- Organic whenever possible.
- Lots of fruits and veggies - grow them in the summer garden.
- Keep packaged goods to a minimum.
- If you can't pronounce it, don't eat it.
- Use a variety of whole grains.
- We make our own whole wheat bread (well, Mary Poppins makes it, and it's delicious), and I've been making yogurt lately - mostly for fun and because I can.
- Vegetarian dinners a few nights each week.
- Eat red meat rarely.
- Know where your food comes from.
- Keep sugar to a minimum. This one is incredibly tough.
- Everything in moderation.
Of course, we occasionally buy snacks for lunches and the kids can have fruit/veggie juice blends (which do have sugar). We also get into ruts from time to time where we find ourselves eating the same things.
We love wine and cheese and any strict diet that eliminates certain food groups would be completely lost on us. i.e. Virgin, South Beach, Perricone, Paleo etc. So far, the Mediterranean diet has the easiest guidelines for us to follow and I rely on that mentally when ordering out at restaurants.
I think we are reasonable, but we're also indulgent. Our grocery budget hovers in the range of $1,000 per month. (This includes beverages - namely red wine and various household items such as light bulbs and toilet paper).
I will get produce, frozen fruit for smoothies, cheeses, condiments and some limited meats from Costco. For example, they have organically fed chicken (breasts) that taste great. I don't have much luck with that most other places, but Costco has so much other crap, I dread the trip. We get the rest of what we need from Peapod or a local grocer.
I find grocery shopping to be an absolute chore, which is why I actually prefer to do it online. Most of the commercial or packaged food in stores has little nutritional value (at best) or (at worst) is inedible. Health experts aren't kidding when they stay "stick to the perimeter" of the grocery store. It's those middle aisles that will be the end of us.
But the packaging is so pretty. [SIGH]
I understand that many people live on a tight budget. I am also aware that colorful boxes of food product that barely contain actual food are less expensive than real food - building blocks of a meal that must be assembled and/or cooked prior to consumption.
That's a lot of work. But it's worth it.
According to commercials, Americans want tasty food that's inexpensive, won't spoil quickly, can be prepared in minutes and won't make you fat.
It must be true, because so much of what's stacked up and down the aisles caters to those desires.
The Food Network is currently airing a Walmart commercial to show people an alternative to fast food for lunch. I thought to myself, "How responsible of them, to send the message that fast food is utter garbage." Alas no. The "alternative" was a Hot Pocket and soda - a full meal you can pack for your self that only costs $2.00!
To suggest someone should buy a case of these horrific get bombs and consume them daily is, well, silly.
If I think too much about what's in food, I start unraveling. Packaged junk is one thing. And, it's fairly easy to eliminate.
However, when I factor in the importing of food from other countries with lower quality standards, the inability to track the origin of meats and vegetables, irradiated foods, apples that sit in gas chambers to prevent ripening for a year or more, inhumane treatment of animals in slaughterhouses, states passing anti-whistleblower statues criminalizing the videotaping of activities in various facilities, gases released from melting polar ice caps, tainted water supplies, the billions of tons of garbage floating around in the ocean, genetically modified food, grain fed animals, improper labeling, hormones in milk, and contaminated meats, fish and produce ... I lose my appetite completely.
What I listed above is not propaganda. It's real. And, it's really easy to ignore if you don't want to see it.
The true propaganda lies in the commercials and packaging and advertising that leads us to believe that food is food and it should be cheap and fast and not make you fat and/or kill you at some point.
Yes. We can talk about how diets based predominantly on salt, fat and sugar cause cancer and diabetes and acid reflux and obesity and heart disease and a number of other things that lead to an early death. But we'll stick to packaged foods for today.
If you don't believe me, see if you can identify these ten, common, packaged foods by their ingredients. I did them in the form of Wordles to make it visually appealing. The larger the word, the more it appears on the package.
Keep in mind that the ingredient list does not need to include compounds used to "clean" meats, chemically create other substances and/or oil and clean processing machines. For example, cane sugar is often whitened using charcoal from the bones of cows. Gross.Vegan sugar is made without this process and is thusly Vegan.
1. Popular Lunch Meat
2. For many kids, this is their entire breakfast most days.
3. Pop this in the microwave, grab a Mountain Dew, and apparently you have an entire "meal" for under $2.
4. Breakfast on the go. You can get these frosted or not.
7. This little snack bar is in my pantry. Well ... it was until I read the label closely.
9. Two words. Cheese. Product.
10. This one is particularly shameful because it's an uber popular diet food. It's always on sale and, according to the label, milk is basically an afterthought. Hint: I make my own.
This all may seem a bit harsh, but eating these packaged food wouldn't be such a big deal if they were an exception, rather than the rule. I blame the 1950's and the ensuing acquiescence to lazy living. The 50's (the dawn of convenience items for the modern housewife) gave us everything from tv dinners to the Fridigdaire. Preservatives and packed freezers allowed us to keep food longer and make it faster. Luckily, the current decade has seen the rebirth of the agrarian - a trend I hope continues.
I chose this because it is inexpensive compared to whole cuts of meat. And, the commercially packaged bologna is reminiscent of the "pink slime" expose we have likely all seen. I personally prefer cuts of meat from a single animal. It leaves almost zero room to add any filler or crazy bits. You need to go straight to the butcher for this. There are fancy bolognas you can get from the butcher. However, if the frankenmeat is patched together, I believe it's better just to skip it. There are just too many points of failure there.
2. Golden Grahams
Commercial cereals kill me because the main selling point is that you can get a large percentage of your much-needed vitamins and minerals in a serving of cereal. The reality is any cereal that tastes "good" (especially to a kid) is nothing more than bleached flour and sugar "fortified" with powdered vitamin compounds. Grains should be whole, rather than heavily processed, sugar has no nutritional value and real live fruits and veggies (along with a healthy dose of sunlight) offer more vitamins than that cereal.
3. Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pocket
You could not PAY me to put a hot pocket into my body. Don't misunderstand, I am not above eating junk food on occasion. In fact, Filet O'Fish is my favorite pregnancy indulgence. However, there is not enough sodium or high fructose corn syrup in the world to make a Hot Pocket taste good. It just isn't possible. Aside from salt and a number of things I can't pronounce, a package of two Philly Steak and Cheese Hot Pockets contains 740 calories, 36 grams of fat, 14 grams of saturated fat, only 2 grams of fiber and zero vegetables.
4. Pop Tarts
Pop Tarts are palatable if toasted to a crisp, but make no mistake, they are pure junk - basically sugar, oil and a mixture of refined corn and wheat. In the world of baked goods, you would generally expect to see flour, sugar, butter, baking soda, fruit and an extract (vanilla, orange, lemon). That's about it. Maybe vegetable oil. The fact that these toaster treats have a long shelf life (and the fact that it likely costs three cents to produce one tart) is the driver for the shenanigans on the label.
I have eaten these once. They taste like noodles with catsup (not ketchup). My children will never konw what these are. Although, the label proved a better read than I thought. I do see tomato and onion on the label and, like cereal, there are quite a few powdered vitamins in the mix. Why so much oil, I wonder? The downside is that if you feed this to your kids, they may start to think pasta is supposed to taste like sugary, buttered ketchup noodles. If you're going to do canned or jarred pasta, at least throw a pasta bomb in to assuage the associated guilt.
6. Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich
Everyone loves PB&J, including me. Let's just not fool ourselves into thinking this is anything more than dessert. You can eat dessert for a meal. We have cake for breakfast after birthday parties. There is no shame. Just don't do it all the time. The ingredient Wordle for this is Jif, Smuckers Strawberry Preserves and Brownberry Bread. Right behind peanuts and strawberries, the top ingredients are high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, sugar and salt. Peanuts have protein, but they are the least sophisticated sibling in the nut family. If you can't live without PB&J, go for a peanut butter made with naturally sweet valencia peanuts as the only ingredient( CostCo carries it) and a fruit spread with less sugar.
7. Special K Pastry Crisps
There are just way too many ingredients in these. They are tiny Pop Tarts. It's a "lazy" item in our pantry. I am never buying them again.
8. Sunny D
There isn't anything remotely resembling fruit juice in here. I'm not sure I would even let the girls drink this at a birthday party. I'm not sure they would drink it if I let them try it.
At least "milk" and other cheese related ingredients show up on the label of this admitted "cheese product". As a Wisconsin native, this and basically any "American Cheese" offends my sensibilities. I do buy Kraft singles for grilled cheese, but it's against my better judgment. We use real cheese for sandwiches.
10. Yoplait Light "Yogurt"
This one is just plain ridiculous. The tag line is, "Yoplait Light makes healthier eating SO good." Healthier than what? Real yogurt please. In the "unwanted ingredients department" Yoplait light is right on par with the Muller Fruit Up containing tilapia.