Four Ways I’ve Changed How I Eat

4 Ways I've Changed How I Eat -- Real Mom Nutrition

Nitrates in hot dogs, BPA in cans, pesticides on produce. Anyone else notice how crappy the news has been about food lately? When I consider the stuff I grew up on, apparently I should feel lucky just to be alive: canned tuna by the case, countless non-organic apples and peaches I was too lazy to wash, canned fruit, processed meats, processed meats in a can (am I the only one who has fond memories of twisting open a new can of corned beef with that little metal key, sardine-style?).

All eaten, of course, without wearing sunscreen or a seatbelt.

I can’t turn back the hands of time and undo all those Steak-umm sandwiches that I ate. But (to paraphrase one of Oprah’s favorite inspirational phrases) “now that I know better, I can do better”. Now mind you, I don’t overhaul my family’s diet over every scary headline—and I’m way too frugal to turn my life savings over to Whole Foods (trust me, you don’t have to feed your kids $4-a-box organic cheddar bunny crackers to be a good mom). Yet I have made some small—but hopefully significant—tweaks in how and what we eat around here.

1. I bought a cow. Well, half of one, to be exact. I’m splitting said bovine with a friend, which means each of us needs to make room for roughly 80 pounds of grass-fed beef in our respective chest freezers. Two things influenced this purchase: A viewing of the jaw-dropping, gag-inducing movie “Food, Inc.” and hearing so much about the nutritional perks of grass-fed beef, namely less saturated fat and more healthy fats like omega-3s. We’re paying much less per pound since we’re buying in bulk, and I like that our beef is coming from a local farmer with a few cows, not a mega-cattle operation.

2. I’m stocking fewer canned foods. Now that the government has finally gotten around to warning us about BPA in cans, I realize I should’ve been seriously worried about this a looong time ago. BPA is a chemical used in the metal lining of cans and in some plastics (including, of course, baby bottles and sippy cups) and has been linked to developmental and reproductive problems in kids. I used to stock canned fruit (packed in juice) in the winter and didn’t think twice about buying something in a can (like pizza sauce) instead of a jarred version. Not anymore.

3. I’m choosing some organic food. Heard of the Dirty Dozen? It’s a list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest residue of pesticides, compiled by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. They claim you can reduce your exposure to pesticides by 80 percent by buying the organic version of celery, peaches, strawberries, apples, domestic blueberries, nectarines, sweet bell peppers, spinach/kale/collard greens, cherries, potatoes, imported grapes, and lettuce. My kids eat fruit constantly, and I know their little bodies are more vulnerable to big doses of pesticides. And while I’m not ready to shell out for all of these, I’m dipping my toe in the water. I buy organic apples, since Henry and Sam like to eat them unpeeled, and organic lettuce, because my husband and I eat big salads nearly every night at dinner.

4. I’m shopping more at the farmer’s market. I’m lucky to live a block away from our community’s weekly farmer’s market, which grows larger and livelier every year. This season I’m picking up more things, like free-range eggs from a local farm, homemade veggie burgers, and beautiful organic strawberries that my kids gobble up within minutes. Compared to the stuff at my grocery store, they are splurges—but if it means my family eats a cleaner, healthier diet and my kids learn to love the taste of fresh-picked produce, it’s well worth it (and all that cash I save from my rabid coupon-clipping obsession has to go somewhere).

Have you made any changes to the way you feed your family? I’d love to hear about them.

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  1. says

    I didn’t pay much attention to this stuff before I became a mom, but now that we know all this information about food/processing/packaging, I am definitely on board. I worry that if I DON’T worry, that my daughter may not realize her full potential and may be in line for compromised health down the road.

    I shop at two grocery stores now, which is not terribly convenient, but not awful either – the organic grocery store is on my way home from work. I keep a list of the dirty dozen on my phone and use it to shop for produce at the organic grocery. I also buy deli meat there – and that’s usually about it! I keep it minimal to keep my costs low. I also pick up what organic items I can from the regular grocery (as they are generally cheaper there), though their selection of organic items is much smaller. Someday I would like for all of our food to be organic, however like most people, we can’t afford to go 100% right now.

    Question – where can I find a listing of local farms that would sell bulk meat like what you buy? Also, what is a good resource on the evils that lurk in conventional deli meats?

    Thank you!! Love your tweets and your blog!

  2. says

    Laura: Thank you for posting those!

    Brooke: Thank you for your nice comment, and I’m so glad to see you on here! I found the grass-fed beef I’m buying through a friend, but you can check the sites Laura posted or also ask around your local farmer’s market if you have one in your area.

    As for deli meat, it’s a processed meat–not a fresh meat–so it has preservatives in it. There is concern that ALL processed meats (including deli meat, salami, hot dogs, and bacon) may be associated with a higher risk for cancer because some research suggests it does. I do buy deli turkey for my husband’s lunches, but after learning about this link with cancer, we’ve decided to not buy it as much and instead, do some peanut butter sandwiches as well.

    I saw a great article on Twitter one day about a woman who decided to stop buying deli meat and instead, roasted a chicken, sliced it into sandwich-size strips, and froze it. I thought that was smart, though time-consuming. If you have a Whole Foods or similar store, you could ask at the deli about whether they have any preservative-free lunch meats–it’s possibly they do something similar and roast chickens/turkeys for sandwich meat.

  3. says

    Thanks for the links, Laura!

    Thanks for the info on deli meat, Sally! I think we’re okay with the stuff from the organic grocery… the meat is handled in-house and here is what is on the package:

    “All Natural, 99% fat free, no artificial ingredients, no chemical preservatives, no nitrates, no phosphates, min. processed, turkey breast, turkey broth, honey and 2% or less of the following: brown sugar, sugar, salt and carrageenan (from seaweed).

    Does it pass?

    • says

      Brooke: “Minimally processed” still means it’s processed, but I think the stuff you get at your organic grocery store is about the best you can do without making it at home yourself!

  4. Diana Kuzemchak says

    We haven’t bought lunch meat in over a year. Yea. At first it was difficult to think of what to make for lunches, especially for the kids packed lunches, but over time we became more creative. In the summer I do alot of canning and freezing. It is time consuming, hot, and messy work, but is made easier when a few friends and I get together with coffee (which turns to beer after lunch 🙂 ). This tends to make the process way more enjoyable. Nothing beats that fresh taste in Jan. and the knowledge of knowing what went into the food your are eating.

    When my boys, now 12 & 9, were little I made their baby food. Each time I went to cave and buy jarred food there was a headline on recalled babyfood. Very scary. Sometimes I cried because all I wanted was an easy meal. Twist the lid and presto. Oh well.

    The things I always buy organic are dairy products. We buy our meat from local farmers in halves or quarters, as well. I also buy large quantities of produce for canning from a local farm market. We’re lucky that we can raise our own chickens for eggs and meat. Both Mike and I feel strongly that our boys should know where their food comes from and how it is raised. The movie Food, Inc. made quite the impression on both of them.

  5. says

    Sally– I would be laying in the grave next to you! My mom hated fruit, so I didn’t get much more than apples, bananas, and oranges…got pretty boring after 18 years. I am on a crusade with my own 4 children, to make sure they get a variety of fruits and veggies weekly. Throw in the pesticides, and it does cause me to pause….I make sure I wash everything thoroughly, and get my meat and vegetables from our local CSA, Avalon Acres. That helps me feel better.

  6. says

    Now that I have started my son on solids (he’s 6.5 months old) I am taking even more notice of where our fruit and vegetables come from (we live in Hong Kong so most produce is imported). I’m careful to wash all our fruit and veg with an organic fruit and veggie wash and to use produce within a day or two of purchasing. I also try and buy produce that is currently in season in its country of origin.
    I’ve also taken to buying organic, free range meat products (as much as money permits) and try and shop the perimeter of the supermarket to avoid the aisles of processed ‘junk’.
    I don’t tend to have many canned products in the house – HK apartment living means we have no space to store them!
    I really do miss the Queen Victoria Market in Melbourne (our home town) as you could buy so much fresh, locally grown, fruit, veg, meat, etc. there. I loved that you could talk to the growers as well.
    Going to head down to flower market in Kowloon in the coming weeks and see if I can get some potted herbs to grow out on our balcony. It would be a good way to teach my son about how food grows (when he’s a bit bigger anyway!).

  7. says

    Great post! I’d love to buy half a cow someday but right now we don’t have the space to store the meat. Changes we have made are to eat more local food. I like to go to at least one farmers market per week, stocking up on fresh fruit, veggies, eggs, milk, and some meat. The meat is so expensive…I mean, it’s worth it for sure, but it’s hard to go 100% local and pastured meat. So we get local, pastured meat for 1-2 nights per week and try to do vegetarian meals for the others. We watched Food, Inc. too and it’s hard to go back to eating the way we were eating before.

    I’m currently 7 months pregnant which means this baby will start eating solids in March when fruit isn’t in season. I’m actually considering making some baby food in the next couple of months to have on hand come March…apples, peaches, pears, etc.

    • says

      Thanks for your comments. Great idea to make and freeze baby food while everything is fresh and in season! And I agree, it is hard to fit local/pastured meat and poultry into a family budget, and vegetarian meals are a perfect way to balance that out.

  8. says

    I’ve made very similar changes with my little family. Love your insights! On the deli meat note…the Costco near me has started carrying non-processed meats, nitrate-free, sliced for sandwiches which they sell by the speciality cheeses. They are so much tastier and less guilt-inducing.


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