Open Arms of Minnesota

SNAP Challenge: A dietitian's challenge

By Gwenda Hill

I hate ramen noodles. They are squishy and salty and I don’t like them.

I ate ramen noodles on Monday and Tuesday for lunch. I saved more than half of the flavor packet to use on my beans/rice/veggies dinner the past two nights. I am grateful that all of my ramen is gone and that I am having a peanut butter sandwich and raw carrots for lunch today.

I am bored with the repetition of meals. I’ve had peanut butter toast and a glass of milk for breakfast each morning. I’ve had beans, rice and frozen vegetables for each dinner. I was fortunate to have one piece of fruit for a snack each afternoon. Those are decent meals that I might have from time to time on my normal diet, though they are not nearly as tasty or fun to prepare as something similar … like jambalaya … with andouille sausage. Yum.

My nutrient total averages for the three days: 1,450 calories, 60 g protein, 205 g carbohydrate, 21 g fiber, 43 g fat, 13.7 g saturated fat. I was about 500 calories short of my 1,950 calorie target to maintain my current weight. Every week of maintaining this caloric intake would equal to one pound of weight loss … but please keep in mind that not all weight loss is healthy weight loss. I could stand to shed a few pounds, but I certainly would not do it by being so restrictive with my calories. But that’s another discussion…

I met, exceeded, or was close to meeting recommendations for: protein, carbohydrate, total fat, fiber, vitamin C (on the orange day), vitamin A, all B vitamins, zinc, magnesium, phosphorus, selenium and calcium. I met the dairy and grain recommendations set forth by the USDA.

I also exceeded my sodium recommendations with an average of 2,800 mg each day, which is not a good thing. I did not add any salt to meals. It came purely from the packaged food that I ate.

I was short on: calories, omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, vitamin E, vitamin C (on the banana days), iron, and potassium. I fell short on fruits, vegetables and meat/beans from the USDA recommendations.

Continuing on this plan would cause me to be at increased risk for heart disease, cancer, anemia, and a myriad of other diseases.

During this challenge, I have been surprised by how much I’ve thought about food. I am usually pretty good at not snacking at work. I have an emergency food drawer at work- peanut butter, rice cakes, raisins, and Triscuits- but I rarely dip into it. This week, I’ve been very tempted to eat “just one rice cake.” The reason I don’t think about food at work is that I usually start out my day with a bowl of Greek yogurt and Kashi Go Lean granola, which has lots of protein and fiber to keep me satisfied until my next meal. In the afternoon, I am treated to a variety of food from our very talented culinary team for lunch. At dinner, I am often spoiled with delicious food prepared by my husband, who is a wonderful cook. And I almost always meet the USDA dietary recommendations for the five food groups. I rarely have to think about food in the way that I’ve had to the past few days.

I thought that doing this challenge for only three days would not be enough time for me to get the point. I was REALLY wrong. I get it. Food insecurity is horrible. Food insecurity with an illness that has a diet associated with it is probably a lot worse. I’m glad I don’t have to be reminded of this everyday in my personal life … but am more motivated than ever to help others survive with it in my professional life.

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