I thought I would come up with a few things that we have changed that might be helpful if you are contemplating a "healthier" lifestyle with food but don't know where to start. So many blogs I read are great but the writers are talking about sprouting their grains and making their own yogurt and that can be a little overwhelming if you are just starting out.
Here are some changes we have made over the years:
1. Buy and eat whole foods. This means food that is not processed in any way. Fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, etc. One practical way to do this is shop around the edge of your store in the refridgerated section. This is where most of the produce, dairy and meat is. Now, this does not mean that I NEVER buy anything processed. But I do try to focus on whole foods. For us, this means I've changed the way I cook. I cook much simpler meals that require fewer ingredients than I used to because of our budget and now I'm now prioritizing quality over quantity. Now we might have a small portion of organic chicken, sauteed green beans and sweet potatoes. Cheap, delicious and easy. Everyone's happy.
2. Don't skimp on meat. Meat quality is very important. Just watch the documentary Food, Inc. to see what I'm talking about. Meat is one area I don't compromise on. Trader Joe's offers organic, grass-fed beef and organic chicken and this is what I buy. Now, because of our budget, we don't eat meat every night. I usually buy us 1 pound of ground beef and 1 pound of chicken and that's it for the week. There are lots of tasty meals you can make without meat!
3. Buy organic when it counts. For me, this means I buy organic dairy whenever possible, organic meat, sometimes organic eggs and usually always the "dirty dozen" produce list from the EWG. It really doesn't matter all that much if your bread or crackers are organic. It may make a marginal difference, but for someone on a budget you have to buy what is going to have the biggest impact on your health and that's the things I listed.
4. Just say NO to High Fructose Corn Syrup and Trans Fats. These things have no place in our diets. HFCS is NOT metabolized the same as cane sugar and it is not good for us. HFCS is in almost everything, seriously it's really startling. A few months I ago I went through everything in my pantry and fridge and threw out everything with HFCS with the exception of two things, our Heinz ketchup and Hungry Jack Syrup. I know, the hungry jack is garbage...but maple syrup is SO expensive and Jackson doesn't like it. Ugh, what's a girl to do? I will be buying non-HFCS ketchup when our bottle runs out. Also, trans fats are horrible. Do a pantry/fridge search and throw out anything with trans fats. You should NOT be ingesting these.
5. Consider switching to full-fat dairy and use butter. The average American Diet is low in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is naturally found in only a few foods, milk being one of them. Vitamin D is also a fat soluble vitamin meaning it must have fat to properly assimilate and be used by your body. With the crusade for "fat-free" diets, most Americans drink skim milk. The problem is, the fat in milk is necessary for us to absorb the vitamin D. Also, there is research indicating that saturated fats are actually good for us and our body needs them. Read this for more info on healthy milk choices and some disturbing info about organic, ultra-high pasturized milk.
6. Take a cod liver oil supplement. Cod liver oil has so many great things in it. It contains DHA and EPA, Vitamin A, and Vitamin D. All of which are lacking in most American diets and very important for healthy brains, hearts, bones and immune systems. It's seriously jam packed with goodness. For more info on cod live oil go here. I bought Carlson's lemon flavored and it's not bad at all, I can't even taste a fishyness to it.
7. No sugary drinks. Parks doesn't drink juice daily anymore. Juice is a special treat when we are out somewhere. I don't even buy it anymore. Sugar is an enemy of our health and the less you consume it the better. I have found that not having sugary drinks is a major way to consume less sugar. This includes gatorade, vitamin water, etc. We drink only water and milk at home and somtimes Jackson buys his 2-liters haha.
And there you have it, the past four years combined into 7 points. I will also note, it is important to be balanced with all of this. Yes, I want to do the best I can to provide my family with whole foods that will nourish them. However, I never, ever want to be so consumed with health that I forget that God is in control of everything or that I can't enjoy life. For example, we still go to Five Guys and eat burgers. I still have diet coke sometimes. I still go to Chick-fil-a. And if Parks is at someone else's house, I'll never say "Oh, he can't eat that because it has HFCS!". No, not at all. I figure I do my best when we are at home, and the rest I don't worry about.