transactions on my computer, I have records for everything I've spent on food, health care and skin care. (The only serious cash I spend is for cover charges to dance clubs.) These three things--the food I eat, my skin, and overall health--have significantly changed since I started a low-carb diet back in February. I decided to analyze how the diet has affected my spending in those areas, which I believe have changed because of my low-carb diet.

Although I have data for all 2009, I have only three whole months' data for the time I've been low-carb. For 2010, I used the period March 1 through May 31. In addition, I excluded some unusual items for 2009: the doctor bill for turf toe (an accident unrelated to diet) and a flu shot (I'll probably get one later this year). Once I had totals for 2009, I divided them by four to make them the equivalent of three months (the length of the period I'm using for 2010). Results:

2009 (adjusted to three months):
Food: $1,114.16
Skin care & beauty supplies: $107.10
Health care: $251.75
Total: $1,473.01

2010 (Period March 1 through May 31):
Food: $1,153.27
Skin care & beauty supplies: $80.15
Health care: $0
Total: $1,233.42

Difference per year: $958.36 savings

It would appear I'm saving $80 per month by eating an expensive diet. How?

  • I'm saving $424 per year on acid blockers. (See posts on acid reflux.) I also quit going to my chiropractor because my aches and pains suddenly disappeared after I cut the carbs.
  • My food spending went up by only $13 per month. However, I don't eat as much as I used to. Fat (which I enjoy on my diet) has nine calories per gram; carbohydrate has four. Fat is therefore more filling--and it doesn't spike your blood sugar and make you hungry an hour later. My refrigerator and cupboards aren't as full as they used to be, and grocery shopping takes a lot less time.
  • I remarked a few months ago that I didn't know whether my skin or my priorities have changed, but I didn't feel the need for expensive skin care products anymore. (This was before I started taking extra zinc.) I believe it's my skin that's changed. It's softer and smoother and doesn't need exfoliants or balm anymore; rarely, I'll use some lotion on it. Over half of the $80 I spent on skin care products & beauty supplies during the period in 2010 was for perfume, which will last me several months. Those high-priced skin care products used to be my crack cocaine.

There's one thing I haven't taken into account: the money I'm spending going out dancing more often because I have more energy and don't have to spend nearly as much time working out. Well, every diet requires a sacrifice.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Low-Brow is Easiest for Low-Carb

Eating out is a challenge with diet restrictions, especially when your diet contradicts conventional wisdom about what a healthy diet is. Maybe that's why low-brow grocers and restaurants--you know, those places for people who just don't care what they put in their bodies--seem to have more low-carb offerings than health food stores and natty eateries.

Most nice restaurants put a basket of savory bread in front of you when you're hungry. Except for the ubiquitous grilled chicken salad, everything on the menu has fruit, rice, potatoes or pasta. Even at the two airports where I recently ate (not exactly fine dining there), most of the food looked starchy and sugary. But the burger from Burger King was fine without the bun and the quarter-pound, cheesy hot dog in Indiana hit the spot. (Certain processed meats give me a sinus headache--this didn't.) And the chicken club from a Hardee's in that state was just as tasty as those I get at Carl's Jr. (the same company) here in Colorado.

The friend I saw in Indiana took me shopping to buy food I could eat. She bought sour cream, a shrimp ring, vegetables, etc. at Wal-Mart. Here at home, I get those things--plus pork rinds and low-carb ice cream--at King Soopers (owned by Kroger). The Sunflower Market, Natural Grocers and Safeway near my house don't carry pork rinds or low-carb ice cream; Safeway doesn't even carry full-fat yogurt. I guess they'd have to get rid of some low-fat food to make room. But I'll say this for Natural Grocers: they carry high-quality, grass fed beef and free-range chicken.

For snacks that are within walking distance, I go to 7-11. They have pork rinds, cooked hot wings and cold diet drinks (not to mention a Red Box for DVD rentals and an ATM that I can use for free).

Eating a low-carb diet has given me a new appreciation for low-brow places. Between that, and my reduced appetite from avoiding starch and sugar, I'm probably saving some money.