Talking about food

Posted on | Monday, March 28, 2011 | 1 Comment

Over the past six months or so I have slowly been weeding the “bad food” out of our house. Foods that offered us no real nutritional benefit, you know what I am talking about: pre-packaged snacks and frozen meals laden with sodium, "fruit snacks" with the main ingredient being sugar, or foods have more unpronounceable ingredients than I am comfortable with having in my house. I used to not care as much. Kael was – and is – a picky eater and I would often give up and feed him food I knew he would eat. Chicken strips, yogurt, waffles, and popcorn were very popular. I was buying foods that I thought were at least relatively healthy and so long as he ate three meals a day we were fine.

Then around last fall as I was cleaning out my pantry I stopped and read the labels of the food we were eating and it shocked me. Foods that were listed as healthy and good for us... weren't. For some reason that shocked me a lot. I thought we were eating healthy, that I was making healthy choices. But what I noticed more and more was that the foods we were eating were jam-packed with sugar and food dyes and fillers. So I made the decision to fix how we ate, to eat better food that nourished our bodies.

We’ve switched from Eggos to Van’s whole wheat waffles. We don’t use margarine anymore, I use olive or other oils when I cook. Apples and carrots have replaced chips and most of our sweets. Whole grain or pretzel goldfish instead of the neon orange ones. We were never soda drinkers, but we have cut back on juice and are having a go at soymilk. I use milk instead of coffee creamer. Foot Loops are now Cheerios. I make cookies from scratch with whole wheat flour and honey, I add raisins or dates instead of chocolate chips.

It’s taken time to make these changes, especially with having a child that is so focused on having a set schedule and environment. While some things have gone over smoothly others have caused emotional meltdowns when he realized his favorite Finding Nemo Fruit Snacks were gone and he’s only got dried apple slices and fruit leather.

There have been times that I give in and he gets the gummi bears or the French fries. We’re still eating Tyson’s chicken tenders (although without ketchup). I have let more than one Lunchable into my house. Kael still shuns most vegetables and requests candy or popcorn instead. But we’ve made progress. He gets excited about going to the produce section with me when we grocery shop because apples have become his favorite snack. It’s a start.

It’s harder to make these changes because when he’s at school he still gets some of these foods. There are birthday parties with candy and lunches that have Hi-C fruit punch. While the food is still “healthy” it’s more toward what we were eating last year and less toward what we want to be eating now.

But… this past week I began looking into food again. I've fallen off track a bit this past month and I wanted to fix that. And as I made my grocery list I realized that while I have made some significant changes, there is still so much more. It’s a lot to take in and a lot to know. To know what is in our food – specifically our diary and our meat. In my attempt to be healthier not once did I think about GMOs or that gluten could be an issue for Kael. I didn’t think about high fructose corn syrup or hydrogenated oils. My focus was on bringing the general aspect of healthier foods into our home, but I’ve realized there is a lot more to it than that.

I’m finding study after study showing that children with PDD (like Kael) and Autism benefit from gluten free diets. I know that when I ate gluten, sugar, and dairy free my joints felt better. I never thought to ask why that was, but I am now. I’m learning about how our food supply has changed in the past decade and how our meat, dairy, and much of what is boxed and shelved has changed, too. It’s a bit terrifying to truly let it in, to know all the new things in our food and exactly what I am eating. What my son is eating. And suddenly my little changes aren’t big enough.

So I’m going to start making a bigger effort. I can start by choosing foods that don’t have artificial colors or high fructose corn syrup in them and phasing out the last few things in our house that are truly “unhealthy” (goodbye emergency chocolate stash…). I can buy more fruits and vegetables and making those foods accessible to Kael. I can pay better attention to the dairy and meat I buy, and likely buy less of both. It’ll mean reading box labels more, and knowing what these words mean, but it’ll also mean that I know what is going into my body. We’re going to slowly phase out gluten. That will take a lot of time and for now it won’t be 100% possible due to budget restraints, but we can start. Once we are moved and settled into our new home this summer I can start trying new recipes and transferring us over to an entirely gluten free diet. I'm on the fence if I'd want to include casein in that phasing out as well.

For now I’m taking what I call the Grandma Approach. Did Grandma have Yellow #5 sitting in her pantry? Did she use high fructose corn syrup? How about Aspartame? Did she eat a box of Oreos and not think about it? (Maybe that last one is just me) You can see where I am going with this. Great-Grandma Bertha wouldn’t have used ingredients she couldn’t pronounce and made a majority of her food at home. The portions were smaller, and meat was a side versus the main meal. When I’m at the grocery store this week and buying my food I need to stop and ask myself if I know what is in this food, if it’s healthy.

I still want to bake, cook, take a million pictures and blog about food; but expect for that food to change a bit. Or a lot. I might occasionally vent about the fact that rice flour is horrible at becoming bread and cupcakes, or that I must have been crazy to give up Yellow #5. But I hope that along with those posts my family will become happier and healthier.

I have a long ways to go before I’m where I want to be in regards to how my family eats, but we’re on the right track and the best thing I can do is keep going.


One Response to “Talking about food”

  1. somethink.different
    March 29, 2011 at 8:37 AM

    An idea... if Kael is less than wild about eating his vegetables, why not try helping him grow some? Mom had a few vegetable plants when we were little, and it was always so excited when she made salad with the tomatoes that *I* got to pick off of *our* tomato plant. If any made it from the garden to the kitchen, that is... they tended to go straight off the vine and into my mouth. ;) Even if he didn't eat them, I bet he'd get a kick out of watching them grow.


Photobucket I was born and raised in California. I have also lived in Hungary, Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and I will be moving again this summer. Kael is my incredibly awesome kiddo who is growing up far too quickly, and Alex is my fiance who makes me happier than should be legally allowed. I write about them a lot. I'm mildly obsessed with cooking and photography. I write about those things, too.