My kids loooove fruit and that makes me so so happy. I love when our fruit basket looks like this after grocery shopping:
We’ve been serving fruit with lunch and dinner every day since the boys were little, and it is one of their favorite snacks. Did I ever tell you about the time I caught Zippy sneaking fruit from the kitchen, because I told him he had to wait until dinner? Aren’t kids supposed to sneak cookies? Well, he’s been known to do that, too!
That said, we are as guilty as most families of serving a lot of unhealthy foods, too. Lately I feel like I’ve been barraged by articles on-line about the dangers of excessive sugar, pesticides, antibiotics, and processed foods in general. A lot of it is stuff I’ve been hearing for years in the media and from my uber-healthy sister, but I’ve tended to sort of, well, ignore it. I just haven’t been able to figure out how to take this overwhelming amount of information and turn it into changes I can manage and stick with. Things like eating a lot of raw foods or buying all organic or getting our meat from a free-range, antibiotic-free, grass-fed farm seems unrealistic and out of reach for us, given what we are used to. I also don’t have the time to drive all over the county looking for the “right” food or to cook everything from scratch.
One of the things that has really frustrated me recently is that it takes effort and awareness to find safe, healthy, affordable foods – while foods full of pesticides, preservatives, and chemicals are the norm. The less safe foods are the ones that are convenient and readily available. Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
For whatever reason, something “clicked” for me over the past couple of months and I felt compelled to make some changes to what we eat. I decided I would try a couple of steps toward feeding our family a safer diet simply by being more conscientious about what I buy at the grocery store. That felt manageable to me. More manageable than drastically changing what we serve at mealtimes or changing where we shop. I came up with a few specific ideas:
1. I put lists of the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen in the notes section on my phone. When I shop for produce, I only buy from the Dirty Dozen list if I can find organic. As a result, I’m buying a wider variety of fruit now. We’ve been doing more kiwi, pineapple, and clementines. This has actually all meant more fresh fruit and less canned fruit. Awesome! I also learned that by avoiding produce highest in pesticides, we can reduce our exposure by 80%. So that one little step actually does make a difference!
2. Read the labels and find options that have the fewest unrecognizable ingredients. I’m becoming more familiar with the organic/natural section of our grocery and have found good substitutes for a lot of our standard foods. For instance, I found some organic, all-natural cereal bars and frozen waffles for the boys. The prices aren’t much higher than what we’re used too (which has been a deterrent for me in the past) and the kids haven’t seemed to notice the difference.
3. Buy whole grain options wherever possible. We already buy whole grain bread and pasta, so now I’m trying to do the same with snack foods and crackers.
4. Try to eliminate processed foods that we don’t really need, like frozen pizza or bottled yogurt smoothies. A few weeks ago I wrote about trying some new smoothie recipes to replace the store-bought ones the boys are used to. We haven’t bought bottled smoothies since! Hubby’s big concern was that he needs quick breakfast foods to serve the kids on daycare days. We’ve replaced store-bought smoothies with fresh fruit in the morning and everyone is happy. That said, there are some things we just aren’t ready to give up, like Eggos for Hubby and potato chips for me!
Following these steps has actually been pretty easy, probably because for now I’m only worrying about these changes for the one hour each week that I’m grocery shopping. Once the food is home, I forget about it until next week! The biggest challenges is that, although Hubby is supportive of this plan, when he grocery shops he usually opts for the least expensive brands and those often aren’t the healthiest. I am hoping that as I introduce some new brands and items on the weekends that I do the shopping, they will become more “standard” purchases for our family.
Baby steps, though, baby steps! It feels good knowing that although we could still do more, and maybe at some point we will, these small changes can add up and still make a difference.
Do you wish your family ate healthier? Try to come up with one or two specific changes to try over the next month & share them below. Or, if you are already an expert in this arena, what small steps would you suggest to someone just starting out?