Sunday, January 23, 2011

I Discovered That Healthy Eating Can Actually Make a 1st Grader Gag

In September, I declared to the three people who read this blog that I was on the path to Real Food Righteousness. This decision came after being scared straight over my seriously unhealthy, pre-packaged diet. I repented for every highly processed slice of white bread in my pantry and swore on a container of extra firm tofu that I would be a better parent and Citizen of the World by shunning food with ingredients I couldn’t pronounce and by breaking up with Betty Crocker for good. (I miss you, babe!) Even though I felt a strong conviction to make better choices while perusing the grocery shelves, I knew the ever present slacker in me would be wistfully pining away for Marie Callender and her Dinner-In-Five-Minutes-Or-Less ilk. So, after several months of alternately stumbling, fist pumping, whining, and, sometimes succeeding, I thought it would be a good time to take a step back and evaluate my effort thus far. My conclusion: I suck a little less than I thought I would.

I went about this mission entirely the wrong way. I have been accused of rushing into every little whim that breezes through my hard head, and this time it was the same story. The smart path would have been to gently wean my family from their Pop-Tarts and Cheetos into a world where words like “organic” and “locally grown” are uttered daily. It’s a supposedly happy land of home made granola, seasonal vegetable-centered meals, and pretend meat between a couple of slices of bread so fresh that you have to eat it within 3 days or it’s stale. (And, your eight bucks goes down the drain.) However, I went about this transition in the same style as Hitler when he decided to rule the world. It wasn’t pretty. I scoured the pantry, fridge, and freezer, throwing away any food I considered a threat to my our new lifestyle. Once the rampage was finished, I declared that we had a “Clean House”, and set about to make myself better than everyone else.

I found out some things about myself and the people in my house during this experiment. First of all, children tend to have a negative reaction when they are allowed to have Popsicles and Goldfish one day, and the next, they are offered toasted pumpkin seeds and soy cheese for a snack. Second, if you aren’t allowed to buy dinner in a brightly colored box, plan on spending lots of time in the kitchen, my second least favorite room in the house. (First belongs to my son…chalk it up to his smelly shoes.) I also discovered that I could no longer shop for groceries in one store. I would have to visit one store for organics, another for non-food items, a farmer's market for local produce, and a butcher shop if I wanted to get grass-fed, chemical-free meat from area farms for the carnivores in the house.  It seemed as though I was spending 60 hours a week behind the steering wheel of my car and the handle of a shopping cart.  Since the food was so fresh, I had to be sure to only buy what would we need so that I didn't end up tossing it in the trash. This healthy lifestyle was becoming a stressed out, full time job.

I couldn't argue with the fruits of my labor, though.  By using only the freshest ingredients from the Earth, I awakened taste buds that had been in a chemically-induced coma for years.  I never knew that an egg that went straight from the hen house to my frying pan would look and taste so differently than the store bought variety.  After drinking organic milk, I will never go back to the gallon jugs from Wal-Mart because the difference in taste is almost palpable. It was a labor-intensive treat to take this manna from heaven and magically create dishes that looked good, tasted great, and made me feel like I was doing better for my family. (Well, at least when my daughter wasn't gagging on a spinach/tofu/burrito concoction.)

But (and there is always a but), I am lazy.  It's a four letter word that defines many aspects of my life.  You can't be a slacker and successfully execute a healthy, whole foods diet.  It takes vigilance, planning, researching, and - don't hate me for saying it - sacrifice.  You absolutely have to give up the convenience of popping a meal into the microwave or stopping off for fast food after a busy day on the job, school, homework, exercise, house cleaning, and extracurricular activities.  Many, MANY nights, the last thing I want to do is stand in the kitchen chopping vegetables and waiting for stock to reduce for homemade soup.  (Attention Facebook Friends:  If you wonder why I never read your notes, watch your videos, or engage in friendly banter any more, it's because I caramelizing freakin' onions again.)

Even though I stumble almost daily, I haven't completely given up.  I decided that vegan was a little too harsh for this milk and cheese lover, but I do still try to avoid meat in my diet. (I also found out that soy yogurt can make a forty-two year old gag.)  I celebrate the little victories like the fact that I haven't bought any packaged sweets since I began this project.  We must make from scratch any  cookies, cakes or confections because it's better for you and, being lazy, it means that we won't have as many in the house.  Also, my home made salsa and hummus are better than any commercial brand I've tried.  Another plus is that the kids actually enjoy making pizza from scratch and prefer it to take-out.

The down side to this lifestyle is that if I have to eat one more veggie burger,  I'm going to start getting stabby.  Also, either I have developed a bionic nose or my neighbors are cooking steaks on the grill every night of the week.  The smell of those dead cow parts wafting through my energy inefficient windows makes grilled peppers and couscous seem a little empty.  And lastly, I just want to sit down for a while.

So, I plan to carry on in my Slacker Mom kind of way, knowing that at least my attempt at better living makes a difference.  I would write more, but I'm off to prepare a dinner of whole wheat spaghetti and fake meatballs with organic lemon bars made from scratch while pretending that I'm not having naughty, naughty thoughts about a Meat Lover's Supreme Pizza...



  1. Well, you can’t get from one extreme to the other overnight. Changing eating patterns seems easier if you do it gradually, and gives a person a chance to develop an appreciation of how much better real food is than boxed.
    Yeah, store bought hummus can’t touch home made - and you’ll get a ton of hummus from an 8 dollar jar of tahini. But please don’t tell me you slacked and used canned chick peas, ‘cause starting with dried makes a big difference.
    Just keep trying - you can make it to the promised land.
    I’ll bet you a can of Spam you can make it.

  2. Absolutely! Dried is best. I could eat hummus for every meal. Literally...

    Do you know that I have never tasted Spam? So, I've got that going for me. :-)


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