I grew up w/ a family that believed Crisco was gold. Fruit was healthy, but Fruit Snacks were better. Salad was only one the table if it was tossed with bacon grease to wilt. I also grew up with my appearance and size being the focal point of who I was as a person. Guilt and shame, and handed diet information and tools.
About 5 years ago I started weeding out all the crap from my family’s diet. M had asthma, my partner had high blood pressure and a tendency to acquire pneumonia yearly. I was postpartum (nut sed on that). My mindless internet meandering during my PPD evolved into learning about food, digestion, etc. I had stopped buying soda (for myself, my partner still partook) and Hamburger Helper years before, and wanted to see if more changes would help. These are the first few things I changed and did, in no particular order:
- I started looking at ingredients and eliminated anything I couldn’t justify. This is pretty much everything (one by one) that was unpronounceable, or had questionable origins. This included dyes and preservatives. My first was hydrogenated oil. Oil that is pumped full of hydrogen molecules in order to extend its shelf life. However, that much hydrogen turns the once good fat oil into the nasty ‘trans fat’ oil that the media is always talking about is bad, and is hardly digestible. This was a pain in the ASS to eliminate from our diets. Everything we ate had hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated soybean or other oil in it. For those products that we couldn’t find a packaged alternative for, we:
- Made it ourselves. Example: milk and sugar instead of creamer in our coffee. Pancakes from whole grains or sourdough starter. Spice blends from bulk spices instead of packets.
- Watched Food Inc. I watched this one night when it popped up in my suggestions in Netflix. At the time my partner was NOT on board and was somewhat resenting me for refusing to buy soda and canned fruit. So the next night he was home I turned it on, “oh hey this looks interesting”. Joel Salatin in now his inspiration for our aspiring homestead. And he was totally up for reading labels with me.
- My partner got on board. Like I said above, it’s been so much easier not fighting about food choices since J has learned why I want to change. “Because I don’t want us to feel like crap anymore!”
- My kids got on board. When M learned what was in a fast food burger, he was adamant he did not want to eat it. When he learned what cattle and pigs go through for us to get beef and bacon, he would not eat it. We have since taken him to visit farmers and butchers so he can ask questions. He helps us choose where to buy our meat. E and J have grown up eating a variety of produce and foods prepared in various ways. Though E will on occasion scream, “I don’t LIKE broccoli!!”, cooked differently she will. (Most of it depends on presentation I’ve found.)
- I started freezer cooking. The only way I was going to keep up out of the fast food lane was to make sure we had food ready to heat up quickly. My favorite resource was Once a Month Meals, which I still love and collect recipes from regularly. I may change ingredients in some of their stuff to suit our needs, however it’s still an awesome starting point for anyone needing to cook and make the best of their time.
- I started evaluating how we were feeling. My kids were still having issues in a lot of particular departments, so I’d take that issue and Google it for what foods could cause said issue. I’m not saying read all the blogs or whatever web pages are out there; there are many reputable websites with researched and cited information that is very helpful. Some things we found: Food dye is associated with ADHD symptoms, dairy and wheat is associated with digestive issues and autism, Vitamin D deficiency is associated with poor growth, depression, etc. (These issues that these foods are associated with are only a few. All of these things have more issues they can cause.) This is how we found out that some of us have problems with cow milk, duck eggs, and wheat. This is an important element in the Elimination Diet, recommended by practitioners for allergy and intolerances.
- I learned how to grow tomatoes. Well, tried to. We’ll see if I actually get to them before the deer this year. We have a large yard with lots of room to plant whatever we would like. I try every year. Alas, the most we’ve gotten out of it has been raspberries, zucchini, and dandelion root. This year, mark my words. I shall not kill so many veggies. Stay tuned for those antics.
- I found a cheaper way to buy produce. Many areas have CSA’s and co-ops. My co-op is a drive away, and I haven’t found a CSA advertised well enough in my area for me to know about it. I have found Bountiful Baskets, a co-op like program where volunteers work with farmers to get the produce to you for a fee (to pay for gas and to the farms, not volunteers). One ‘basket’ is $19.50 after handling fee, and contains more than $30 and up what I would get at the local supermarket.
- I have fun with it. Finding new recipes, new kinds of food to try, new ways of cooking food. Kale slaw, curries, black bean burgers, cucumber soup- these are items I probably wouldn’t be interested in making myself but buying because they seemed too complicated. Even just slicing a Daikon radish and eating it with peanut butter is something I find myself doing with the kids, and something I know I didn’t do growing up.
Many of these items also helped our grocery bill. Real food can be expensive! But many things helped our budget. Like CSA’s or co-ops, bulk, making our own mixes. We have food as a priority though in our budget, which payees are few anyway. Since we began focusing on food for health, our medical budget has slimmed down. That money now goes towards food or fun stuff. Like the occasional random trip.
Over time, whole foods has gotten easier. Then Paleo came along, and GAPS, and WERSDAKN. We eat what works for us, that helps us feel our best. If something isn’t working for us, we don’t do it. I hope this list can help someone take that little step towards helping themselves feel better through food.