This is a tale of how striving too hard for healthy eating caused one family a ton of stress, weight gain and was anything but healthy.
“We HAVE to eat better!” I exclaimed. After a night of binge watching Food Inc., Forks Over Knives, Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead, and any other Netflix documentary about healthy food, I knew we had to make some changes. We were eating a SAD (standard American diet), and our kids basically sustained themselves on the standard kid faire. I bought organic when I could, which was rare. We cooked at home most nights, but it was a lot of processed/pre-packaged food. I would eat Smart-One’s for lunch and have no qualms about weekly (or more) canned tuna sandwiches on Bunny bread.
Once I began paying attention to where our food was coming from, just how many artificial ingredients are out there and actually reading labels, I was horrified.
How could we change our habits?
The most logical explanation was to just change everything, all at once. Because that always works out. We bought a juicer. I scoured pinterest for Paleo recipes. I began following “Whole 30” bloggers. And everything worked out great. We now eat only organic, grass fed, made from scratch food. My kids agree to eat whatever we serve them, and this huge lifestyle change didn’t affect our budget one bit. Oh, wait. No. That’s not it. That is how I hoped it would go.
I was spending more money on food than when we were eating out regularly.
I would spend far too much time cooking, only to have NONE of us want to eat the meal. We ended up at the drive-thru more times during this attempt to overhaul our eating than ever before.
I would get frustrated with my kids for not wanting to eat this healthy food…even though they already ate a wide variety of fruits (and even a few vegetables!)
I refused to buy non-organic apples. They are on the dirty dozen, y’all. But then, I would end up with chips, cheez-its or something similar just so they had a snack. I’m no expert, but I’m going to venture a guess that conventionally grown apples are better for you than fried (non-organic) potatoes.
We would buy all this fresh food, have a crappy week where we didn’t have time to cook, and have to throw out rotten spinach. The “whole food” is no good to me if I don’t have time to prepare it. Again, take-out or drive-thru it was.
The whole experience was frustrating. I constantly felt defeated, and I couldn’t enjoy even small victories because they weren’t enough. Let me be clear, this is my issue, unique to my family and our circumstances. You might be able to rock this kind of lifestyle, and if that’s the case, rock on. Right now, with three kids under 6, a full time working husband, part time working wife, little to no help and a limited budget, we just can’t eat like this. It’s part of a larger problem that I do not have the energy to get into, but suffice it to say, a true “Whole food, organic, plant based diet” is not an option for this family. No. It isn’t. Not if we want to keep the electricity on.
What we’re doing now:
Now, I am a conscious but sensible shopper. I am aware of the type of foods I would like to feed my family, but I am taking it one step at a time, making adjustments when needed. I prefer to buy milk from grass fed cows, but I will settle for milk from cows not treated with growth hormones. I prefer organic apples, but if they aren’t available, we opt for conventionally grown. I look for the “non-gmo verified” label on our cereals and granola bars, but I am aware that we cannot always avoid it, not at this time.
Every day, I am doing what I can to keep my family healthy, without losing my mind or breaking the bank. And for me, that is enough.
We have also begun the journey of trying to eat more “real food”. I agree trying to go 100% would (at least for our family) never work. So, I am focusing on a few key items and we will go from there. My key things (for at least the moment) are avoiding food dyes in all products, trying to buy processed/prepackaged food with least amount of ingredients, and trying to avoid an over abundance of chemicals. Good luck on your journey and just know any step in the right direction is better than before!
Thank you, Leah. Good luck to you as well. I definitely want to avoid food dyes as well. It is so hard because whenever they go to grandma’s house junk food abounds. I don’t want to be the killjoy, but I also want to keep things like that away from my kids.
Thank you soooooo much, Myndee!! I’ve gone through all of this and feel guilty on a daily basis, but everything you said was so true! It’s expensive, it takes a whole lot of time to cook from scratch, then I hate the recipe and then we eat crap. xoxoxoxox
Perhaps because I spent a formative early adult year in France, or perhaps because my mother always found the time to cook for us when we were children even when she worked, I find eating and shopping for food mostly completely intuitive. I feel we’re all pretty healthy, we enjoy our food and don’t overanalyze it, and we spend a lot of time cooking and cleaning up after. Sure, we have budget problems, and I wind up getting cheaper brands of most things than I’d prefer, and I never buy organic things anymore. But on the whole, I feel we eat well. I think looking for a “diet” or organic or non-GMO is only a way to stress yourself out about things you really can’t change very much. The things I think one must learn, or be raised to do naturally, to eat well without much effort is to enjoy cooking and to make the time to do it, and to enjoy eating fresh food. If you don’t like the food you fix, it’s a total waste, as you said. There are many nights when I don’t get to watch any TV or do anything after dinner and cleaning up, it’s getting near bed time. But I enjoy cooking dinner and eating as a family (not the cleaning up, but it comes with it), and I’d prefer that to TV time. I think if it’s not a genuine love of cooking and a willingness to spend time doing it, and also realizing that healthy doesn’t mean organic or non-GMO, it means freshly prepared from largely unprocessed ingredients, it simply won’t work. I highly recommend reading French Women Don’t Get Fat if you haven’t read it already.
I, too, am always trying to eat better. I feel you! While we are not where I want to be, we are in a much better place than a few years ago. I think being aware makes a big difference. There are so many items that there is one option with five ingredients or less next to a similar item with a paragraphs worth of ingredients (ice cream, peanut butter, ketchup, chips are examples). While those foods aren’t healthy or eaten often in our house, I do feel better that there are less additives. Those healthy blogs and recipes also call out to me but are not yet realistic. I am happy to just being using whole ingredients, even if it includes more cheese and less vegetables than it should!