We are living in an amazing age. We have so many choices from the moment we wake up every day. These choices also extend to our cupboards, refrigerators, shopping carts and dinner tables. So many chemicals and additives are added to processed, convenience foods that if we are really aware of the ingredients every time we chose to eat such foods or to feed it to our children, I doubt we would make that choice lightly.
For example, instant noodles, a favorite snack of children and young adults across the globe, are often coated in wax. While wax may not necessarily harm us, it’s not something that I would consciously give my child to eat. I would never hand my child a candle and ask them to eat it, even a small birthday one. Neither, I wager, would most of you reading this.
Also, don’t get me started on GMO’s (genetically modified organisms)! Corn with rabbit DNA? No way! This is why my family and I have slowly been making the move towards a whole foods diet. This doesn’t refer to eating products sold solely at a much-liked chain organic and green marketplace. It refers to trying to eat a largely organic plant-based diet with no or very little processed food. Many people who eat a whole foods diet also eat meat (organic, cage-free, free-range, grass fed, hormone free), organic raw dairy products and organic grains. The following are my top tips on how to do this without freaking out your family and wrecking your budget.
1. Have A Family Meeting
You are making the decision to make a huge change in your life and everyone in your family needs to be onboard. You need to explain what you want to do and why. Try to help your family understand the long-term benefits of your choice. Assure them that you won’t be taking away all of their favorite foods. They just might get to eat them less often, prepared in slightly different ways. Introduce them to Michael Pollan’s Food Rules. According to him, it’s okay to eat toaster pastries and chips if you make them yourself. It will be fun!
2. Learn To Grocery Shop In A New Way
Shop along the perimeter edges of the supermarket. Everything in the middle of the supermarket is the stuff you want to avoid. The edges are where the dairy, produce, meat and grains live. That is pretty much all you will need. Join a CSA (community supported agriculture). Seek out local farmers that you can buy raw organic milk, cheese and eggs from. If it’s still in season, try visiting your local farmer’s market and try to buy the bulk of your food there.
3. Make Time For Meal Prep
Making food from scratch without any pre-made ingredients takes longer, in some cases much longer. Many whole foods dinners can be made rather quickly, but you may need to make many breakfast items, breads and snacks and desserts quite a bit ahead of time. Cookies don’t appear by themselves and making bread from scratch is a bit more involved than picking it up from the store.
4. Aggressively Read Labels
Even many health stores still carry quite a few processed foods, particularly snacks. If you can’t pronounce an ingredient or still can’t figure out what it is, even when you look it up, don’t buy it. Do learn some terminology. Sometimes different names for salt and sugar are used. Be aware of the commonly used variations to help make label decoding easier.
5. Go To A Cooking School
Well, not really, but do get acquainted with some basic cooking techniques if you were previously in the “pop it out and warm it up” club. You local library will likely have good books with basic cooking techniques. And an improved skill set is no further than a click with the internet and television cooking shows. Martha Stewart’s Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook, is one of my favorites.
6. Menu Plan
Eat what is in season and on sale. Plan your menu so that you are getting the most nutritional and affordable bang for your buck. Don’t buy berries in January unless they are frozen. Frozen organic fruits and veggies are a great way to stock up and have things on hand when they are out of season.
7. Plant A Garden
Try your hand at growing some of your own food. Try to choose organic heirloom seeds. Heirloom usually means it isn’t GMO. Heirloom varieties often have higher nutritional value and more complex tastes. Growing some of your own food will help you stick with your plan.
8. Learn To Can And Preserve
Invest in mason jars. They are inexpensive and can be used to preserve your food for the fall and winter when it is out of season, harder to obtain, and more expensive. Turn that load of tomatoes from the garden into sauce and salsa. Make jelly from the berries you picked this summer. Make applesauce and save it for later. Mason jars are also a great way to store any premade bone broth, soup stocks, and dried herbs you may have around.
9. Expect To Fall Off The Wagon
You grabbed that bag of cheese puffs at the grocery store and ate the whole bag of fake cheese puffed corn goodness. Brush off the crumbs, forgive yourself and move on. You will make mistakes. You will backslide. It is far easier to grab a bag of chips when you are stressed or tired than to make something nutritious for yourself. That is no reason to give up. We all make mistakes, luckily most of us, just keep on trying.
10. Don’t Give Up
When your kids (or spouse) has made a face of disgust yet again at the food you have placed before them, or you are laboring over jam filled toaster pastries for your teens, don’t give up. Try to remember how good you’ve been feeling, how much more energy you’ve had and the numerous other benefits you have reaped from making healthy choices for your family. You really can do it! It may feel hard sometimes, but it is still a great healthy choice!