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Trim Healthy Thursday: How I do Trim Healthy Mama on a budget

This is my 13th week of Trim Healthy Mama-ing.  I think I’ve only managed one week 100% on plan, but I still have entire days when I am completely on plan.  I reckon I stick to it 80-90% of the time and weight is coming off nicely.  My skinny jeans are getting so baggy I will need to retire them soon. I eat off-plan when I’m a dinner guest at someone’s house, and occasionally when my husband wafts a fresh loaf of his bread under my nose, but generally I find THM easy to stick to.  Being sugar-free for the past few years means that the THM lifestyle hasn’t been a massive change to my diet, but I can appreciate that for many people it seems like a big challenge.  In fact, if it all seems too much, I’d recommend giving up sugar before you attempt THM, or the THM desserts will call your name and therefore put a strain on your wallet.  If you want tips on how to wean yourself off sugar before plunging into THM, here are my tips on how to do it.  Of course, plenty of people have successfully gone cold-turkey, but I just think it is easier to do THM without the fancy ingredients when your sweet tooth is already under control. A lot of people lurking on the THM Facebook pages worry that adopting this lifestyle will cost them megabucks.  It’s not hard to see why when mouthwatering THM desserts are posted on there daily – recipes which generally contain expensive ingredients like almond flour, erythritol, cream cheese and a cup of egg whites.

But here’s the thing: you don’t need expensive ingredients to do THM.

You just don’t. My THM shopping list doesn’t look that different to my pre-THM list.  Sure, I’d love to eat THM cheesecake and muffins every day, but my budget doesn’t let me.  Many THM dessert and bread ingredients are super-expensive here in New Zealand, and they are very tricky for me to source locally.  I ran out of THM approved sweeteners, so I’ve been going without ‘sweet’ treats for a while now until we can afford to get more.  I’m perfectly okay with this (as the longer I live without sugar, the less I want dessert at all) but baking is something I love to do, so I’m looking forward to making some of the dishes I’ve pinned on Pinterest one day! Here is how I feed myself, my half-THM husband (he eats THM dinners and sometimes lunch) and my toddler (who often gets carbs on the side):

  • I keep things really simple.  I generally have S breakfasts, E lunches, and a mix of S and E dinners (E dinners tend to be cheaper by the way).  This simplicity is important to me as I want food freedom.  I don’t carb count or agonise over whether I’ve just eaten a ‘crossover’ or not.  I’m pretty sure the THM authors want this freedom for you too.
  • We skip dessert and sweet snacks (we rarely eat dessert anyway).  If I find myself hankering for something sweet I eat some Greek yoghurt.  It’s not sweet at all, but the creamy texture feels ‘desserty’ to me.
  • We eat a lot of ground beef, white fish and tuna.
  • Inexpensive dishes like Taco Salad and Chili are staples in our house.
  • I can’t stand sweet things for breakfast, and find porridge/oatmeal too stodgy to face first thing in the morning, so I tend to eat eggs for breakfast.  I know many people get sick of eggs every day, but I don’t mind them – which is weird, because I normally hate eating the same thing all the time.  At times when there is only one portion of leftovers, I eat last night’s dinner for breakfast.
  • If I need a snack I might have a boiled egg, an apple with a smear of peanut butter, vege sticks, a ryvita with vegemite, or a couple of slices of tomato with a piece of cheese on top.
  • We eat a lot of beans or rice.  I love quinoa, but it’s pretty pricey so I only get it when my budget allows.
  • Instead of making low-carb bread, or buying expensive low-carb wraps I eat Ryvita.
  • We eat most of our pre-THM budget friendly dishes (usually they are very easy to THMify by just omitting carbs), like slow-cooked stews, Asian stir fries, soups and salads.
  • We make protein go a long way by making simple stir fries, padded out with lots of vegetables.
  • I make almost everything from scratch, except tomato sauce and mayonnaise.
  • Lunch is often tuna salad, which is pretty inexpensive.
  • I don’t buy almond milk (although it’s not too expensive here).  Prior to THM I rarely had cow’s milk anyway, and figure a splash of it in my one-cup-a-day-tea isn’t going to kill me.
  • We meal plan.  We’ve been doing this for years.  Not only does it save me precious time at witching hour and at the supermarket, but we also waste much less food. (If you would like to see one of my meal plans, do give me a holler.)
  • We buy in bulk when we can.  We are on a Dollar Diet, and that’s given us some fantastic wiggle room in our budget.  I’ve been able to get loads of ground beef, chicken and fish at really low prices this way.

If you are a ‘lurker’, don’t let all those tempting baked goods and desserts stop you from climbing on board the THM wagon.  You can enjoy the ride without them.  I plan to buy the THM Baking Blend and THM Sweet Blend one day so I can have fun in the kitchen, but until then I am content to chug along without them. What are your THM budget tips?

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Trim Healthy Mama: a review

Giving Trim Healthy Mama (THM) eating a go was one of my New Year’s resolutions.

As a rule I try to start new diets or eating plans when my social calendar isn’t filled with temptation in the form of birthday cake.    Now I have Sausage and D’s birthdays out of the way I have started THM with a vengeance.  THM has been feeling a bit like my nemesis for the past year and a half since I first purchased the book.  I tried and failed several times to eat the THM way while I was pregnant, but my cravings were too strong and I think I just wasn’t in the right headspace for it.

I have struggled with my weight for most of my adult life.  After going sugar-free I lost quite a bit of weight, only to gain some back while pregnant with Sausage.  I was just starting to loose some of it again by eating sugar-free and running when I became pregnant with Chip.  And then after Chip was born I put on even more weight(!) due to stress-eating when things were bad with his reflux.  It’s time for it to come off again.  I am on board with THM now and raring to go.  As of Monday, my two month THM trial has begun!

Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett  (image credit)

Trim Healthy Mama by Serene Allison and Pearl Barrett (image credit)

THM is an insanely popular book in Christian circles and seems to be a successful way of eating for many, many people.  In a nutshell, THM is a carb-controlled eating plan that emphasises ditching sugar and most carbs, and embracing healthy fats and whole foods (as such, it is not a huge change to how I eat anyway).  If you want to make the most of the recipes in the tome-like book, it does require some expensive and hard-to-find-in-New-Zealand ingredients – but the ‘plan’ can be followed without it.

I don’t want to go into the THM way of eating because it feels disrespectful to the authors to give away their trade secrets.  I’m going to encourage you to buy the book instead.  The authors do a great job of explaining how tweaking what you eat in combination can make a difference to whether you burn fat or store it, and these ladies have really done their research.  Let me just say that THM makes good sense to me and does not involve complicated food restrictions or calorie-counting.  THM is not a ‘diet’.  I can eat as much as I like.  I just need to be careful about what I eat in combination and when.

I’ve been a THM Facebook member for several months now, and hardly a day goes by without someone posting their weight loss or improved health success story.  Many members have posted about how GOOD and how ENERGETIC they feel on the THM way of eating, and that’s why I have been desperate to give it a go.  I don’t know about you, but energy is in short supply with the adults in our household.

 

What I like about the book:

  • It’s an entertaining, easy read.  The authors are two Kiwi lasses (hooray!) now living in America. who have been on a healthy-eating journey for a long time.  Their book is largely written as a conversation between the two of them and their banter is often laugh-out-loud funny.  They are great at breaking down the nuts and bolts of nutrition,andmaking the science behind their plan accessible to people like me.  Because generally when it comes to food science, this is me:
    Brownie points to anyone who can tell me what movie I’m referencing…
  • The book is huge.  The authors go into a lot of detail, and I said earlier, they back up what they are saying with research.  Like actual peer-reviewed research.  Not just anecdotal evidence sourced off Dr Google.  Plus I reckon the vastness of the book makes it seem like value for money.
  • The plan is holistic.  Pearl and Serene don’t just cover food.  They look at the impact what you eat has on your hormones, your sex life, your will power to exercise, whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding, weight maintenance and more.
  • They recognise that approaches to nutrition differ.  They don’t expect anyone to suddenly change a life time of habits and favourite foods overnight.  They know that some people find eating a healthy diet and making food from scratch easy, while others rely heavily on convenience food to make it through the day in one piece.  The sisters themselves are like this – one is a purist and the other likes to cut corners, so you will often find two versions of a recipe for whatever camp you fall into.
  • They have lots of recipes for you to try.  I hate how some ‘diet’ books are all like ‘check me out, this is how you should be eating’ and then only give you a handful of recipes that will actually work with it.  THM is half eating-plan stuff and half recipe book.
  • You can have dessert.  For breakfast even.  It just needs to be made without refined sugar or loaded with carbs.  They have a considerable number of dessert and treat recipes which won’t make you pile on the weight.  The THM desserts aren’t too different from the way I’ve been eating since quitting sugar back in 2012.
  • There is a huge internet community out there for support and encouragement.  And I mean huge.  The main THM facebook group (there are many, many THM groups) has over 84,000 people in it.  The New Zealand THM facebook group has over 800.  The authors now have an active website and YouTube channel so you can keep up to date and keep motivated.

 

What I don’t like about the book:

  • It’s written for an American audience so some of the ingredients are hard or impossible to find here.  Some of the ingredients needed to fully make use of the recipes I have had to source from overseas, which is something I don’t generally like to do as buying locally is important to me.  However, as I mentioned previously, it is possible to do THM without the fancy ingredients and there is even a Facebook group for people who do this.
  • I think it’s hard to do THM cheaply.  You can’t be vegetarian or eat meat sparingly and do THM.  THM meals require some protein source.  However, I do think that once you are ‘on plan’ and your body is fuelling properly, you probably find you eat less.  Cutting out junk food and lots of carby foods also means there should be more wiggle room in the food budget for protein.
  • It’s written for the American palate.  I’ve tried several of the recipes only to find I didn’t like them, which is disappointing when factoring in the effort taken to source some of the ingredients.  I’m not hugely into creamy, cheesy dishes which some recipes rely heavily on.  However, there are still a ton of their recipes I haven’t tried so I will be persevering.  There are also plenty of bloggers who follow THM and are out there creating THM recipes – so many that I could probably try a different THM recipe at each meal for several years.
  • The dessert/treat recipes rely on sweeteners like Erythritol and Stevia and use other exotic ingredients like almond flour.    I feel uneasy about using alternative sweeteners (I still use them instead of sugar!), but that’s just me.  These ladies have actually done research on them and I haven’t.  I want to get to the point where I don’t feel the need for that stuff – which is (mostly) possible when you’ve been off sugar for long enough.  I’d like to get a few crowd-pleasing treat and dessert recipes under my belt for special occasions and to tackle cravings, but I’ll mostly be sticking to a piece of fruit if I feel the need for dessert.  A criticism I have of low-carb dessert recipes (not just THM) is that they tend to use large quantities of exotic flours like almond.  I would not sit down and eat three cups of almonds, so using three cups of almond flour in a recipe doesn’t feel very ‘whole foods’ to me.  Again, these are just my thoughts and I have done zero research on it!
  • The book is expensive.  It cost me over $60 (NZ).  But it is huge…

 

I will be posting weekly updates on how I’m going with the THM plan.  I’m really excited to give it a go.  Because it seems to work.  Judging by the daily testimonies of people who have struggled with their weight for years and years, who have tried every diet out there, who have given up dieting in frustration, who have a long list of health complaints – THM seems to work for them.  I’m praying it works for me too.

 

Have you heard of Trim Healthy Mama?  Would you give it a go?