Why does feeing my family healthy foods feel so confusing?

by Stacey Jayne in

Here in Brooklyn we have a sea of options. We cook. We order in. We raise chickens. We juice. We pizza. We make choices everyday based on what is accessible and what feels right. At times we think we are making healthy choices only to find out that some of them are totally off.  Will we ever feel like we are buying the right foods? I want to be transparent here and share that I don’t have this all figured out. I do not consider myself an expert player in this game, but I am driven by the journey I’ve had so far as a parent who truly cares about my family’s well being. I will say that my passion is feeding my family real foods. I hope that doesn’t scare you. I’m eating gummy bears right now if it makes you feel any better.

When I got to the other side of my pregnancy I was doused with a healthy serving of nutrition overwhelm. Once my daughter was eating real foods, I felt forced to figure out what that really meant. What I found was that real foods (foods that are not genetically modified, that are not filled with additives, dyes, sugars and other toxins to make them last for years upon years on a shelf) are not that easy to find. Real foods come from plants and animals that have not been altered. They are foods that go bad when you don’t eat them in a fairly short amount of time. Sounds simple doesn’t it? It may seem simple, but the supermarket is a very difficult place to navigate. There is an abundance of food options from whole foods, packaged foods, drinks, candies, cereals, with words like nature, natural and farm fresh on items that are far from it.

So the question is: how do we find real foods. Oh, and how can we keep from feeling like crazy food Nazis so our friends will still invite us over for an occasional BBQ?

This is what I do to find my real foods.

  1. I shop at farmers markets and I’m about to join a CSA (community supported agriculture).  A CSA is a way to purchase a “membership” to a local farm. I will receive a box of seasonal produce each week throughout farming season. With both of these options you get a chance to know where your food is coming from. You can do your own research and make your own choices. It’s empowering. FYI Shopping in this way does not always mean that it’s going to be organic and free of pesticides, but you can easily ask to find out what their practice and philosophy is.

  2. I buy bulk organic ingredients. There are a bunch of grocery stores that have a bulk section where you can purchase whole grains, nuts, popcorn, dried fruits and other fun organic ingredients.  When you buy organic you are buying foods that are free of GMOs and pesticides. I make my own muesli, trail mix and other convenience snack foods. It saves lots of money when you shop this way AND you know what’s in your food. You can add your own amount of sugar, and you can tailor it to your family’s likes and dietary restrictions. You can also bring your own little baggies and reuse them each time for an added earth friendly twist.

  3. I found a butcher I can trust. Though our diet is predominantly plant based we do consume some animal products. Knowing what I know about the overuse of hormones, antibiotics, torture of factory farm animals and the negative impact factory farming has on our already suffering environment, it’s easy for me to spend the extra money to make sure that what I’m buying is high quality.

  4. When I’m at the grocery store I buy foods with ingredients that I am familiar with. I try and stick to the 5 ingredients or less rule. There are a couple of books by Michael Pollan that I highly recommend. One is called “In defense of food” and the other is “The Omnivore’s dilemma”. Both books are full of invaluable advice and tips in healthful eating and food buying. He suggests avoiding foods that your grand parents wouldn’t recognize as food. I think about this all the time when I’m at the market!

This is what I do to keep myself sane when I show up for that occasional BBQ.

  1. I aim to consume real foods 75% of the time, the other 25% of the time I relax and let life happen. I celebrate eating and cooking with my family and friends as much as I can. We talk about the foods I choose to buy when they ask me. They ask great questions and I enjoy talking about the choices I make.

  2. I go easy on myself in social situations. My goal is practice good health and kindness and if someone is uncomfortable with that I just move the conversation along and remind them that I eat lots of different foods. Including gummy bears, and cupcakes and…

  3. I bring back-up snacks. When I’m going to a party I usually bring some nuts and fruit in my bag. Whether or not I choose to eat them will be up to me, but it’s nice to have the option if I’m stuck.

This is where I’m at so far. I’d LOVE To hear what you are doing to celebrate real foods with your family. Please also share your frustrations and questions. I’d love for this to be a place where we can learn from each other. I believe we need to work together to practice compassionate food buying. I want the shift into buying real foods to be fun, funny and exciting for families. We all have the resources we need; we just have to be creative how we spend our money and time.