A Lesson From Hansel and Gretel: How to eat healthy despite a slim budget

Remember that old fairy tale about Hansel and Gretel? The parents were so poor they decided to send their children off into the woods to have them fend for themselves. The children started picking strawberries. But as they wandered, they were lured to the witch’s gingerbread house made of sweets. It nearly killed them. They fought back and escaped to a welcoming community that offered love and protection.

So many people feel they can’t afford healthy, organic foods. They turn to foods lacking the necessary nutrients needed to optimize their health.

Well, those diets can quite literally be the death of you.  (Think of yourself as a plant. Instead of getting sunlight, someone puts up a painting with a sun on it.) It really isn’t a substitute that sustains life.

Let TheDr website be the welcoming community that helps you out. I don’t know your situation, but I can tell you, “where there’s a will there’s a way.”

First, let’s remove that obstacle. (No, we can’t make you suddenly rich.) But we can provide you with some creative alternatives.

Here are some helpful hacks to get you eating healthier:

    • Eat at home. People used to look at fast food restaurants like McDonald’s as inexpensive, but has anyone noticed a meal for one person is about $7.50 nowadays? For a family of four, that’s $30! Instead of eating out, plan ahead and have easy to cook options that allow you to quickly cook foods that are more nutrient-dense. Heck, for $30 you can splurge and make a gourmet home-cooked meal! Plus, you know exactly what is going into those meals. A study, done in my hometown of Detroit, found that 60% of respondents reported eating out at a restaurant at least once a week, with most of those trips being to nearby fast food restaurants. It concluded that there was a correlation between more frequent restaurant dining and a higher BMI. (1) Are any of us surprised by this? You pay good money to put bad stuff in your body. Build up your repertoire of recipes that include nutrient-dense foods, so they will find their way into your gut.
    • Buy in bulk or buy your favorite items when they are on sale. I am always trying to find ways to offer sales on our products to allow people to save money. Sometimes it can be hard to do the right thing. Here’s a hot tip: Set aside a couple of hours one day a month to create multiple “freezer meals.” It also saves you time and money. Spend the same amount of time in one week as one month in prep. A little bit of planning can go a long way. You won’t nickel and dime yourself at the checkout or need to go out to eat because you don’t have the energy or food on hand.
    • Buy in-season. You’ll get more diversity for your microbiome and reap more health benefits from the foods when they are fresh and at their peak. During this time of plenty, they are also discounted. It’s a win-win. Often foods that are grown out of season are not produced locally. In order to extend their shelf life and allow the food to make it to market, they contain a lot of preservatives and pesticides. From the time it is picked, it begins losing nutrients, so buying locally in-season produce is your best option.
    • Garden. If you have children, it’s a great learning experience. If you are older, it is an excellent activity to keep you active and engaged. Over the course of 16 years, one study tracked more than 2,800 men and women to assess lifestyle factors and their risk of dementia. It found a 36% lower risk among people who garden daily. (2) Whatever your age, let’s not forget that you can also do this with friends. You can grow tomatoes and green beans. A friend grows peppers and zucchini. Another friend grows carrots and cucumbers. And you swap. It’s the healthy version of a Christmas cookie exchange. (And an organic pack of seeds only costs 25 to 50 CENTS!) Even people without much land are able to garden. Consider vertical gardening or container gardening. (Like I said, “Where there’s a will there’s a way.”)
    • Work a community garden. Each one has its own way of doing things. It may allow you to do a “work for food” program. Check what your area has to offer. The Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior cited a research study done on Fruit and Vegetable Intake among Urban Community Gardeners in Flint, Michigan. It found that “adults with a household member who participated in a community garden consumed fruits and vegetables 1.4 more times per day than those who did not participate, and they were 3.5 times more likely to consume fruits and vegetables at least 5 times daily.” (3)
    • Host and attend round-robin dinners. You provide the space and drinks, and each guest brings a portion of the meal. Give your theme a healthy twist. Then, be a guest at someone else’s where you can share one aspect of a meal. It’s a great way to socialize and eat the foods you normally wouldn’t make.
    • Eat leftovers. Before you create your next meal, check your fridge to see what that meal should include before perishable foods go bad. According to a survey by the American Chemistry Council, the average household throws out $640 of food every year! (4) That’s a huge amount that could be redirected toward purchasing healthier options.
    • Regrow foods. Did you know when you cut your celery you can save the bottom, place it in water, and it will regrow? There are several foods you can do this with, including Romaine lettuce, cabbage, bok choy… And instead of throwing out sprouted onions or garlic, take the sprouts and grow new ones! Waste not, want not.
    • Forage while you hike. While some people may want to get out and do this every day, even just locating trails nearby that have things like raspberries or blueberries can be such a fun day while at the same time actually providing you with goodies that are nutritious. Take a lesson from Hansel and Gretel. Stick to the good stuff. And whatever you do, do not eat anything you are unsure of. There are many poisonous mushrooms. If you don’t know, better safe than sorry. Before you go, speak to a ranger or look up prime berry picking hiking trails.
    • Maximize your efforts. Some foods are “dirtier” than others. If you still can’t afford all of your foods being non-GMO, organic foods, put your money where it matters most. Avoid the Dirty Dozen unless they are organic. These foods have high levels of pesticides: Strawberries, Spinach, Nectarines, Apples, Peaches, Pears, Cherries, Grapes, Celery, Tomatoes, Sweet Bell Peppers, and Potatoes. Opt instead for the “Clean 15.” See my blog on Top 10 Foods to Avoid for more recommendations.
    • Reexamine your foods. Chips vs produce. A lot of times people think they can’t afford fresh produce when they really can. Don’t add more food to your grocery list. Just substitute the produce in place of your chips. Think that is cost-prohibitive for you?  Think again. A bag of grapes is less than or equal to the cost of a bag of chips. And while the grapes are loaded with sugar, they are also high in antioxidants. Do your chips do that? Plus, don’t skip the organic aisle assuming that organic is always more expensive. While generally, the “equivalent” (for lack of a better word) is slightly cheaper, that isn’t always the case.
    • Improve where you can. It hurts me to say this, but even having pesticide-riddled fruits and vegetables are better than none. (You have no clue how much that pained me.) Keep an eye out for my upcoming blog about pesticides and your health. You’ll see why. (It’s pretty grim. Pun intended.) Plus, consider the freezer aisle in addition to the produce aisle. You may have more alternatives that are pesticide-free that meet your price point.
    • Join a CSA. Community Supported Agriculture programs vary from area to area, but by supporting the farmers in your area, you also benefit. You can buy locally grown, in-season foods often at a discount. When you sign up for a CSA program, it allows the farmer to purchase the supplies needed for crops that year. And it gives them a general idea of how much to plant. It is a membership program that benefits both you and the farmers.
    • Save elsewhere. I know…easier said than done. But your health is important. You have one body from cradle to grave. Let’s push back the grave part of that statement AND make the in-between part more lively, pain-free and enjoyable. Food is life. Food is medicine. Food is sustenance. Junk food is death. Junk food is toxic. Junk food is not sustaining. It’s pretty black and white. The wonderful thing is that every time you eat you have an opportunity to choose. So if you were doing really well and hit a snag, what then? Don’t beat yourself up over it. Don’t force it to be all or nothing at the expense of giving up. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You’ll have other chances to do the right thing.

We’re a couple of hundred years too late to help Hansel and Gretel, but please know that we are always here to support you through a variety of ways: weekly Facebook Live Events, blogs, summits, and specially formulated supplements. It’s up to you to choose which ways work best for you. We’re just making it easy to do the right thing.

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Coriolus Versicolor

Coriolus Versicolor, a remarkable mushroom, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Known for its immune-supporting properties, Coriolus Versicolor may help strengthen the body’s natural defenses. This extraordinary mushroom has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Fo Ti

Fo Ti, a revered Chinese herb also known as He Shou Wu, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Traditionally used for promoting vitality and longevity, Fo Ti may contribute to maintaining healthy energy levels, cognitive function, and immune system performance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with supporting liver and kidney health, as well as fostering a sense of overall balance


Agave, a versatile desert plant native to the Americas, is recognized for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural fibers and low-glycemic sweeteners, Agave may contribute to maintaining healthy blood sugar levels, digestive health, and providing a natural alternative to refined sugars.

Maral Root

Maral Root, a potent adaptogenic herb native to Siberia, is celebrated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Maral Root may also promote healthy energy levels, endurance, and cognitive function. This exceptional herb has been associated with supporting the immune system, fostering vitality, and enhancing physical performance.

  • Antioxidant and DNA Repair Stimulating Effect of Extracts from Transformed and Normal Roots of Rhaponticum carthamoides against Induced Oxidative Stress and DNA Damage in CHO Cells:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27034736/


NotoGinseng, a distinct variety of Panax ginseng native to the Changbai Mountains, is esteemed for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its adaptogenic properties, Noto Ginseng may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This exceptional herb has been linked to supporting cognitive function, promoting healthy energy levels, and boosting immune system performance.


Baicalin, a potent bioflavonoid derived from the Scutellaria baicalensis plant, is appreciated for its potential to promote overall wellness. With its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, Baicalin may help protect cells from oxidative stress and maintain a balanced response to inflammation. This remarkable compound has been associated with supporting liver health, promoting cardiovascular function, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Purple Lapacho

Purple Lapacho, a unique and potent herb, is valued for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its immune-boosting properties, Purple Lapacho may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, supporting digestion, and fostering vitality.

Holy Basil

Holy Basil has been found to protect organs and tissues against chemical stress from industrial pollutants and heavy metals, and physical stress from prolonged physical exertion. It has also been shown to counter metabolic stress through normalization of blood glucose, blood pressure and lipid levels.


Ashwagandha, a revered adaptogenic herb, is acclaimed for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for helping the body manage stress and maintain balance, Ashwagandha may also contribute to healthy energy levels and mental clarity. This remarkable herb has been associated with promoting relaxation, supporting the immune system, and fostering vitality.


Guarana, a powerful plant, is celebrated for its potential to support overall wellness. Rich in natural caffeine, Guarana may help promote mental alertness, focus, and healthy energy levels. This remarkable plant has also been associated with supporting endurance and enhancing physical performance.


Catuaba, a potent herb, is appreciated for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Catuaba may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of vitality.

Reishi Mushroom

Reishi Mushroom, a highly-regarded fungus, is esteemed for its potential to enhance overall wellness. With adaptogenic properties, Reishi Mushroom may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This extraordinary mushroom has also been linked to promoting immune system support, healthy energy levels, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.

Astragalus Root

Astragalus Root, a powerful herb, is respected for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. Renowned for its immune-supporting properties, Astragalus Root may help fortify the body’s natural defenses. Additionally, this remarkable root has been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, heart health, and supporting the body’s ability to adapt to stress.

Asian Licorice Root

Asian Licorice Root, a versatile herb, is valued for its potential to support overall wellness. Known for its adaptogenic properties, it may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable root has also been linked to promoting healthy digestion, respiratory function, and supporting the immune system.

American Ginseng

American Ginseng, a revered herb, is prized for its potential to contribute to overall well-being. With adaptogenic properties, it may assist the body in managing stress and maintaining harmony. American Ginseng has also been associated with promoting mental alertness, healthy energy levels, and supporting the immune system.

Rhodiola Rosea

Rhodiola Rosea, a robust herb, is admired for its potential to support overall wellness. As an adaptogen, Rhodiola Rosea may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has been linked to promoting mental clarity, healthy energy levels, and increased endurance.

Peruvian Maca

Peruvian Maca, a nutrient-packed root, is celebrated for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic qualities, Maca may help the body manage stress and maintain balance. This powerful root has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, endurance, and supporting hormonal balance.

Schisandra Fruit

Schisandra Fruit, a unique berry, is renowned for its potential to contribute to overall wellness. Boasting adaptogenic properties, it may help the body adapt to stress and maintain equilibrium. Schisandra Fruit has also been linked to promoting healthy energy levels, mental clarity, and supporting the body’s natural defense


Acai, a nutrient-dense berry, is recognized for its potential to enhance overall well-being. Rich in antioxidants, Acai may help support the body’s defenses against environmental stressors, while promoting healthy energy levels and vitality.

Himalayan Goji

Himalayan Goji, a nutrient-rich fruit, is valued for its potential contribution to overall wellness. This superfood is believed to support the immune system, promote healthy energy levels, and aid in maintaining balance within the body. With its antioxidant properties, Himalayan Goji may help protect cells from environmental stressors.

Gotu Kola

The main group of components in gotu kola is the triterpenes including asiaticoside, madecassoside, asiatic acid, and madecassic acid, which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that are shown to positively influence brain plasticity which means a much sharper you.

  • Exhibits significant wound healing ability, Improves microcirculatory parameters, Sedative and anxiolytic properties, Antidepressant, Re-vitalize the brain and nervous system, increase attention span and concentration and combat aging: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3116297/

Water Hyssop

Best known as a neural tonic and memory enhancer this powerful herb increases cerebral blood flow and neurotransmitter modulation.

Green Tea Extract

Healthy energy producer and one of the more researched and promising supplements. It upregulates fat metabolism at rest and during exercise. In recent years the consumption of Green Tea Extract has shown to help prevent lifestyle diseases like cardiovascular disease because of it’s preventative effects on chronic inflammation.

  • Helps with weight loss by increasing a protein hormone which is involved in regulating glucose levels as well
    as fatty acid breakdown:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26093535/
  • Decrease cholesterol absorption and plasma levels, has strong free radical-scavenging
    activity inhibiting LDL oxidation, reduce the adhesion molecule expression, has antitrombotic activities by inhibiting platelet aggregation:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15969262/ 

Mikania Guaco

“Guaco” is Sun Horse Energy founder Dan Moriarty’s favorite herb, and the reason why he’s still alive. Traditionally, it’s a well-known herb for snake bites, scorpion stings and other venomous creatures. Guaco acts as a non-steroidal bronchodilator, meaning it opens up the airways without steroids. As a result of guaco opening up the airways, the alveoli (tiny air sacs in the lungs) are better able to accept oxygen transfer and get rid of carbon dioxide. In Brazil, Guaco syrup is one of the most popular herbal medicines used to treat the symptoms of asthmatic bronchitis, cough and hoarseness.

Osha Root

A traditional Native American herb, Osha is also known as “Bear Root”. Native Americans noticed that when bears emerged from hibernation, the first thing they did after being in a state of torpor for 4 months was not feast on salmon or drink water, but rather, dig up osha and eat it. Why? It decongests and wakes up the lungs. Native Americans who used Osha were able to run further, and treat their colds and congestion. Modern research studies suggest Osha may support the immune system by offering protective effects against oxidative damage.

I want to thank you for your existence. I want you to know that functional medicine has changed my life, well the life of my autistic son. So much so that I plan on taking the Functional Medicine Health Coach Certificate and work with my new friend who is now a Functional Medicine Doctor from the Institute of Functional Medicine and spread the word on GI testing and how finding the underlying issues will help eliminate autistic traits. 

I hope to be able to meet you one day so I can share this great news with others. Changing my son’s diet has changed him. Food is medicine!! By the way, I’m cooking my rutabaga. I’m Italian and never grew up with these. With love.

Rita Mastrangelo

I found you on YouTube a couple of weeks ago and I’m hooked. I listen to you a couple of hours every morning. I am being tested for celiac disease and have been gluten-free for a couple of weeks. Thank you for all of your insight.

April Renee

Just wanted to tell you that you’re amazing! You are helping so many people all over the world! Including me! Thank you so very much, Dr. Tom O’Bryan!

Patricia Puddle

Good morning Dr. Tom, Would just like to say thank you! This time last year I was going through a hell of a time with my gut. Terrible indigestion on a regular basis, feeling as if I had eaten a boulder and the tiredness was doing my heed (scottish for head) in! With two young girls being tired is not an option!

I went to the doctors on a number of occasions and they decided to prescribe omeprazole to mask the problem, sorry help my problem. I decided taking these drugs was not an option for me! So I started googling the life out of it!! Low and behold you started popping up!! Oh and Gluten intolerance! 

Your advice has been second to none! You have in my case really simplified what gluten does to my body and now that I have cut it out (which as it appears in lots of foods, some I can’t understand) I have found that my symptoms very quickly reduced and now I’m a year down the line they have gone for the vast majority of the time!! For that I’m truly grateful. I now follow you on YouTube and Instagram, which continues to educate me and the importance of gut health. I look forward to your future advice. Yours faithfully,

Gary Christie

Black Ant Extract

A Chinese medicine tonic, Black Ant is used to support energy levels. (In traditional Chinese medicine, Black Ant is given to increase vital Qi.) Research studies demonstrate that Black Ant supports the function of the thymus gland, which plays a crucial role in the immune system, producing and activating lymphocytes.

Siberian Ginseng

This well known adaptogen has been proven to reduce cardiovascular stress, lower and stabilize blood sugar to healthy levels, and encourages a more efficient lipid metabolism.

Pine Bark Extract

Many studies have shown that pine bark possesses anti-aging properties. It’s very similar in nature to the well-known antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compound, resveratrol, which is abundant in red wine and grapes. Pine bark has a proven beneficial effect on lipids, the cardiovascular and immune systems.

Lion's Mane

A very yummy and medicinal mushroom is a well established candidate for brain and nerve health because it triggers neurite outgrowth and regenerates damaged nerves. Lions Mane has been extensively studied for its neuro-health properties.


This is an enzyme/protein that speeds up biochemical reactions and helps to prevent and dissolve the formations of blood clots (thrombi); addresses the problem of blood hyperviscosity, thereby preventing thick and sticky blood, which is not conducive to overall cardiovascular health.


Referred to as the women’s ultimate power herb, by some herbal enthusiasts. Used in India for at least 3,000 years, Shatavari, is structurally similar to estrogen produced within the body. Some researchers have concluded shatavari can be a highly effective alternative to synthetic hormone replacement therapy for peri- and menopausal women.

Chaste Tree Berry

Improve female libido, mitigate PMS, reproductive health

Horny Goat Weed

Increase para-sympathetic nervous activity, mitigate osteoporosis, improve libido, enhance smooth muscle tissue function

  • Treatment for erectile problems and nerve injuries in human patients:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3551978/
  • Prevents thickening or hardening of the arteries through multiple mechanisms, including attenuating DNA damage, correcting endothelial dysfunction, inhibiting the proliferation and migration of smooth muscle cells, repressing macrophage-derived foam cell formation and inflammatory responses, as well as preventing platelet activation:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29075193/

Bulgarian Tribulus

Enhance athletic performance, improve circulation, improve sexual performance, more efficient rates of protein synthesis


Cordyceps, a genus of mushroom, gained lots of attention after Chinese long-distance runners performed impressively at international competitions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Along with high-altitude training, supplementing with cordyceps was part of their intense training program. A research study concludes that cordyceps improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise after supplementation with it because the fungus is thought to increase blood flow, enhance oxygen utilization; it also acts as an antioxidant. It also has powerful anti-tumor properties, the ability to regulate the endocrine system, enhance your immune function, and protect the kidneys, lung, liver, and other organs.

  • Immunomodulatory, antitumor, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant activities, promotion of endurance capacity, and learning-memory improvement, can be used to treat conditions such as hyposexuality, night sweats, hyperglycemia, hyperlipidemia, asthenia, arrhythmias, and other heart, respiratory, renal and liver diseases: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924981/
  • Various pharmacological actions, including nephroprotective, hepatoprotective, anti-inflammatory, antioxidative, and antiapoptotic effects:https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4849494/

Ginkgo Biloba

In recent decades, an extract of the leaves of the tree Ginkgo biloba L. has been used to improve memory in disorders like Dementia disorders that affect memory and intellectual functioning, and are caused primarily by Alzheimer’s disease and vascular disorders.

  • Potent antioxidant properties and ability to enhance peripheral and cerebral circulation, ginkgo’s primary application lies in the treatment of cerebrovascular dysfunctions and peripheral vascular disorders:https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11565403/
  • Experimental results showed extracts of G.Biloba to upregulate protein expressions of BDNF:
  • The effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on cognitive functions in aged female rats;
  • The role of oxidative stress and brain-derived neurotrophic factor: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25446810


Jiaogulan, a versatile herb, is celebrated for its potential to support overall well-being. Known for its adaptogenic properties, Jiaogulan may help the body cope with stress and maintain balance. This remarkable herb has also been associated with promoting healthy energy levels, boosting endurance, and fostering a sense of calm and relaxation.