Thursday, March 10, 2011

Food Troubles

I have an obsession with food. It started out as a phase and has become a fixation. I can’t remember what sparked it, but over the past year it has developed and grown and, frankly, I don’t know what to do about it. I am not a health food nut or a label reader. I don’t scour the grocery store looking for the words “organic” or “whole grain.” But I have become increasingly concerned about what I put into my body and my kids’ bodies. The statistics on childhood obesity and diabetes are staggering, not to mention the impact of food and lack of exercise on adult health. And let’s not even get into what modern food production is doing to our Earth. The most disheartening thing of all is that even faced with the certainty of ill health and a shortened lifespan, people continue to make poor eating choices day in and day out. We can’t plead ignorance anymore…we know exactly what we are putting into our bodies and how we are affecting the potential health of our children by feeding them unhealthy foods…and yet we can’t seem to stop ourselves.

Ok, off the soap box and back to my food obsession…I have struggled with weight and high cholesterol all my life. Although I have never been thin, I was able to control my weight and cholesterol as teenager through diet and exercise. This basically meant eat less and move more. That wasn’t really a problem until I had my son. After my son was born I developed hypoglycemia. I went to see a nutritionist who basically gave me a crash course in how diet impacts our blood sugar. Eating less was no longer an option. Now I had to eat smaller, more frequent meals and I had to learn to combine my sugars and proteins so as not to cause sharp peaks in my blood sugar levels. In a nutshell, I had to radically change the way I eat. No more one big meal a day or skipping breakfast! So, in order to keep my blood sugar under control without gaining weight or severally impacting my cholesterol , I did what every other good American does…I started looking for low calorie, non-fat, low sugar packaged foods that I could snack on throughout the day. I did also slightly increase my fresh fruit and vegetable intake; however, the packaged foods were getting me through the day.

Then my daughter was born. I guess looking back I think perhaps she was the reason for the beginning of my shift with food. When it came time for her to start eating solids I vowed to do better by her (my son is a very picky eater and it wasn’t until fairly recently that he started being a bit more adventurous with his food). I bought a mini food processor and made her baby food from scratch. It was a lot easier than I had originally thought it would be, and it made a world of difference when it came to her eating habits compared to those of my son. I wouldn’t say she eats everything (I think many kids go through “picky” phases throughout their growing up years), but she eats a much more diverse diet than my son ever did. Yet my “good food” intentions flew out the window when she started nursery school and began eating the school-provided lunches. I have made a million excuses about not having time to pack her a lunch or not knowing what to put in her lunch and not wanting her to eat the same thing every day (she has become more of a picky eater since she started eating school lunches), but really it’s about choosing what is easy over what is right.

Therefore, for the past year or so I have tried to begin the transition to eating and providing healthier foods for my family. However, aside from my firm belief in real food over processed (including the fats and sugars) and moderation, I am at a complete loss. I have read articles on sustainable agriculture and eating locally. I have researched community supported agriculture and community gardens. I have flirted with the idea of planting a small garden on my patio and ordering grass fed beef online. I have tried buying all my produce at my local farmer’s market. However, at the end of the day all I am left with are feelings of frustration and disappointment. Why is eating healthy so hard?
There are no community gardens in my area and starting one is not something I feel I can take on with house, husband, kids, and a full-time job. My farmer’s market is rather small and, while it takes care of the basics, doesn’t provide me with the variety I am looking for. I started baking more and buying less packaged foods, but my life really doesn’t allow me to bake my own bread or make my own yogurt. We made the transition from margarine to butter, but to make my own? Not possible. I have, on occasion, attempted to purchase my groceries at places like Sprouts and Whole Foods, but the cost to feed a family of four at these stores is outrageous! And my daughter is still eating a school lunch. Sigh.

So, in keeping with the theme of 2011 of taking life one day at time, I have decided to accept what can’t be changed and embrace what can. I will continue baking and making what foods I can from scratch. I am trying new recipes all the time and welcome any that are passed along my way. I have made a new commitment to my farmer’s market and will begin going every week if only to get the basics. I have found a CSA that is starting up in my community and am excited to give that a try, and I will remain open to any new opportunities as they arise. And this summer when my daughter goes to summer camp and I am forced to pack her a lunch, I am going to make every attempt to get her to eat as many fresh foods and try as many new foods as possible (I can really use suggestions for healthy brown bag lunches). I realize we won’t be eating a 100% super healthy diet, but maybe we will at least begin to change the way we think about food.

My first Farmer's Market bounty!!

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