Have you noticed that talking about food has gotten to be a very touchy subject lately? Honestly, an innocent comment about limiting your child's consumption of junk food can very quickly spiral into a rant about Michelle Obama and clawing Giordano's pizza out of someone's cold, dead hands. So I understand fully that I'm going in where angels fear to tread here. Food choices came loaded with an arsenal of negative judgement, parental guilt, health concerns and weight loss angst. And that's just breakfast.
Making choices about food is something that we do all day, every day. It is one of our defining, universally human experiences. And we are blessed in this country with having an enormous selection and volume of food available to us. But it gets confusing doesn't it? And exhausting. Is soy good or bad for me? Is whole milk better than low fat if it helps my body absorb calcium better? And should my dairy products be pasteurized or ultra-pasteurized? Homogenized? Is that local cucumber better than the organic one that was shipped in from Mexico? And what exactly did you feed that cow that you can now offer me the ground chuck so cheap?
I would characterize our eating habits here at commonwealth as fairly eclectic, and probably leaning a little more to the healthy side than the average American family. I cook most of our meals, which certainly gives me more control and awareness than if we're ordering off a menu. We go through a lot of fruit and vegetables, and I try and work in a few meatless meals each week, but I'm not dogmatic about what we eat. Let me be clear, I came home from the grocery store today with a box of Apple Jacks cereal. However, I do have a few universal truths that I try to adhere to:
- At the grocery store, fill the majority of the cart with items from the perimeter of the store - produce, meat, dairy, frozen.
- The fewer prepared, packaged foods you buy, the less time you have to spend reading labels. Yes, reading labels is a very good thing. You might discover there's high fructose corn syrup in your chicken broth, or something else equally gross. I prefer to buy ingredients rather than prepared foods because then I know what's in my food.
- Soda only comes into our house if a babysitter is also coming into our house, or company is coming. The few times we eat out in a week, Couper and Patrick may have a soda to drink. More often than not, they choose milk or fruit juice instead. Otherwise, soda is for special nights when mom and dad are going out and we want to bribe the babysitter into agreeing to come back.
- Choose meat wisely. The more I read about commercial feed lots and mass-produced meats the creepier it is. I'd rather eat less of it.
- Keep a big bowl or platter of fresh fruit on the kitchen table and re-fill as needed. I would much rather have to make another trip to the store for apples than reach into the cabinet and pull out a box of ho-hos for snacks. Also, having them out makes snacking on fruit a no-brainer, you don't even have to open the refrigerator. It's sort of the healthy equivalent of leaving the knife in the brownie pan (and don't pretend you don't know what happens when you leave the knife in the browning pan).
In no way would I consider myself an expert on making nutritional choices for you or your family. And I hope this is not construed as a lecture on what what you should be doing. I dislike a zealot as much as the next person. But I often wonder how other people are wading through this particular thicket, and I suppose I thought you'd be curious too. So there you have it.
Be well friends.