Since I've been on a rampage against artificial colors lately, I've been asked by a few people what our family actually eats. That is a question with a very long answer. If you look at our diets, I guess you could call me Marginally Crunchy Disney Ma, because I’m definitely a foodie and there are some items I’m not ready to part with for the sake of “being crunchy.” My husband has a long list of allergies and an even longer list of food he simply refuses to eat, and our oldest daughter is turning out just like him, sans the allergies.
Regardless of the family member at the table, we do not eat anything with artificial colors, limit artificial flavors and GMOs (foods produced by genetically modifying its origins). The short story is this; we usually do not eat processed or fast food. We’re a very busy family, so there are those extremely rare days when a stop at a fast food restaurant may happen, but even then we try to make better choices, Wendy’s over McDonald’s and Burger King. Super sizing is never an option.
So what about all those neat-o brightly colored, ridiculously sugared options constantly displayed on television? Don’t your kids ask about M & Ms, Fruit Loops & Skittles? Yes, our oldest daughter does, but she also knows that food doesn't have to have artificial colors to taste good. As parents, we decide what normal is for our children. We are trying to promote good eating habits early; regular trips to the local farmer’s market and area farms remind her that a bright red Michigan apple is very tasty and better for her than a bag of candy. They aren't totally shielded from all the synthetic cuisine the world has to offer. I won’t swipe away a piece of cake with pink frosting at a friend’s birthday party or prevent them from trick-or-treating on Halloween. It is okay on an infrequent basis and our preschooler is old enough to start making her own choices. More often than not, she removes the colored frosting from cupcakes and forgets about the rest of the Halloween candy after she’s picked out all the chocolate she wants. While on vacation, the food rules go out of the window. We eat what we want within reason. Suddenly eating something you've been avoiding can make your stomach turn flips. If we think it will make us ill, we won't eat it. No one wants to be sick on vacation.
|Ham & Cheese with applewood smoked|
ham, havarti & tomato basil cheddar on
wheat...all from local sources.
Just because I am a stay at home mom doesn't mean I have all the time in the world to prepare meals for my family. Even when I took a job running a non-profit agency for a few months at the beginning of the year, I still cooked from scratch. Most of my food prep was done on the weekends. During the week, I relied on my crock pot to put in all the hard work while we were away from home. The timer on the oven was set the night before so it would be hot when my alarm clock went off, ready to cook sausage or bacon. Pancake batter was made over the weekend and stored in the refrigerator to be poured on a hot griddle, just as the meat came out of the oven. Add fruit that had been washed and chopped previously, and we had a great breakfast that took just a few minutes more than preparing an instant bowl of oatmeal.
There are lots of things that I've given up, and loads more that aren't going anywhere. Most breakfast cereals, frosted strawberry pop tarts, nutrigrain bars, M & Ms and grape soda are sadly off limits. For a while, I missed that stuff. Real food tastes so much better, and in most cases, what I make at home tastes loads better than the processed stuff. Using one of my favorite apps, Fooducate, I have found “crunchier” options, but am not willing to give up ice cream, potato chips, and alcohol, all items we consume in small quantities.
If you are interested in eating better, Fooducate is an awesome app. After scanning the bar code on your item, it alerts you of its findings based on the diet you choose. My app is configured to alert me on artificial colors, artificial flavors, high sodium and GMOs. It also grades the item and gives better alternatives to the item scanned. Scan items in your home and see if the results reflect how you would like your family to eat.
It is surprisingly a lot less expensive than most would think to skip processed and fast food. Purchasing food from local, sustainable sources is a bit more expensive than buying from a supermarket, but it helps keep the local economy rolling and is less likely to be genetically modified or contain other harmful ingredients. I've learned to cook with food that is in season, so our meal plans don’t look the same from week to week. We make up the difference by couponing for the remainder of our grocery items, such as shampoo, toilet paper, dish soap, etc.
Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be spending a bit of time blogging about our family’s diet and why we make the choices we do. This isn't intended to scare you away from your Frosted Lucky Charms, but to help you make better food choices for you and your family, even if it includes a bite or two of a guilty pleasure.