Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Food Freak Out

If you are anything like I was 9 months ago, your pantry probably consists of convenience foods like boxed mac and cheese, instant mashed potatoes, and sweetened cereal. You eat some fruit and veggies every day and think you are doing pretty well at this whole healthy eating thing. For me, everything changed when I had my baby girl. Holding this tiny being who was completely dependent on me for her every need made me realize I was going to have to get it together before she started eating solid foods. I was not going to be one of those mothers sweating in the fast food drive-through with a guilty look on my face, hoping no one I knew saw me sneaking french fries and over the back seat to my toddler.

I thought it would be easy. I would start really paying attention to ingredient labels, switch brands if necessary, avoid the deep fryer, and smile smugly as my kiddo munched on some all natural cereal, just like in the glossy parent magazines. I was dead wrong. I was completely overwhelmed and unprepared for the rabbit hole I found myself falling down when I started to research the current state of our food. Red dye 40? Phenylpropionaldehyde Dimethyl Acetal? Genetically modified organisms? What was this crap and why was it in my dinner?

I spent countless hours learning about everything food related. At one point I freaked out and threw nearly everything in our kitchen into the trash. Yes, it's that serious. I know what you are thinking. If it isn't safe, it wouldn't be in our food. That's what the FDA is for. I used to comfort myself with that thought too. The sad truth is that in the United States, we assume things are safe until they are proven harmful. The growing chorus of people raising concerns about our food supply is mostly being ignored by those who have the power to do anything about it.

So what do you do? You take it one step at a time, one meal at a time. Some changes are easy and some are....not so easy. We have been on this journey for about six months and I'm proud of the changes we have made, but I know we have a long way to go. Despite my convictions and my pledge to feed my family real food, you may see me devouring a chocolate bar in the bushes, well hidden from the keen eye of my tiny tot who always wants a bite of whatever mommy is eating. Life is just like that. You do the best you can and you keep trying to do better. Then one day you wake up and admire how far you've come.

There are many excuses people (like me) come up with for leaving healthy eating at the bottom of the priority list. Here are a few of them.

  • Healthy food tastes like poo. This is so not true. We are eating better now than we ever have. Some things can take some getting used to, but our overall consensus is that our food tastes way better and is much more satisfying than what we were eating before. Plus, we have expanded our diet to include all kinds of things we had never eaten before...quinoa, millet, rainbow chard...and who knew you could make something other than jack-o-lanterns and pie with pumpkin?!

  • It's too expensive. I thought so too, and I have been pleasantly surprised that our food bill has actually gone down. Junk food is expensive, it gets gobbled up right away, and it doesn't keep you full. Whole foods may seem to have a higher price tag, but they fill you up more quickly and help you feel full longer. Strategies like buying in bulk and meal planning also greatly help reduce grocery bills.

  • It's too time consuming. Although some Super-Mom bloggers out there would have you think healthy eating happens in a snap, this is one area I have not yet mastered. (I suspect they have secret ties to Samantha the witch and often wonder how I can join the coven too!) I do spend a lot more time thinking about, planning, and preparing food than I used to, but it isn't nearly as difficult as I thought it would be and it's totally worth it. There are lots of time-saving tips that can help immensely.

  • It's impossible/too hard/overwhelming and I have no idea where to start. I completely understand. I wish someone had been there to guide me when I was having my food melt down. By sharing my family's experiences, both our triumphs and our miserable failures, I hope to help make the transition to healthier eating easier for anyone who wishes to do so. Each week I'll share tips, tricks, and information you can actually use to revamp your diet. No rocket science required.

Share your thoughts and questions with me. What do you find confusing about healthy eating? What roadblocks are in your way? What successes have you had so far?