So if you agree that we need "balanced" nutrition of a certain combination, it is wrong to immediately assume that we need such balance at every meal.
--From Nicholas Taleb's latest book Antifragile
The idea that every meal should consist of, say, a salad, a vegetable, a meat, a piece of fruit and a dessert is pretty much a complete fiction created in just the past few centuries of human existence.
Yes, you need a balanced diet. But you don't need every single one of your meals to be balanced. Moreover, your diet may actually be better balanced if you subject it to imbalances from time to time.
Roll this idea over in your mind and you'll arrive at some interesting implications. For one thing, it supports one of the fundamental pillars of the food philosophy here at Casual Kitchen: you don't need meat at every meal. Over a period of days and weeks, yes, of course, your body has specific protein needs you'll need to fulfill. But you do not need a fixed amount of protein every single day. In other words, consider that your body's protein and amino acid needs can be met flexibly, creatively and far less expensively without a daily helping of high-cost meats.
Further, we can find intriguing support for other central elements of low-cost eating. There's nothing wrong, for example, with building your diet almost entirely on low-cost, in-season fruits and vegetables. Don't worry if you eat mostly tree fruits, leafy greens and summer vegetables in the spring and summer--when, conveniently, these foods are least expensive. And don't worry if you completely switch away from these foods when they go out of season (and their prices skyrocket) in the fall and winter. After all, that's when you'll switch to those seasons' least expensive foods, like healthy cabbage, potatoes and root vegetables.
The idea that a "real" meal has to have a broad range of specific elements--that it must contain things like soup, bread and a salad of mixed greens with three and half grape tomatoes on it--is just an artificial expectation created for us by restaurants, the food industry and by our own presumptions of a proper life of modern convenience.
And of course, basing meals around these artificial expectations costs us an unexpectedly large amount of money, with little nutritional return. Long before the modern conception of a "balanced meal" ever came about, humans survived just fine. Your body will survive too.
We can go still further. There's nothing wrong with completely leaving out certain high-cost elements of our diet that we think we need. Consider your family's daily glass of refined, deoxygenated and overpriced Pure Premium orange juice. The idea that your day should start with citrus juice is nice, sure. But it's also an arbitrary idea created for you by modern society. Orange juice is just one example among many of foods and beverages modern eaters consume, most of which are heavily advertised, high-cost, and promoted to us to the point where we assume they are natural. You can safely eliminate these foods from your diet.
Thinking about food this way can be immensely freeing, not to mention immensely less expensive.
Here's the punchline: dietary variation is a positive stressor for your body and for your health. Try it. And remember: everything in moderation. Including moderation.
Is Organic Food Healthier? Or Just Another Aspirational Product?
The "Don't Buy" List For A Low-Budget Kitchen
How to Blind-Taste and Blind-Test Brands
Thoughts On High-End Cookware
How can I support Casual Kitchen?
For those readers interested in supporting Casual Kitchen, the easiest way is to do so is to do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site. You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter(follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.