Daisy gave me a great idea for a first post. In her comment over at my other blog, where I talk about starting this one, she said,
“I don't have a title for your new blog, but I'll read it when you start it! I have to gradually make changes in my family's eating habits or they won't buy into the concept.”
So this is where we will begin, by answering the question of where to start and how to make those little changes that add up to one big change. Taste is something that it takes time to develop, little changes over time are not noticeable, but eventually when you try something “fake” again, as opposed to something “real” you will taste what I’m talking about.
Let’s look first at those things that are probably already in your cupboard.
Make no mistake these things are not all created equal. If you have been purchasing a brand that gets a lot of TV commercial time, the odds are that it’s not actually good for you. I could venture a lot of guesses as to why, but the main one would be that they started needing to advertise in the first place in order to convince people to purchase an inferior product. Let’s look first at your peanut butter, go ahead and get the jar, I’ll wait. Look at the side and read the ingredients list. It should say roasted peanuts, and salt, if you like it salted. Oh wait, does yours have more in it? By chance does it say icing sugar? What about hydrogenated oils, does it have that? Do you remember that moment when you stood at the store doing a price comparison between say Kraft or Skippy and that weird looking organic, or not main brand jar that cost about $2 more? Do you remember thinking that the one you were holding was cheaper, and it was the one that you’re kids liked? Maybe you didn’t even stand and think about it. You are not getting more for your money when your peanut butter is full of icing sugar and packed with lard, (Hydrogenated oil). You are being ripped off, and you have been misled into feeding yourself and your family something terribly unhealthy.
Did you ever wonder how it could be possible that THE AVERAGE AMERICAN CHILD CONSUMES ALMOST 10LBS OF SUGAR EACH WEEK?!!!! This is how it happens; it’s hidden in almost every food you find on the shelf. The next time you go to the store look for a peanut butter that only has peanuts in it, and salt. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, (You can go to here to find out.) they are your best bet to find healthful versions of almost all of those items on my list and it won’t break the bank. If you are not lucky enough to be close to a TJ’s here are a few brands that I like if you can find them. Vons used to sell a store brand peanut butter that was really just peanuts. Adam’s peanut butter is also good. At local health food stores you can sometimes find the little machines that make fresh peanut butter as you watch. This was a highlight of shopping trips for me when I was young, and a good way to get your children excited about eating real peanut butter that isn’t sweetened. It’s a good idea to get organic if you can find it, because peanuts are one of those things that have a lot of pesticides left on them by the time they get to you. One more tip. If your peanut butter has separated and the oil is sitting on top, as often happens in real nut butters, you have two choices. If you are trying to eat low fat and watch your calories, pour it out into your sink, or a jar to keep for cooking, and Viola, you have low fat peanut butter. Simple isn’t it? If you intend to mix the oil back in, which makes it easier to spread, sometimes I pour out half the oil and keep the rest, turn the jar upside down for a while in your cupboard, the oil will try to rise to the top/bottom and it will be easier to stir when you do. Nut butters should be kept in the fridge after opening, and it won’t separate again once it’s cool.
Next let’s look at jam. It should have more fruit than sugar, which should go without saying, but just in case…. I prefer the sugar free fruit sweetened jams, they are lower calorie and glycemic index (I’ll talk about that later), and a little bit healthier, though jam really is jam. The jam in my cupboard right now has 8 grams of sugar per tbsp. Always check the serving size to see if it’s what you will actually use in one sandwich or if you will use several servings in one sandwich. Manufacturers like to fudge on labels by reducing the serving size so it doesn’t look as bad.
Bread. Here we have a problem. Go to TJ’s if you can, or an Artisan bakery that cooks with whole grains. You must ask them what kind of flour they use because they won’t tell you otherwise. At TJ’s they have many wonderful selections. It you are not ready to deal with the squirrelly texture of sprouted grain yet, they have a lovely TJ’s brand seven-grain bread that tastes like white bread, is nice and soft and makes great sandwiches. It also says French village on the label. Then there are whole wheat and whole grain breads, in the grocery store most of these will have corn syrup in them, which is ten times worse than sugar, and many will have nasty hydrogenated oils in them as well. (I will write a whole post on oils one day, with research links, but for now, it’s indigestible and may contribute to cancer and degenerative diseases.) In fact, I dare you to go to the super market and find me a loaf of whole wheat bread that doesn’t have corn syrup or hydrogenated oil in it, we’ll ignore preservatives for now. Some Vons stores carry Ezekiel 4:9 sprouted grain bread, which is very good for you but is an acquired taste for the newbies, so that one doesn’t count. If you find one leave a comment and I’ll give you a prize, of my choosing, I’ll try to think of something cool.
Okay, moving on. Tortillas. Corn tortillas are easy, usually fine. Give or take a preservative or two, these are a pretty safe bet. Flour tortillas are more difficult, again, go and explore TJ’s if you can. (Here in Southern CA we also have a plethora of amazing tortillarias where you can buy them fresh made, but that’s probably not an option for many of you.) Almost all main brands of flour tortillas have hydrogenated oils and preservatives in them, so they can sit on the shelf in your store for so long without going bad, and so they don’t stick together. Too bad this renders them inedible. Most of these brands will make a whole wheat version too, which will have the bad stuff in them as well, but the whole grain option at least provides some nutrient value. (I will talk about whole grains soon as well, right now I just want to help you the next time you go grocery shopping.) Opt for these if that’s your only choice, it will at least begin to put you and your family's taste buds on a healthier path.
So we have only covered 4 items so far. I will motor through and explain in later posts.
Pasta. Try the whole grain versions on the shelf. To ease into it gradually, mix half white and half wholegrain for a while to get used to the texture. But they’re noodles, cover them with enough sauce most kids, and grown-ups, won’t notice.
Crackers. I’m sorry but every cracker on the store shelf has hydrogenated oil in it somewhere if you read the label. Notable exceptions include the Kashi Brand TLC crackers, Akmak whole-wheat crackers, most rice crackers and rice cakes, some brands of stoned wheat thins, Ryvita, Wasa, the ever present goldfish crackers from Pepperidge farms, and a couple more that are escaping memory. The trick is to label read and find out for yourselves what’s in them. Again TJ’s has a great cracker section, as will your local health food store, maybe, if it’s large enough, but I guarantee TJ’s will be cheaper. (I really hope I at least get a coupon or something from them for all of this.)
Cereal. Um, kind of a no brainer in some respects, cocoa puffs versus cheerios or cornflakes, duh!!! You will be surprised however to discover that almost all cereal has some amount of sugar in it, even cheerios and cornflakes. What we are aiming for is less rather than more. Read the label for sugar grams and fiber grams, as well as whole grain vs. whatever else. You want the amount of sugar to be low, and the fiber to be high, and made with whole grains. The more fiber in a cereal the more satisfying it is, the less you will need to eat, and the less of a hit your insulin levels will take digesting it, which will be good for your concentration and your appetite. (Oh yeah, that’s another post.) Puffed wheat and rice cereals are a good bet. Again, Kashi is a good choice, heritage oh’s, TJ’s oh’s, granola though sweetened is high in fiber and if it has nuts there is also protein. I’ll tell you how to make your own soon, I promise, or you can look up recipes for yourself, add low fat to your google search and you’ll find something healthy I promise. Porridge is a very safe bet. I love the Bob's Red Mill line of products and it doesn't take long to prepare, favorites here are the 7-grain porridge, that 8 grain wheat free porridge, the 10-grain porridge, you get the idea, What I love about these is that they sneak so many things into these porridges, like lentils and soy and flax and millet, all high in protein and nutrients and when you make it and serve it with frozen berries, or raisins, and cinnamon and milk, we like real maple syrup or molasses around here for sweeteners, my kids turn summersaults and thank me for giving them such a "treat" for breakfast. There are also oats, old-fashioned rolled, quick oats, steel cut/Irish oats, any brand that isn't premixed with flavoring or sweeteners will do.
Juice. Only real juice folks not colored and sweetened water. I don’t care how much Vitamin C the commercials say Sunny D has, or how happy the kids in the commercial look, it is not juice, it is not food, it’s vitamin fortified Kool-aid. Don’t even ask me about Kool-aid. NO!!! If there is anything on the label besides fruit juice, fresh or from concentrate, don’t take it home. It’s a waste of your money. I personally prefer to drink water, it’s low calorie, and your body needs a lot of it to work well. My kids get one drink of juice a day, if that. Stick to real fruit, it has fiber and nutrients that haven’t been cooked out of it in the pasteurizing process, and is just better for you. (Yeah, did you know that 80% of the nutrients in fruits and vegetables are lost when they are cooked? What do you think heat pasteurizing does to all of those fruit nutrients?)
Rice. Brown is better than white. All of the nutrients are in the bran, which is removed to make white rice. If you eat a lot of rice and don’t have a rice cooker, buy one, they are $20 at Target right now, they make cooking brown rice a snap. If not follow the stovetop cooking directions, though I find they always tell you to add too much water. Maybe everyone else likes their brown rice mushy, I don’t know. If it’s too mushy the first time, try taking out about 1/2 cup of water per cup of rice.
This is the easiest way I can think of to begin changing eating habits, and take little steps toward better eating. You can eat many of the same foods, and use the same recipes, but if you change the ingredients to more healthful ones it will make a difference.
One other thing I recomend as you begin on this food adventure is to try new things. Do you see a fruit that you have never had before in the produce section? Buy one; they often have little labels to help you know if it’s ripe and how to eat it. Take it home, cut it up and everyone taste. Do the same with vegetables, if you don’t know how to prepare something, type it in Google and see what comes up; there are hundreds of recipes on the Internet, as well as free information. Make trying new things an adventure, try to eat your produce raw, and have fun eating “real” food.