The Truth Behind Our Food: Being Satisfied with Less
It's been exactly one month and two weeks of cutting out processed foods from our diet as a family, and I can say that it has been actually quite a bit easier than we originally imagined, but still hard to keep ourselves in check every single day of the week. For the most part, it's good. We're good, that is, when we're at home. We knew that when we traveled for the Country Living Fair, we would be finding ourselves in a pickle. We had one night to drive there and had asked our friend who helped us work the show, who also eats a similar diet to us, to pack the snacks. Our goal was to not stop at any fast food restaurants along the way, while we were at the show, or on the way home. Well, truth be told, we broke our rule one of those days. It was really difficult not to! The reason: What else can you do? It's hard! Not because we're all craving McDonald's, but because there's really no other option when you're on the go and traveling over 500 miles without stopping for more than 15 minutes at a time. So while we were doing pretty well with our food goals in the first month, leaving and coming home has been a bit of a struggle as we try and climb back up on the horse that we fell off.
I find myself checking packaging constantly. I feel like when I enter the grocery store, though I hardly enter the center aisles anymore, when it comes down to weird things like pretzels and hashbrowns, I start to get confused. What are my rules again? No weird ingredients, no preservatives, no GMOs... okay. There are actually quite a few products on the market that are processed and packaged that claim to only contain the raw ingredients needed to make it. Like hashbrowns for example. There was a bag at the grocery the other day that labeled the only ingredient as frozen potatoes, no artificial additives, no GMOs, and I know that there are other organic options, too. But I still hesitated. There was something about the processing part of the food that made me feel like I shouldn't buy it. But why?
Honestly, it comes down to a loss of nutrients as well as a loss of form. When vegetables and fruits are frozen, they do end up losing a lot of their nutrients. The same goes for if you purchased a bag of raw potatoes, shredded them, and froze them yourself. You'd still lose a number of the nutrients contained within those potatoes. But what's better for you? A bunch of potatoes that went through a processing plant, where you don't know who grew it or who worked on it, or a potato that you can buy from a farmer or grow yourself? I'd probably say the potato I grew myself. But that's more work, right? A vegetable is a vegetable - if you can't afford the time to grow your own potatoes, then I think it's okay to buy a bag of frozen ones. For me, though, now that I have the knowledge and willpower to just grow my own or buy them at the farmer's market, I hesitate and decide to just deal without them.
I find that that is happening for a lot of the food I used to eat. I'm a single stay-at-home mom; I cook fabulous dinners and usually fake my way through breakfast and lunch. I try to find things that are somewhat quick and easy to put together. I'm pretty sure that's just how most Americans are, whether you have children or not. Did you know that the average American spends less than 25 minutes in the kitchen a day? That was kind of sad to hear, especially since we pay so much money to have these amazing kitchens. And why is that? We're busier than ever! It's just how life is now. Most families have two working parents, and when is mom or dad supposed to have time to cook every single meal? I don't know, and I don't have the answers. But it puts the way we make and consume food into a new reality for me.
I want to cut out the bad, the fast, the easy, and in turn, that means I have to prioritize.
The more I talk about eating real, whole foods with my friends and acquaintances, the more eye rolls I seem to find I get. Or at least, some sort of argument turns up, and everyone gets defensive.
"I don't have time to cook like you do!"
"I can't cook at all."
"I'm not patient enough to cook."
"How do you have time to make all of that food?"
"You make it look so easy!"
It is easy to cook your own meals. It's not easy to change your mind. I had to prioritize, make a schedule, and change my point of view. Maybe instead of spending my Sunday mornings watching a movie or messing around on my phone, I could bake a loaf of bread. I tried it, and now that I've made more loaves of bread in the past year than I can count, I've found a way to multitask in between. I still get to have my entertainment, even though I'm making bread. (I won't lie and say that I don't spend time on my phone or watching Netflix - because I totally do!) I get to show my kid how to make it, to get him used to seeing me making our family's bread from scratch every week. I hope he gets that image engrained on his brain, I hope he starts making our bread when he's older, when he lives in his own house. Maybe he'll bake bread every week for his son or daughter. Now I don't buy bread from the store, not ever. It's not good for you; in fact, it's probably just as bad for you as a package of cookies. There's no nutrition in there; it's a loaf of sugar packaged to look like bread.
I have to keep telling my parents as we walk the aisles of the grocery store to not purchase a new bottle of ketchup, that I'll figure out how to make it, and until I do that we can just do without it. Do we really need ketchup? Or mayo? If it's that important, then I can whip some up for the week. When we skip buying it, we end up not having a need for it anyway. We're just filling our pantry and fridge up with old habits. And even though that's typically what's been happening, sometimes we don't follow the rules we've set for ourselves. Sometimes, we eat processed food, we cave and enjoy it for the small moment that it lasts. When it happens, however, there's a wave of slight guilt and then literal gut pain. It's been wild watching that experiment happen! When we did end up going through a drive-thru on the way home from Tennessee, Jill and I both felt awful afterwards. Our stomachs tightened and did not agree with the decision we had just made. It's a constant learning experience, but it's one that I'm happy we are trying.
So, no, I'm not a whole foods purist dear person that gets defensive about what they're eating or feeding their family. But I'm trying to be better. I eat about 90% real foods, and it's all a well fought battle. Do I think that everyone should try eating this way? Hell yeah. I definitely do. It's better for you. I'm not saying you have to only eat vegetables or only eat organic, though that's probably the best option. But cook some food! Make the time for yourself to cook a meal at night. And don't buy that package of macaroni and cheese that costs a dollar and take ten minutes - cook some real food. Buy some fresh pasta and make the tomato sauce. You'll feel so much better afterwards. I bet you'll even look better, too. I'm finding that having less expectations when I walk in the kitchen when it comes to my ingredients, the more creative I am becoming, the more I am learning about food and the better I am feeling inside and out.