Sunday, May 15, 2011

Food Troubles: Part Two

Remember my food obsession?  It has officially become a food dilemma.  Since March I have completely revamped (or tried to, anyway) the way our family eats.  I have been shopping regularly at the Farmer’s Market, I have practically eliminated all packaged foods, and I make from scratch home cooked meals an average of 5 days per week.  I have made my own almond milk and my own strawberry jelly.  A typical snack around here is apples with cheddar cheese cubes as opposed to packaged snacks.  I am buying free range eggs, free range chicken, and fair trade coffee.  I have done all this and yet I’m in a food PANIC!!

Why?  Because I don’t know what to eat!!  I have become hypersensitive about food!  I don’t trust labels that claim food is organic, natural, glutten free, whole grain, or farm fresh.  I mean…can Skippy peanut butter really be natural?  Can Fruit Loops really be whole grain?  I am not even reassured when I go to my local Farmer’s Market grocery.  Is all that packaged stuff really good for you just because they sell it at Trader Joes or Whole Foods?   The other day I was listening to NPR and they were talking about healthier potato chips.  HOW CAN THERE BE A HEALTHY POTATO CHIP?! 

I think back over the past couple of months and I am glad I made all these changes, but can this be sustained?  How much longer until I give in and buy frozen mashed potatoes so I can cut my kitchen time down during the work week?  It just seems to me that eating healthy shouldn’t have to be this hard.  Just eat real food right?  But what if it’s not organic or free range?  What if the cantaloupe comes from Guatemala?  I wish I could just walk into my local Sprouts and buy my groceries and KNOW that I’m being good to my body and the environment.

I am currently reading a book by James E. McWilliams called Just Food:  Where Locavores Get it Wrong and How We Can Truly Eat Responsible.  I just started it, but what I’ve read so far makes sense.  He talks about the branding of food…how industries have hijacked terms like organic to cash in on the food craze currently sweeping the nation…and to some degree it’s hard not to agree.  I wish I had a big back yard where I could grow my own fruits and vegetables or live by a farm where I could buy sustainable meat.  However, my choices are limited and I often feel like I’m fighting a losing battle.

So I am appealing to all you out there.  How do you make food choices for your family?  Do you sacrifice some things to attain others?  Is there a happy medium?


  1. I totally know what you mean. I go food crazy sometimes too. There is so much conflicting info. out there, it's hard not to feel overwhelmed isn't it?

    My general rule is...I buy organic animal products and don't worry about the rest unless they're cheaper than their traditional counterparts. So...I spend my $$$ on organic milk, butter, meat, eggs etc. and only buy organic bread or crackers etc. if they're cheaper than regular ones.

    As far as produce, I like to support the local farmer's market and while many of them don't certify their farms as "organic" many of them practice almost as close. Also, I think that fresh fruits & veggies have more nutrients than organic ones flown in from half way across the globe.

    We are a one income family and I stay home with the I have the time to shop and cook, but not the money. Isn't that the way things always are? Either time or money but hardly ever both. :)

    I think the changes you've made to your family's eat habits are AWESOME! You pretty much separated yourself from the majority of Americans and are making a difference in your family's long term health! Sorry this comment is such a novel!!!! All I really wanted to say is be proud of yourself; you're a great mom.

  2. I have to agree with everything Kim said! It's small changes one at a time for sure. We do the local farmer's market with veggies and eggs. We try to pick all organic depending on the prices. I do read all the labels now and if anything has preservatives or corn syrup I try to avoid it. The hard part for us is avoiding fast food like subway or chick fil a. We are on the move so much that making a good home meal has become scarce, which is a must when trying to eat more healthy and responsibly. Good luck!!

  3. There has to be a happy medium or else you'll go crazy! We buy most of our food at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods. . .and like the ladies above we buy all our dairy, eggs, and meat organic. It's FDA regulated and although that means trusting the "man", I have to because life is too short to second guess everything. There are a few articles out there that list the most important things to buy organic--and I read that potatoes and canned tomatoes are 2 that are important, so I do that too.

    At the end of the day, all you can do is read labels and make better choices. It's simply not possible to make the "best" choice all time due to time or money or simply desire. But best is good enough, it has to be, because there's only one me. :) Oh and cooking while drinking red wine makes everything easier and taste better. ;) You're doing a great job!

  4. I think it is very easy to be overwhelmed by choices and decisions. When I noticed the organic butter I had bought was made in Denmark (and I live in Australia) I didn't know whether the organic practices involved in the making of the butter outweighed the food miles it had travelled to my table. We will never get it completely right. Organic farming does not necessarily mean there is no cost to the environment, it doesn't guarantee that the labour used was paid fairly and treated reasonably. And I also wonder whether the additional cost of paying for organic food is the best use of my money - could I not help people in dire need with those funds? Is buying organic an indulgent luxury or an absolutely essential part of living? I don't pretend to know the answer to these questions and so I do a bit of a mish mash - buy some things organic, try not to buy too many processed things, try not to get overwhelmed by guilt and remember that having these choices at all is a great luxury. Good luck on your quest. If you find the answers, do let us all know!

  5. The ladies who commented before me said what I would have said as well.

    WRT to purchasing, I think by purchasing local (or fair trade) and organic as much as you can afford, you are making a huge step that, if everyone made, would change the world! Also, avoiding processed foods as much as possible usually also means a huge decrease in packaging and the waste that accompanies it. If you are having trouble prioritizing, I think the EWG (Env Working Group) has a good pocket reference for which foods (from a health basis) you should buy organic if possible.

    WRT to cooking, I totally relate. First and foremost, be gentle to yourself. There will be cycles with it as there is with everything. For a good period of time I was literally making everything from scratch (even bread, pasta, yogurt and cheese). It was awesome and I hope to have a lifestyle again that allows for it, but right now I don't and that's OK. I feel good supporting my local farmer's market bakery and we have an awesome local dairy delivery service that is just old-fashioned fun!

    Even just in terms of meals, it sounds like you've made a huge leap. I can offer some tips, but mostly I want to just encourage you to do your best and keep it fun and light-hearted or you will burn out.

    Here are some things I've learned that might help:

    (1) double recipes and freeze what is leftover for another, tired night
    (2) find magazines and cookbooks that specialize in fresh and healthy 5 ingredient or less meals (I love Martha Stewart Everyday Food for this reason)
    (3) consider a weekly meal rhythm (fish on Monday, roasted chicken on Tues, vegetarian pasta dish on Wed, pizza on Friday)
    (4) make meal planning fun (dust off the cookbooks and whip out the magazines), but only try a new recipe once/week. Stick with standbys for the rest of the week.
    (5) consider joining a CSA with a farm pick-up - it will really inspire your cooking and most have a means for members to share recipes.