Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Eating Clean (ish)

I've always considered our family to be pretty healthy eaters. We've never eaten alot of fast food. My kids love vegetables (okay, actually Rory loves vegetables; Camden just eats them because he has to). There are no frozen pizzas, burritos, etc. in my freezer. My mom's rule of "something green with every meal" goes through my head each afternoon as I cook supper (I hated that rule as a kid!). After my cancer diagnosis, I started paying a little more attention to processed food, cooking, etc. But in the last 3 months I've been paying even more attention.

And I started learning about how many artificial ingredients are in our food. I've always been under the impression that as long as I was cooking meals from scratch for our family and including plenty of fruits and veggies on the side that we were good. Guess what. It's not enough.

I started reading food labels and seeing so many ingredients that I couldn't pronounce. So many preservatives that are banned around the world, but that the U.S. allows, not to mention all the added salt and sugar. One small example: crushed tomatoes for making homemade spaghetti sauce. I've always grabbed the cheapest can of crushed tomatoes from Walmart to use in my homemade sauce. Now that I'm reading labels, I've noticed that out of the 5 brands available, only one lists tomatoes as the only ingredient.

And if you start reading ingredients, I think you'll be shocked at how many foods (including ones that you'd never think of) list sugar or cane syrup as one of the top 5 ingredients, not to mention all the crazy fillers they put in our foods. Don't you think food that is still edible 3 years after it's been created is a little gross? There is nothing natural about that!

As if I weren't strict enough with the kids food intake already, I've turned into that crazy (and I use that term lovingly) mom who throws away the candy they bring home and who won't let them eat hot lunches at school. They never complain at all, but I imagine them sitting in the cafeteria at lunch looking longingly at their friend's juice boxes, bags of chips, and snack cakes. ;) While I want them to pay attention to what goes into their mouth, I don't want to make them hyper-vigilant either. It's kind of a fine line.

Here are a few simple things we've changed in our house.

1. No processed foods. Now I'm not a food nazi, but chips and snack cakes and frozen pizzas, etc. are nowhere to be found in my house. They never were a staple, but they're non-existent now. I've even stopped buying crackers although I have several recipes for homemade crackers that I'm hoping to try.

2. I've been trying to find recipes that use pure, organic honey as a sweetener instead of sugar.

3. I buy organic 93% lean ground beef and only hormone free, organic chicken.
And, yes, paying $6 for a pound of ground beef or chicken as opposed to a $3 pound of regular meat is a tough pill to swallow sometimes.

4. Instead of bread from the grocery, I've been going to a local German bakery that bakes organic whole grain bread fresh every day. It only has a shelf life of about 3 days, so you know it's preservative free! I also buy my lunch meat from that same bakery. Once again, the budget takes a hit from this choice, but it's worth it.

5. Lots and lots of fruits and veggies. Last week we even ate pea shoots on our sandwiches and used spaghetti squash in place of pasta for my spaghetti sauce. And who knew you could roast cauliflower?

6. I only have whole wheat flour in the house. And, again, read the labels because I couldn't believe all the brands that listed ALOT of other ingredients. I've read that buying flour from the grocery store at all is a bad idea, but so far I haven't switched to buying in bulk elsewhere.

7. We've pretty much given up pasta, except on rare occasions and then it's the closest thing to just whole grains that I can find.

8. Absolutely no bought cereals, granola bars, little yogurt packages, etc. The kids (and Brian) get plain Greek yogurt with a little drizzle of honey and homemade granola or raw almonds. I've been making homemade granola using organic whole grain rolled oats, wheat germ, flax seed sweetened with a little honey and cononut oil for breakfast. I'm still trying to find a clean muffin recipe that doesn't have a strange texture.

9. I've been using coconut oil for cooking instead of vegetable oil, but I still do occasionally use olive oil.

10. I've given up sugar in my coffee and have been sweetening it with a drizzle of pure maple syrup instead. (I have not given up half-n-half, though.)

We don't have any allergies so I haven't cut out grains or dairy, although I personally try to avoid bread as a way to cut carbs. I've been using romaine lettuce as a substitute for bread and making lettuce wraps instead of sandwiches, and they're good! I mean, nothing really beats a piece of fresh bread, but the wrap is a good alternative.

It's not perfect around here. I mean, clearly, I still love sugar since I just asked you to celebrate my cancer anniversary by eating ice cream for breakfast. :)

We still go out to eat. (Local friends, if we go out to lunch, you better believe I'm going to go and enjoy every second.) We still eat ice cream on most Friday nights, and I made delicious chocolate chip cookies for our guests two weeks ago and a great chocolate cake to take to my in-laws for Easter dinner. I tried really hard to give up my caffeine free Diet Mt. Dew, but I just couldn't do it so I'm just trying to cut back instead of getting rid of it altogether. As an occasional replacement for chips, I've found some organic, GMO-free, gluten-free bean and rice chips (with only 5 ingredients) that are delicious.

Our grocery bill has gone up big time, and the amount of time I spend in the kitchen has increased tremendously because, let's be honest: it's much easier to purchase granola bars and cereal or to order a pizza than make your own. I'm hoping it's worth all the effort I'm putting into making our family healthier.

Most people I know on this "diet" lose a ton of weight. Not me, of course. Seems as if I need active growing cancer to drop weight, but that's okay. We all really do feel better. And, it's a sad day, but I snuck a miniature Reese's PB cup the other night, and it actually didn't taste right. At all. I've noticed that with several other foods as well. 

Oh, my stars. Even Starbucks just doesn't seem right anymore. So sad.
(although I had a peppermint mocha - skim milk, half the syrup pumps, extra shot of espresso, no whip - on Sunday)

I don't know if food has any effect on cancer. My oncologist (as well as Becky's) says there is nothing confirmed that says your diet can stave off cancer growth. Truthfully, we all know that cancer affects those who live a healthy lifestyle (I'll never forget the 38 year old physical therapist who was training for a heptathlon the week she was diagnosed with stage 3c ovarian cancer) the same way it affects someone who is living an unhealthy lifestyle. But if getting rid of preservatives and artificial ingredients could possibly help my husband and kids stay healthy, then we're gonna give it a shot.

I know that there are many ways our family could improve in this area, and it's one that I continue to research. But I have to say that I'm pretty proud of us for how far we've come.

I hope you know me well enough to know that if you think I'm totally nuts about all this, it's okay. I promise not to talk about this all the time or judge your own choices!  I will post my granola and granola bar recipe later this week because it's been my most successful breakfast, and they are seriously good!

And just in case you want to do some of your own reading, here are a few blogs I've added to my google reader:

100 Days of Real Food
The Gracious Pantry
Clean Eating Mag
Daily Bites Blog


Joy said...

Good for you! We (okay I) try to make healthier substitutions as I can. Not always a success. Personally, I'm convinced the microwave as started the downward spiral of society. Radiate our food and eat it? Great idea!LOL

looking forward to recipes!

VinGirl said...

We've recently employed a lot of the same changes as you, and I've really been so much more content in my heart than I was before. I'm still trying to get to the school lunch portion, because I have a 13 year old boy, and he is an eater. There aren't as many options as to what to send him when he has so little time for lunch anyway, and there is only one microwave to heat anything up at school. (I obviously don't want him heating plastics either.) We are hoping to figure something out, him included. He has never had a problem with the taste of their lunches, but now knows they are using things we don't use at home. We can change generations of our families by making these changes, and I feel really good about that. :)

Angie said...

Love this post! As you know we are doing the same thing at our house. Thanks for answering questions when I've messaged you. It's nice to have someone I know that is a little ahead of me in this. There is so much to learn and it always blows my mind when I realize what is in processed foods. I already follow most of the sites you listed. I agree that foods that we ate before just don't taste as good and the healthy clean food tastes so much better!

Lindsey Carney said...

Yay! People think we are crazy...well, we are but not just b/c of how we eat! Food labels are scary a lot of times. Welcome to the weirdo mom club :)

thewonderfulhappens said...

I'm super proud of you!!! And thanks for the shout out :)

Amy said...

(I am super behind on blog reading/comments so I'm sorry this is so late.) I'm so glad you blogged about this. We are on the same kind of journey, especially for my health problems. It can be so overwhelming to make so many changes. I think you are doing an awesome job and have given me some new ideas of things to try. Lukas has become such a picky eater as far as vegetables go that I struggle with finding things he will eat. Any advice on toddlers and veggies would be appreciated! :)

Christine said...

Oh man... you don't even know how inspiring this is to me! It's something I am trying to get my mind wrapped around. I want to do it, but I'm worried about the time commitment. That said... based on this post, I'm going to start. NOW.