About this Blog

Welcome! Thanks for checking out On Food Stamps.

I created this blog in 2009 when I began working at the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank. My work at this organization opened my eyes to food justice issues in America, and I had a strong desire to better understand the difficulties many people face when trying to access healthy food on a limited budget. So, I embarked on my own Food Stamp Challenge, living on $31/week as a vegan. I used this blog to chronicle my experience.

While my Food Stamp Challenge project has come to an end, you can see what I learned from it by reading the Greatest Hits posts linked to the right side of the page. Please excuse any out-of-date links, as I am no longer updating this blog on a regular basis.

Stay Hungry,


Thursday, July 23, 2009

1/2 Cup of Food is Not Much

Vegetables Examples of 1 serving:
Drawings of examples of one serving of vegetables: 1/2 cup of cooked carrots or 1/2 cup of cooked green beans or 1 cup of salad.

Examples of 2 servings:
Drawings of examples of two serving of vegetables: 1/2 cup of cooked carrots plus 1 cup of salad or 1/2 cup of vegetable juice plus 1/2 cup of cooked green beans.

Examples of 3 servings:
Drawings of examples of three serving of vegetables: 1/2 cup of cooked greens plus 1/2 cup of cooked green beans and one small tomato or 1/2 cup of  broccoli plus 1 cup of tomato sauce.

Before I launch into the Diabetic on Food Stamps scenario and try to stick to the portions above, I want to take a look at what an average eating day is for me.

This week has been a very average eating week:

  • I am eating a vegetarian diet.
  • I am working with fruits and vegetables bought at last Friday's Farmers' Market (about $25 worth) and a few items from A-Grocery Warehouse (about $12).
  • Tomorrow is shopping day again, and I have a surplus (as usual). I still have enough for about 5 meals left. Since I have extra food, I will spend even less this week to even it out.
  • While this is not a perfect quote, I estimate that I have consumed about $30 worth of groceries this week.
  • On one occasion I did go out to lunch. The salad and Tadzhik cost me $11. The splurge of the week. It was nice. Worth it.
  • I have actually hovered pretty comfortably around the $30/week food budget, minus that one time I ate out. This has become typical for me. Now that I have learned how to eat this cheaply, I haven't really gone back to blowing $70/week a Whole Foods. The only difference is that I do go out once or twice a week for cheap meals now that I am not doing the Vegan on Food Stamp Challenge.
Within this average week, today was an average day:
  • For breakfast I ate 1/2 cup (1 serving) of oatmeal with a teaspoon of natural honey and some cinnamon. This was a carefully measured serving since oatmeal requires the right ratios of oats to water. I ate it at my desk because I had been in a rush in the morning.
  • At around 10am I accepted my cubicle-mate's offer of "Chocolate Roasted Almonds." I am not proud of this decision. First of all, I have a thing against any food that comes in a 100 Calorie Pack. That tends to mean right of the bat that it is: (1) In a pack. So, packaged and processed food. (2) Probably bad enough for me that I shouldn't eat a lot of it. And, (3) Likely addicting in the "Once you pop you just can't stop" kind of snack food way. Best to steer clear. But, I didn't. I ate one of those 100 Calorie Packs. And I felt guilty.
  • For lunch I had about 1 1/2 cups of brown rice and 1 1/2 cups of lentils with curry, almonds, spinach, and some other spices. I probably didn't need to eat that much, but I did because that was how much was in my Tupperware containers.
  • I ate about 10 Organic baby carrots with (I am guessing here) 1/2 cup of Ceder's Original Hummus. That was at about 3:30pm.
  • At 4:30 I accepted a Watermelon flavored Jolly Rancher candy. Lots of sugar all over my teeth. Whatever. Everyone else was having one.
  • I got home from Boxing at 8:30. By 9pm I had eaten: 1 1/2 cups of zucchini cooked in a bit of olive oil and soy sauce, half a steamed ear of corn, 3 bites of lentils (same ones as lunch - my fridge is stocked) and 1/2 cup of brown rice. I kind of wanted more food but I kicked myself out of the kitchen.

Starches Examples of 1 serving:
Drawings of examples of one serving of starch: one slice of bread or one small potato or 1/2 cup of cooked cereal or 3/4 cup of dry cereal flakes or one 6-inch tortilla.

Examples of 2 servings:
Drawings of examples of two servings of starch: one small potato plus one small ear of corn or two slices of bread.

Examples of 3 servings:
Drawings of examples of three servings of starch: one small roll plus 1/2 cup of peas plus one small potato or 1 cup of rice.

How did I do? I am going to look at how many servings I had of each of the items listed on the Meal Plan guide chart from my last post, and I am using the serving size guidelines posted on that same page (some of which are pictured in this post):

Vegetables: About 4 cups or 8 servings
Starches: About 2 cups or 6 servings
Fruits: Wait, Watermelon Jolly Ranchers don't count as fruit? ZERO
Milks: ZERO
Meat and Meat Substitutes: ZERO
Fats: 4 servings (Olive oil for cooking + the crap junk food)

So, based on my meal plan chart that is way too many vegetables (8 not 3 servings), on point with starches, too many fats/junk food items, and no fruits, dairy, or meat substitutes. I am not sure if the lack of fruit, dairy, or meat substitutes is necessarily a bad thing. And, I don't think that too many vegetables to compensate for these other categories is a bad thing either. What do you think, nutritionist readers?

I think I'm going to be ok on this diet. It will be hard for me to always say no to sweet things; I have a sweet tooth. I'm going to have to watch my starches too. I was quite close today. I am concerned though, about how many times I am going to have to say no to food that people offer me or avoid dangerous/tempting food environments like office birthdays etc. How isolating will this be?


  1. lentils count as a meat substitute (source of protein) rather than as vegetables, as would the hummus. The cocoa roasted almonds would fall in that group as well and aren't as bad as you might suspect on a diabetic diet as they only have 1 g of sugar but they do contain sucralose as the last ingredient (of a list of 7). It also wouldn't count as a fat since they are dry roasted (no fat added) and the monosaturated fat in nuts is healthy and you only ate a partial serving. (1 oz of nuts is considered a serving and usually between 160-200 calories depending on the nut). The packaging is another issue entirely.

  2. Jasmine - Thank you so much. Categorizing and rating my food is really not my strong suit yet. As you can see, I have a LOT to learn. Thank you for correcting me. I want to get this right before I really launch into the 1 week challenge.

  3. I usually lump my fruits and vegetables together because I'm allergic to a lot of fruits and I don't really have a sweet tooth so I'm not prone to wanting to use fruit to cover a desire for something else that is sweet.

    I also am obsessive about serving sizes when it comes to grains, protein and fat, but not so much with fruits and vegetables unless theyve been cooked with something else.