Monday, May 28, 2012

Slow (Food) Progress

I've been reading the archives in the 100 Days of Real Food blog, and I really find the posts informative. There is a lot of information here, from links to the Environmental Watch Group's "Dirty Dozen" to notes on fast food ingredients and how hard it is to find a birthday cake without preservatives. It's a neat read. And while I've been reading this blog and thinking about all these whole foods/locavore/vegetarian/vegan/juicing movements springing up, I'm also comparing our little household to the big food bloggers to see what we're doing "right", what we're not doing, and what we can potentially change.

For background: I've always considered myself a "healthy" eater but until recently I didn't pay much attention to where my food was sourced. My parents didn't take us kids to fast-food restaurants and candy wasn't kept at home except for the major holidays (Easter, Halloween, and Christmas). We didn't buy or drink a lot of pop. Both mom and dad gardened, cooked, and preserved some of our food and encouraged us to eat our veggies. Dad was always into organic/local food so some of that rubbed off on me and I've been researching food since college when my vegan friends introduced me to the delights (not) of factory farming! Rick's family wasn't as into health choices but his grandmother still did a lot of home cooking, so he learned to cook too - although his meal of choice when we were in college and he was working full-time was minute rice and fried chicken! He gained a lot of weight in high school and college and is trying to drop it, which is a motivator for eating better.

So when we got serious and got a house and I started thinking about feeding us, and he started thinking about losing weight (again), we decided to make some changes. We picked up some cookbooks for new recipe ideas... and promptly allowed them to gather dust (oh well). He dropped his Mountain Dew habit and cut back (little by little) on coffee. I quit buying pop for us and started a tea habit. Last year I got serious about making whole wheat bread and rolls; last winter he started making pizza crusts. And I've always tried to garden, with varying degrees of success. Little by little we're moving away from packaged foods and toward real healthy foods.

So here's to progress, and to still having more (a lot more) to do. "Right" here means good for our health and (usually) our budgets... not perfect, but moving in a good direction.

Things we are doing right:

  • Not eating out, although I occasionally buy lunches at work instead of bringing.
  • Buying whole wheat sandwich bread (ever since that Girl Scout project in third grade where they had us make 'clay' beads out of white bread, glue, and food coloring, I've greatly preferred wheat)
  • Buying in bulk when we can (bulk organic baby spinach, anyone?)
  • Gardening! This is of course an ongoing project.
  • Looking for healthier snack options: veggie straws instead of chips, whole-wheat pretzels, fresh or frozen fruit instead of ice cream.
  • Eating slightly less meat. We'll always eat meat, but I've cut my usual serving size and am filling the space with veggies.
  • Starting these changes while we're still in our 20's, childless and not in a food rut. I see a lot of bloggers talking about making changes when they've already started a family and are relatively settled in their ways of preparing and eating meals. There's always time to improve and I applaud anyone trying, regardless of age, eating habits or family status, but I think doing it younger and without having children does make it easier!

    Things we could improve:
  • Cut out white bread (still do a lot of white rolls for hot dogs and burgers)
  • Make most/all of our bread at home, learn to do pasta too!
  • Find local eggs
  • Buy more organic and local produce
  • Figure out if purchasing a whole, grass-fed locally-raised cow is an option! We can't afford to buy the "good" meat from the store and often default to the cheapest chicken breasts and pork roasts we find. I don't particularly love the idea of eating factory-farmed meat, but protein is protein and I'm not giving up bacon. I'm hoping that as our incomes rise, so will the percentage of healthier meat in our diets.
  • Start making our own 'processed' foods - things like applesauce, which is almost impossible to find without HFCS, and pretzels, which are a takeoff on the bread recipes I'm learning.

    Things that are at a stalemate (Either he or I don't want to give them up):
  • White-flour pasta. It's not going anywhere, although we've looked into making our own. The wheat pastas, aside from being more expensive, are also less appealing to Rick and harder for me to cook well (longer cooking times throw me off). We're probably going to stick to the convenience and speed of regular bulk pasta for a while.
  • Condiments (lots of yucky ingredients in the generic brands, but making them all at home is daunting and we tend to buy in bulk so they are very cheap!) If buying cheap condiments means we can afford better veggies or cuts of meat...
  • Cleaning and hygiene products. There are a lot of make-it-yourself recipes out there and we don't have much excuse not to switch (well, except for the recipes that encourage you to make your own soap... I'm not prepared to make my own soap yet), but I think I'd feel guiltier than I already do if I made my own cleaning products and still didn't clean the house!

    I think we're doing ok but there's a long way to go before I consider our diet really healthy. In the meantime, I'll be working on the garden and trying to remember how to preserve fruit.

    Any suggestions for things we could improve, or easy changes we could do this summer? I've considered doing a "real food" challenge - do you think it would teach us something new? What are your best healthy eating ideas?
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