In the last year or so, I have a lot of friends who have asked me “what I do” to keep my family eating healthy food that I feel good about. I have to say, when I first became a mom I felt like eating organically was just too daunting eating healthy seemed so expensive. So, I did the “best” I could to limit the sugar and be “reasonable” about what my kids ate. (Translation: I selectively picked and chose what “I” felt was reasonable and made me feel comfortable and didn’t seem “too far” out there). Which looked something like this: Honey nut cheerios with milk and maybe a yogurt for breakfast, a bag of goldfish for a mid-day snack, PB&J for lunch with apple slices and maybe a cheese stick and a Capri sun. A mid-day (running errands) snack would have been fruit snacks and then we would have a sensible dinner in the evening maybe pasta with garlic bread and a salad and broccoli for dinner. We would have dessert every couple of days and I felt like we were doing really well and eating quite healthy as a family. We seldom drank carbonation and we limited our sugar intake. Well then, because of my little girl and her struggles, in the last year, I have completely changed our habits and started being much more discerning about what I was going to let into my family’s food.
To be perfectly honest, this has not been easy, but as I have educated myself as to what I need to avoid and why I need to avoid certain things, it has all started to get easier and easier. After the initial shock of what was actually in certain foods, I have gotten into a groove of what I can prepare and serve my family. Even though it is daunting and may even be more expensive, I have found that the trade-offs are so worth it. My family has been healthier, happier, and we have much more energy on a given day than before.
This post is one of a few posts that I am writing to answer the “what do you do?” question that my friends keep asking me. This part is a list of the most prevalent things that I have chosen avoid. So if you will, the list of don’ts. I promise to follow-up with a list of do’s. I really hate to start with a “negative” list but since I like bad news first, I think this may be the best approach. I realize that this list may seem daunting, but just give yourself a break and take baby steps. As I started this “food journey” myself, I began avoid the foods in the first category for a while and then when that became easier is when I moved to the next category. Because of the nature of the “food industry” and the nature of modern life, it has not been possible to avoid every single item on the list at all times. The most important thing to remember is my favorite mantra “I am doing the best that I can”.
Recently, we went on a vacation to visit my family for my baby brother’s wedding. Because of the nature of the beast, we couldn’t avoid all “bad” ingredients but we did the best that we could. If you get creative you can avoid a lot of bad food situations and actually even save a bit of money. For instance, there was a continental breakfast served each morning at our hotel, well we brought gluten-free granola, some fruit and almond milk in or cooler and every morning, we had a smoothie or granola with milk for breakfast. The hotel often had hard-boiled eggs available as well as fruit so we had pretty healthy breakfasts each morning with just a little extra preparation. When it came to eating out, if the place offered gluten-free options, we took that as “good enough” for the time being and didn’t worry too much about “other” ingredients that may or may not be in our food. We did the best that we could in the situation offered. Of course, I splurged and had the Italian cream soda as well as the spumoni ice cream (and later paid for it) but I didn’t beat myself up over it. Eating healthy is very important, but I feel that as long as you are trying 90% of the time the rest is not going to make as huge of an impact. Mind you, this is just my opinion.
Okay so here is what I “Do” in order to avoid hidden dangers in our food.
The most important advice I have is to READ. Read everything. The “food” industry is sneaking added ingredients into foods left and right. Cheapening products to make more money and/or to make their foods more addictive. Did you know that there is sugar in some salt? I had no idea until this morning. Pick up every single package before you stick it into your cart and find out what exactly is in it. You will be surprised about what really is in your food. If it doesn’t get in your cart, it won’t get into your home, and if it doesn’t get into your home, it is much less likely to get into your body. Don’t get overwhelmed by all the information. Just take baby steps and remember, inch by inch, life’s a synch. I have added links to many, many articles giving more information as to why many of the ingredients listed should be avoided if you would like to read further on any one item.
1. Avoid GMOs as much as possible
2. Buy organically when it is on the dirty dozen list
3. Check for added filler ingredients
Extra credit: Make sure your meat, poultry and eggs are a healthy source of protein; fed healthily, and free of hormones.
Step #1 Avoid GMO foods
Please buy these organically or don’t eat them.
Companies that sell GMO’s have fought tooth and nail against labeling but you can avoid GMO’s by avoiding any of these products unless they are organically grown. Sadly, GMO’s are lurking in so many things that this is the biggest most difficult step to make. However, if you do eliminate them from your diet, many of the other ingredients from step #3 will already be cut down so much you will not have to pay quiet as much attention to ingredients as you would otherwise have to. Now, remember that anything that does not say it is organically grown on this is most probably is GMO because, thanks to the “food industry” and all the billions of dollars they have paid to block labeling in the USA you can pretty much bet that anything with these ingredients that is not marked organic is GMO. They also are doing all they can to stop people from letting others know about the dangers of their products so if you start doing searches on these things and find A LOT of broken links, do not be surprised. Those with the gold make the rules.
So, take my advice and just eliminate anything that may be GMO from your lives to make sure. If every single person in the US did this for just two days, the industry would have to change their stance on labeling. You have power and it is in how you spend things. Grocery stores and other businesses pay BIG bucks to figure out what consumers want and how to get you to buy stuff. If we all refused to buy crap, they would stop selling crap. It’s really as simple as that.
Step #2 Buy Dirty Dozen Foods Organically
If you go to the environmental working group’s website, www.ewg.com you can find out all kinds of fantastic information about food. The dirty dozen is a list of the foods that have the most traces of pesticides in them when grown conventionally. If you buy these things try to buy the organic choices of them to lower your exposure to pesticides which are endocrine inhibitors. Here is the 2013 List of the Dirty Dozen:
Sweet Bell Peppers
Summer Squash +
Step #3 Avoid Added ingredients
One article I read said that there are over 200 hundred “additives” that the FDA allows into the food in the US that are banned around the world. If you think that the FDA is looking out for you and your family by limiting “bad” chemicals into the market, you may want to reconsider that thought. How many times have you seen those commercials advertising that if you or one of your family members has had adverse affects from taking one drug or another that was prescribe and might I mention, FDA-approved, and that you can get legal compensation because of a lawsuit against the company; you might want to think again about the safety of FDA approved anything. If you don’t know what it is, just do your body a favor and put it down. Here are a few of the things that I avoid as added ingredients:
Natural Flavorings—just because it says “natural” doesn’t necessarily mean “safe”.
Aluminum—a chemical added in most salt and baking powders and is linked to Alzheimer's disease and is NOT found naturally in your body. So yeah, you may not want to put it into your body.
Aspartame—also known as bacteria feces…yes as in poop
cellulose—another word for woodchips. This is actually not digestible but it is used to make items like good old grated and that flakey parmesan cheese anti-caking. Personally, I’d rather have “cakey” cheese than constipation.
For Extra Credit
These next few things are changes that we have been slowly trying to implement but they are the most expensive changes we are making:
Eggs from GMO/soy fed chickens
Do not buy nitrate and nitrite anything—there is a reason why some people call Hot Dog’s “Cancer Dogs”. Nitrate and nitrite free bacon is super duper yummy though a lot more expensive than other bacon but I feel it is worth the money.
Dairy Products that do not say rBHG free. Milk products, yogurt, butter, milk, cream, cheese etc
Soy fed Chicken-
Okay, we’re done with the lists. There are trade-offs to eating healthier—but none that are not worth it. My children have been happier, healthier and more obedient because their bodies and minds are not having to filter through the garbage. There are many articles that I have read like this one that tell you what you will have to “give up” in order to avoid unhealthy ingredients and the way they are formulated is to make you feel hopeless. People who feel hopeless can not change. Because what do we do if we can’t cope with something that is wrong? We continue doing whatever it is we always did. In other words, we feel helpless and shrug our shoulders and say to ourselves, “Well, that’s too hard,” and then we give up and move on. And then the companies who are putting garbage on the market win because we feel powerless against them.
Poor health costs a LOT more than eating healthy. Being sick hampers happiness, work, and relationships just to name a few. My kids and I used to catch every little germ that came our way. I also would wake up most mornings feeling terrible and not wanting to cook so I would eat the first thing that came my way—usually a brownie or some candy. It was once I purged my home from ingredients and started taking this process of “eliminating” step by step, that I started finally, finally feeling better. I hope you will experiment with these steps and find that they benefit your lives for good and for the good.