Food Pantry Diet – 1 week of “healthy” food pantry eating

By Admin | on June. 10, 2017

We’ve done a food drive at our studio every year for the past several years.  We team this up with a workout with the food.  Wegman’s reuseable grocery bags full of cans make excellent Dumbbells.  Who said exercise equipment has to be expensive?

When doing the food drive I had been thinking about the people who have no choice but to live on this type of food.  Cans and boxes of food that take years to “go bad” if they ever do!  I thought it might be a good challenge to eat this way for a week and try to do well on my nutrition at the same time.  So I made a plan in our online nutrition program.  I lost 4 pounds in a week, had high nutrition scores, and it only cost about $5.10 per day to feed me.  The average person could probably do this for about $3.00 per day since they wouldn’t need as much food.

Here is the food entered into our online nutrition program.  2544 Calories and a 3.36 GPA (notice the green A’s in the left side column).  That’s pretty good nutrition considering no fresh or even frozen vegetables.  If 2544 Calories sounds like a lot to you please remember I’m a 6’3″, male, personal trainer, in his 30’s.  My metabolism is well above that 3000-3500 per day.

Breakfast –

Was a can of beans and a can of spinach.  I knew I needed to get some vegetables in there somehow so I thought I might as well choke them down for breakfast.  This was not an exciting breakfast but this challenge wasn’t supposed to be exciting I just wanted to see if it was possible.  The best couple days were when I bought some maple baked beans and had that with my spinach in the morning.  That was actually pretty tasty!  It made me wish I had bought more of those!

Snack 1 –

was at the studio between classes.  I measured out my peanut butter and jelly and 10 crackers then put them into a plastic container to take with me.  I wold take a cracker and dip it into the peanut butter and then the jelly and eat it.  I would usually just eat one at a time since I didn’t want to blow through this snack too early and be super hungry when I needed to be focusing on our clients.

Lunch –

This was amazing!  In fact I have already eaten this one again after the one week challenge.  Can of mixed veggies, can of corn, can of tuna with a little mayo on the tuna.  It was sweet because of the corn filling because of two cans full of food over a 2 pound meal.  And the tuna (protein) suck with me for awhile and the mayo (fat) made the meal more satisfying.  Mayo was measured to the gram!

Snack 2 –

This was another delight of the day.  Ever since being a kid I’ve loved canned peaches.  It had probably been years since I had some.  (in the bachelor days).  I would eat these bit by bit through the rest of the day starting at around 1-2 pm.  I would always save some for after dinner for “dessert”.

Dinner –

Was two bags of Ramen Noodles and a can of spinach or mixed veggies.  I usually ate 1/2 of this around 3 pm and the other half at 5 pm so I wouldn’t get too hungry before bed.  It was a weird feeling to see a big pile of food at the start of the day dwindle into nothing at the end.

Emergency –

I had a backup can of soup that was my “if I get irrationally hungry” emergency snack.  I didn’t eat it very often.


You may not have a 3000 calorie per day metabolism.  Yours may be only 2000 Calories.  I made a 1500 calorie day to give you an idea of what you would eat.  I basically just cut my quantities in half.

This turned out pretty awesome!  3.62 GPA (grade point average like college out of 4.0).  97 grams of protein!  And you get to eat pasta, canned peaches, and peanut butter and crackers!  There aren’t very many people who wouldn’t lose weight on this.  And this is nearly guaranteed to be better nutrition than most are currently getting.  I think on average our clients when they first start are somewhere between a 1.5 and 2.5 GPA with 2.0 being the most common.  Not very high on nutrition.

Things I learned or was reminded of:

1.) I should not have lost 4 pounds in 1 week.  I had not planned this to be a weight loss diet.  I think I had under calculated my activity level which meant I was burning more but also I think the type of foods may have cost some calories to digest.  12-18% of the calories in veggies are lost in digestion and about 30% of the calories from my protein were lost (tuna).

2.) When you keep track of what your eating weight loss can be a side effect!  This reminded me of how much I really do eat when I’m not keeping track.  It can feel like not much but when you bring it all together it’s plenty.

3.) I missed my green smoothie.  It was fresh and also at near 40 ounces was a big hydrator for me.  I had a work a little harder to drink extra water which I needed because of the salt in some of the food.

4.) Rinsing the canned veggies off took a lot of the salt taste away.  If you are avoiding eating canned food because of salt what are you eating instead?  I feel like many in this situation might avoid the canned food because of salt but have chips or pretzels instead which would be the same or more salt!

5.) You “CAN” get above a 3.5 GPA on a food pantry diet and you can do it for $3 per day for most people.

6.) The 1-2 cans of spinach and 1-2 cans of mixed veggies per day was what did the most for the GPA.  If you know someone in a tough spot this may be the best lesson.  For $1.50 for those 3 cans of veggies per day anyone can be more healthy.


I hope you can learn a little something from this experiment I did.  I hope it is helpful for those on limited incomes and need to eat low cost food.  Healthy eating is usually considered very expensive.  I also hope it may help those of you who are just trying to lose some weight.  While this is not a nutrition prescription I hope it demonstrates that…It doesn’t have to be fancy or complicated but you do need to know how much you are eating and having a plan ahead of time is a big key to that.

About the Author:

fitness in real lifeJeremy “the tall trainer” Biernat is a Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Strength Coach, has his Bachelors in Exercise Science, and enjoys writing, speaking, and inspiring people online and in person. See his new book! More importantly he is a husband, father, and follower of God. His practice is in upstate NY (Canandaigua) where he works with people in one on one and group sessions to make awesome changes in their lives. He doesn’t do everything perfect, cries in movies, and would love to hear from you. You can contact Jeremy by commenting to this post, emailing jeremy@talltrainer.com, or calling 1(800)380-7047. Please share this with friends!

God Bless!