I think like a lot of people I know, my relationship with food has evolved over time. I grew up in a busy household with a mother who perhaps didn’t love cooking as much as I do. She also worked nights. And, I think like many women of her generation, she was raised on convenient foods – things that came in packages – and as such, we ate rather a lot of processed food. Lots of sugar cereals, white sliced bread, tater-tots, chips, and a fair amount of take-out and fast-food. I don’t think this was particularly unusual, nor is it a criticism of my mother – she got food on the table and usually there were vegetables involved at dinner.
However, now that I am a mother, I find myself looking at food in a different way. I want Quinn to have a better relationship with food than I do – to recognize what food actually is and to understand the process that got it to our table and her mouth. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that bread always comes in a plastic bag because it is too hard to make (it’s not) or that snacks come in crinkly bags instead of from trees and plants. I think, so far, we do an okay job – she eats a lot of fruit, loves cheese and milk, and seems to know when she is full (unless it is ice cream). But she also frequently requests mac n’ cheese (frozen from Trader Joe’s) and turns up her nose at most vegetables.
I’ve also recently started reading Salt, Sugar, Fat and completed Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. My take-away from both: processed food is (mostly) evil. It may not give you cancer in the same way as cigarettes (although the research on obesity and its link to certain cancers is compelling), but it isn’t doing you any favors either. And the thing is, we don’t need to eat it!
So, therefore, an experiment in real eating. Like I said, I think we do pretty well overall. I cook dinner most nights, we usually suggest Quinn eats healthier snacks (and try to do the same), but there are some areas we need to improve. To wit:
-I have a serious addiction to coffee creamer. I love coffee, as long as it is thoroughly doused with some Coffeemate. Not only is Coffeemate non-dairy, I think it is actually non-food. I’m not about to give up coffee or switch to black, so this is an area that will need to be addressed. Luckily, I’ve found some recipes for homemade coffee creamer that I am going to try this week.
-Breakfast. Probably the bulk of our processed food comes during breakfast. I really like cereal, and while I generally stick to Cheerios, they come in a box and are definitely processed. We also love bread. White bread. I’m happy to make my own bread (wahoo bread maker), but I’m also going to try making my own English muffins and other bread products that we usually buy. Also: more whole grains, less fluffy white flour (oh white flour, I love you. I love you almost as much as white sugar.) I’m also going to try to make heartier breakfasts for us, trying out different porridges and attempting to perfect stovetop oatmeal (the instant stuff has about 8 things in it I can’t pronounce and a boatload of sugar.)
-Meat. We aren’t huge red meat eaters, but we do eat a fair amount of poultry. Our eggs are local and cage free, but I need to step it up to find locally sourced meats that are fed and treated well. What they eat, we eat.
-Lunch. Lunch is often on the run and turns into grazing. I’m not too mad about the grazing, but what we graze on is going to need to change. More nuts
Our first step starts this weekend with Operation Clear Out: as in, clear out all the processed food in the house, following one of Pollan’s rules: Nothing with more than 5 ingredients, nothing with ingredients that an 8 year old can’t pronounce.
Our second step: Finally signing up for a produce basket. I’ve been meaning to do it forever, but having more variety in our produce will be fun, and hopefully inspire Quinn to be more adventurous with her veggies.
Our third step: For one whole week, eat only real foods. Foods we’ve made or foods that have come directly from a tree or the ground. Nothing that comes premade (except yogurt or cheese). Eat things that our bodies should be eating because they are healthy, not things that someone in a suit in a tall building decided we should eat to make them a buck. After a week, do it again and again and again, until eating right becomes an all of the time thing instead of a some of the time thing.
Our fourth step. Share the ups and downs, the good recipes and the bad.
So check back. We’ll be keeping it real.