Let me just start by saying that every family, stage of life and body has different challenges. I am always hesitant to share advice on food because it can be such a personal and passionate thing. I love food! It is a very pleasurable part of life, but the way I approach it has changed dramatically over the years. I am well aware that what worked for us then doesn’t work for us now. Still, after making eating this way for about fifteen years through the stages of being just married, new baby, three little kids under age for and now teenager to two year old I know I have personally learned so much over the years and I would love to think that a morsel of it might be helpful to someone else. In this sprit here are a few of my thoughts.
- Don’t buy into an all or nothing mindset.
It is said that one fast food meal won’t kill you and an apple won’t heal you. Every healthy bite you do eat throughout the day still counts if you or your child ate Krispy Crème for breakfast.
- Learn to prepare food.
You know one of the greatest things I discovered about eating real food is how much variety there is for grab and go. Fruit and vegetables are so delicious and healthy just how they are. However, in the big picture I have also learned that it is much easier for my family to keep eating real food regularly if they are prepared to be delicious and presented well. With this in mind each year I try to learn a new technique and every month I try several new recipes.
I had no cooking experience when we were first married and now we both can prepare food quite well and enjoy working together on meals. In fact I am very surprised to learn that along with loving food I love preparing it. It is my primary creative outlet and I love that I can do it with the people I love and for people I love. This has also been a fun part of my children learning about food and nutrition. Like most kids they seem to enjoy food more when they help prepare or plan for it. I would encourage anyone who wants to enjoy eating real food regularly in their home to continually learn more about how to prepare foods. This is one of the reasons we really love partnering with Sur La Table in the Village for cooking classes. It’s a great way to add to your current knowledge in a fun atmosphere. (learn more here)
- Know your weaknesses.
Our biggest real food weaknesses has been allowing processed food in our home. Over the years we have dealt with this in different ways. We have had strict real food only in the home years. We have had top shelf for processed food years (out of sight out of mind is a great strategy when you have little kids). Currently we have a mixture due to our work with teenagers who store some of their junk food at our house (we work in youth ministry). Over the years the key has always been to keep as little processed food around as possible.
Your weakness may be different. I have a friend who determined to put her wallet (cards/cash) in her trunk while driving around. Her weakness was the drive through. Figuring out your weakness and addressing it ahead of time has been very helpful to keep real food the everyday normal in our house.
- Consider where you are at in your health journey (not your friends).
Your body, your family, your life are uniquely yours. Take note of what season you are in and how you want this to affect your fuel intake. I have been through so different seasons of life and more than once tried to meal plan, plan our diet or cook like someone else and found it frustrating. In every season eating real food has really helped me. However in different circumstances I have approached my food intake differently.
When I first made a drastic change to include a lot of organic produce in our diet we became very vigilant about eating only real food. I experienced a lot of health problems and sickness. As I started to heal and I experienced a major shift in my health (read more in organic starts) and then was pregnant. These things caused me to choose to be very careful about what I ate for several years especially avoiding processed food.
A few years later when I was feeling healthy and strong I felt more confident that my body could handle other foods I started drinking coffee with sugar once in a while. There were other occasional things I would eat that I knew were not “clean” “organic” “natural” choices. I didn’t feel the need to be so uptight because I had the markers of good health including high energy and a clear mind.
Later when I was battling food addiction/sugar issues I needed to make different choices than my friends and family. In a more recent season I wanted to be a better runner so I focused on foods that helped me handle running better. Then there have been seasons of pregnancy, nursing, entertaining in our home frequently, travelling or volunteering at summer camps. Life is constantly changing, we are all different, but good food is always good food.
Every once in awhile I take a little time as I do our meal planning and preparation and evaluate our needs for that season. I reflect on what has been working and what has not been working for us. I love a good food book and read many but I do not consult them, friends, fad diets or celebrities to determine how food should look in our home. Learning to think of our needs as unique has helped me to find ways to make eating real food normal in our house in many seasons.
Don’t buy into the myth that eating real food is so much more expensive.
Yes, buying and eating real food can be more expensive than eating junk food or it could be less. It really depends where you start the journey. We started as a young married couple eating out several times each week and because we didn’t know how to cook very well or didn’t want to take time and effort we bought a lot of “read made” kind of foods. You can buy a whole lot of fresh produce for the price of one latte, one drive through meal and one bag of Doritos especially when you buy in season and when you see items at a great price. There are a lot of people who have done the food stamp budget experiment with real food and found it manageable. Now with a family of seven it costs more to go through a drive through than it does for an entire day of real food. I find myself asking “How can families afford to buy their kids junk food.”
Preparing real food takes too much time.
Again, it really depends. Let me start by saying to the young women/mom out there. I was there not so long ago and new to eating real food. At first it seemed to take a lot more time. It’s just like anything else. You get faster, learn your short cuts, learn how to plan better or in my case learn how to improvise and be more flexible. (I think that cutting up a carrot took me about two minutes back then. Now I can cut a carrot in 4 seconds.) Preparing food is certainly much easier if it is fun, which is one of the reason I love eating a big variety of seasonal food. These are the things that excite and motivate my creativity in the kitchen.
Real food eating can be SO simple. It can also be a time consuming five course meal. Or anywhere in between. Sometimes it makes more sense to plan your meals around how much time you really have than how much time you wish you had. Simple real food meals are a huge win compared to a processed or drive through meal any day. I use the this strategy when planning our meals and only plan meals that take a lot of time on days I know I will have the time. There are TONS of online resources for quick meals that require a minimum of ingredients. Here are some of my favorites right now:
Order with Brown Box. www.BrownBoxOrganics.com
My favorite way to save time in this process is ordering with Brown Box Organics. I am the owner/founder but I am also one of our best customers. The mission for our local company is to make eating real food convienient for everyone. Shopping on-line with home delivery helps me avoid impulse junk food purchases. This saves me a lot of time and frusteration when trying to keep real food the usual in our home. I also save a lot of time with home delivery and invest that in preparing food with my family. I think that is a pretty awesome swap especially when the price is about the same or even less than the health food grocery stores.
Plan to fail
This is my least favorite thing to share. I have talked with enough amazing real food eating women to know that most if not all of us fail sometimes at getting the perfect meal on the table at the perfect time. Every season I have had different challenges with food. In this particular season of life my weakness is mornings. Let me just say the morning breakfast wins outweigh the fails, but I have boxes of cereal in my pantry. When I say cereal I am not talking millet with honey or steel cut oats with blueberries. I am talking about the boxed stuff that for years we wouldn’t have had in our house. It’s usually organic and we try to keep low sugar, but it’s processed food no matter what you write on the box. Sometimes one fail can inspire many wins.