If you haven’t already guessed my family is on a path to optimal health and nutrition. I am not a nutritionist or dietitian and I can only speak from my personal experiences of what has helped me and my family; though, as a tween and teen a great deal of money was spent on sending me to these professionals and I attend many workshops and trainings in regards to health and fitness. Over the years I have learned to weed out what doesn’t make sense and is a fad, from factual evidence based knowledge. Of course, at the end of the day I do what is best for my family.
The biggest offenders – cabinet culprits (pantry poisons seemed a little too sensational and I don’t have a proper pantry) are:
- high fructose corn syrup
- hydrogenated oil
I know a lot of people will put any white flour or white sugar up there too, corn products, soy products, etc. but honestly vilifying all of those will leave the average American family on a budget with little to eat and working parents frustrated with what to feed their kids. More than a decade ago I went hunting through our cabinets and got rid of everything with those ingredients. We didn’t have much since I have always been a label reader – but what we did have came as a surprise: ketchup, jam, tomato sauce, peanut butter, teriyaki sauce and others that had looked healthy at first glance.
Our family has never looked back. We don’t purchase anything with those two ingredients and we look specifically for items listing whole grain/whole wheat first, that are low in sugar and low in salt. We don’t buy anything with ingredients we can not pronounce. When I was pregnant with my second son we went to a 24 hour grocery to pick up some bread. They did not have our regular loaf so we started looking at other brands. One in particular was free of HFCS and HO but it had some questionable ingredients. Luckily, we had a smartphone and were able to look them up to see what we were buying. My husband and I were shocked to find several of the ingredients in the bread were banned by the European Union for food products and one ingredient in particular was not only banned in Singapore, but if caught using it in food for human consumption – the penalty was death (I know the argument could be Singapore is strict, but still…)
That said here are some items to start including in your meals that would give your family higher nutrient quotients, more fiber and inevitably more energy for activities such as school, work, and play.
- whole wheat pasta
- whole wheat bread
- fresh fruits and fresh vegetables
- flash frozen fruits and vegetables is fresh aren’t possible
- spinach instead of iceburg lettuce on sandwiches and in salads
- natural peanut butter (or nut butters) over large commercial brands with high added salt and sugar/ oil contents.
There are 6 easy things you can add to your food arsenal tomorrow. If you include getting rid of sodas, or juices and opting for water or half water/half juice, or water infused with fruit – you can then cut your family’s sugar consumption. Wheat pasta may run only 50 cents more a box, though you can get Barilla Whole Wheat on sale for $1 or less at times and for wheat bread we buy Kinnikinnick bread which you can actually find at conventional groceries sometimes 2 for $5.
Recently I received a copy of The Self Health Revolution by J Michael Zenn and that has renewed my devotion to eating healthy. I’m not a big fan of the new fad “eating clean” for many reasons most of which are addressed by a very level headed article written here http://www.jcdfitness.com/2010/09/clean-eating-is-a-scam-and-why-you-should-abandon-it/ so I don’t have to go into large detail about why I don’t subscribe to “eating clean” – if you are interested read it.
The Self Health Revolution is pretty straightforward and easy to understand. The author even starts with a disclaimer about repetition so I can’t complain about the ideas he tries to drive home through constant repetition. He won me over by discussing the importance of breastmilk and breastfeeding early on pages 28-29 and bringing to light the despicable campaign mounted by Henri Nestle in 1890 against mother’s milk so he could get a market share of selling to babies.
Zenn’s book is middle of the road, he invites the reader to be skeptical and teachable, open to the possibility of learning something uncomfortable. Many may read his book thinking he is a conspiracy theorist with ideas like “big pharma” is out to get you, but he calmly and plainly states the obvious, big pharma is out to get your money. He highlights legislation that allowed big pharma to advertise directly to consumers – something not allowed in Europe and other moves by the FDA and big pharma.
There are other interesting facts, such as Coke was used in India as a pesticide to grow crops and that low-fat milk isn’t truly low fat 2%. “Thirty-five percent of its calories come from fat. Worse, it’s only twenty to thirty calories less than whole milk. They label it 98% fat free because they measure it by its weight, which includes water content that contains no calories.” How does that work exactly is what you may be asking yourself. Zenn explains,
“It’s like mixing a teaspoon of melted butter which is 100 percent fat, in a glass of hot water, then labeling the glass of melted fat water 98% fat free. The truth is, water has no calories, and if I were to drink that glass, 100 percent of the calories in it would come from fat.”
There is no meal plan to adhere to, no measurements of food, or even exercises to perform. Zenn holds that you simply need to start eating better, not an insane notion, but actually quite ancient. Think of the father of modern medicine’s famous quote:
“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” ― Hippocrates
Does it work? My family and I are vegans. That doesn’t mean we don’t eat junk food – we just have a different version of junk than the average family and to be honest it is healthier – but not the healthiest. A penchant for soul vegetarian food runs deep within our bellies – even though it gives me a stomach ache at times. At the start of the New Year I made the resolution for us to not eat out. Not even on weekends when we travel to the city to play. One week in and I have already lost 2 lbs. I cook all of our meals at home and have tried a few of the recipes from The Self Health Revolution. Our biggest at home difference is the pizza I make, I provided a recipe in a previous post. It is more satisfying and filling than anything we get outside of the home, and the kids learn to cook! (The homeschooler in me loves that)
Caputo’s (a local grocery) was instrumental in this change. We left with a full cart of produce and some other groceries for $88. We ate for a week and a half and still have beets, greens and few fruits left. Normally I shop at Woodman’s but it is a little far so I don’t go frequently and Caputo’s is cheaper on a lot of things. If you are local to west suburban Illinois, check them out on Route 59 in Naperville.
Zenn’s biggest selling point is that he meets the average reader half way. He doesn’t ask or require large change, he wants you to slowly and manageably switch to a healthier lifestyle. The book retails for $12.99 but you could win a copy with this Giveaway.