Tuesday, October 26, 2010

When the Family "Bucks" the New System

Recently, a reader asked me how to go about changing their meals when a family member is less than enthusiastic about switching over to a whole food way of eating.

I've been thinking about this question for awhile, and have come up with a couple of answers. One involves a baseball bat, but that could end badly. The other is a little more complicated.

I like complicated. It's less messy.

If you've followed my blog for very long, (or read my profile) you would know that I have 9 kids. They are mine. We also did foster care for a few years and had several "spares" around all the time. Once, we even had 15 kids under 1 roof.

Now would be a good time to remind me that I said I like complicated.

We had children that didn't/wouldn't/couldn't eat certain foods. Some needed to eat at certain times. Others took their time eating, and yet others waited for the dog to make her rounds under the table. There were children who had never seen a potato or knew what broccoli was. Some didn't know that you could actually drink the water from the tap. Needless to say, meals were messy.

When we started making the transition to a more whole food diet, there was some kicking and screaming. Neighbors could hear the wailing as they drove by, and even had to swerve to not run over the kids trying to escape.

Okay, that was me, but my point is, anything new can be difficult.

And sometimes it can be more difficult because we think too much.

I thought that I had to go "cold turkey" with our food. That meant throwing out or giving away anything I deemed not natural. I probably gave away 30 boxes of pudding mix. The homeless shelter must have feasted on red and green jello for months. Because homeless people need the good nutrition that artificially flavored gelatin can provide, right?

I said it was difficult, I didn't say I was smart.

After I had exercised the demons of the pantry, I decided to prepare my first "whole food" meal.

My children remember this meal. In fact, we really should've followed this meal up with counseling for the family. It was a Pumpkin/Apple Spice Soup. And it was bad.

The dog didn't bother making the rounds under the table that night.

I served it with what was supposed to be bread. I think it is currently up in Canada somewhere being used as a hockey puck.

I was devastated.

And the kids were hungry.

Too bad all of our peanut butter was at the homeless shelter. As it was, my Mister made a trip to town and picked up pizzas.

But, trooper that I am, I sucked it up and tried again the next night. (And no, I did NOT serve that soup as "leftovers"!) I made Apple/Kraut/Sausage Casserole.

We ate at McDonald's.

Then I gave up. For a couple of years I just stopped trying. Our cabinets plumped back up with Jif, Jello and pudding mixes. I fell in love with the Betty Crocker section of the grocery store. I very quickly ran around the outside aisles in the grocery store (you know, where the real food is) and lingered in the middle.

Then a couple of years ago I had an epiphany.

I was fat. Round was not the shape I wanted to be. I was tired and achy all the time. My gall-bladder, uterus and an ovary were MIA. Then there were the kids. They were cranky. Acne medicine took over the bathrooms. Kids were having behavioral issues, and that was only when I could get them off the couches. My Mister had joint pain and could barely stand the pain in his knees. We were popping ibuprofen like tic-tacs and the problems were only getting worse.

So I decided to give whole foods another try. This time, however, I left the Jello alone. Our first dinner consisted of polenta with a marinara sauce, meatloaf, biscuits (from a box), and pudding for dessert. (Also from a box.) I didn't know if anyone would eat the polenta, so I made 4 pounds of meatloaf and only a small pan of polenta.

 My family just stared at me when I put the food on the table.

The point of this story is to let you know that we didn't start all gung-ho. In fact, it was difficult to stir up any kind of emotion other than sadness at having to say good-bye to old friends. (That Bill Cosby sure did a bang-up job of promoting pudding!) We just started slowly.

With intent.

By the way, my family LOVES polenta. With a side of meatloaf. Not an entire cow. And the biscuits and pudding are not from the box anymore.

Our meals weren't all wholesome goodness. They still aren't. I love those little French fried onions on a green bean casserole. I love the caramel macchiato at Starbucks. We have an entire shelf devoted to s'more making ingredients. And don't even get me started on Mr. Frito-Lay! But now it is in moderation. Our meals have evolved from 1 whole food at dinner to 80-90% whole foods. If I introduce a new recipe, I always have a tried and true as back-up. Not every recipe is a hit. I still miss the mark quite often. But for every recipe that didn't fare well, there will be 5 others that are declared "favorites". 

Here are some ways to "sneak" whole foods into a meal:

1. Ditch the margarine. Use real butter. I Can't Believe It's Not Butter is not butter. No wonder Fabio looks so surprised.
2. Replace regular salt with sea salt. Most people don't even realize it's not Morton's.
3. Serve iced water with slices of lemons, limes, oranges or grapefruits in it. It takes some getting used to, but it's much easier on the pancreas than soda or Kool-aid.
4. Try replacing vegetable oil with unsweetened applesauce in baked goods. Or start by replacing half. It's only for the moisture anyway.
5. If a recipe calls for 2 cups of flour, substitute some of it with pastry or whole wheat flour. 
6. Sweeten drinks with natural sweeteners such as honey and real maple syrup.
7. Potatoes come from the ground, not from a box. Period.
8. Grated zucchini can easily be added to a meatloaf or even cake. Especially chocolate cake! 
9. The cocoa bean is NOT a vegetable, but should be enjoyed on occasion. Don't make it taboo.
10. Start cooking from scratch. This is easier said than done for some, but start small. 
Bake cookies. Yes, I said cookies. Look at the ingredients on a package of store-bought cookies, then compare it to a home recipe. You may be using white flour, but at least you know what that is!
11. Don't use pre-cooked/packaged meats. You know, leftovers are only good for about 3 days. After that, they should be tossed. Pre-cooked meats have so much garbage added to them to preserve them. It's just not worth the risk to your health. 
12. Have you ever seen a fish-stick in its natural habitat? Try salmon, halibut, snapper, sole or cod. Fry it if you need to get it past the Mister or the kids, but at least it is real fish.
13. If you buy bread, upgrade. It doesn't have to be riddled with nuts and seeds. Just make sure it doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in it.
14. Avoid foods with MSG, aspartame, or HFCS in them. These can cause headaches, joint pain, acne, tiredness and depression. I would rather have real sugar than a science experiment. 
15. Stick with fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables. It doesn't have to be organic, just make sure to wash them thoroughly before consuming. Even if your child will only eat apples with caramel dip, at least he's eating an apple. You decide how much of the caramel he gets though, then hide the container. 
16. If you're like me, you have an multiple boxes of jello and pudding in the cupboard. Use it. But add fresh fruit to the jello. Slice up some bananas to put on the pudding. 

Just don't take it to the homeless shelter. Seriously. They have enough. (Don't send your cast-offs, send food that you would eat.)
17. Use real peanut butter. So what if you have to stir it. Dump it in the mixer, then put it back in the jar. Peanut Butter should be made with peanuts and salt. They make their own oil. If you need it sweetened, add honey.

Start slowly. Don't clean out your cabinets. Don't worry about soaking grains, or which foods to buy organically, or choose recipes that have ingredients you normally wouldn't have. Keep it simple. Respect your spouse and children's taste buds and prepare meals that are sure to please. Think about foods that they like. Most pre-packaged food can be duplicated at home. Check the internet. When introducing a new recipe, follow it up with a nice dessert as a thank-you-for-trying-this treat. A simple meal of mashed taters, gravy and meatloaf can be a whole food meal. I make a lot of Sloppy Joe's around here. They're not from the can. My kids think they're getting away with something.

Personally, I think I'm getting away with something.

But we'll keep that between us, shall we?

This post is linked to Fight Back Fridays over at the Food Renegade. 


momma-lana said...

Okay, so I am the one that made the comment that prompted this post and I do cook almost entirely by your list of suggestions. The difficult thing is that this is not my children I am talking about as we are empty nesters except when the kids are home from college. My husband's Mother did not buy cereal and chips and cookies and peanut butter, etc. He was served eggs and grits and bacon and toast for breakfast 365 days a year until he left home. He does not like oatmeal because he never had it as a child. He adores sweetened cereal beacause he never got to eat it. I feel like it is disrespectful to him to require him at age 53 to eat something he does not like or want. He also adores chips and cookies and peanut butter sandwiches because he never had them growing up. I can't compete with Oreos! So I guess I will just be happy that he eats the healthy meals that I make for him and stop expecting him to eat what I like. I have swithed him over from white bread that the whole loaf could be squished down into a baseball size ball to whole grain bread and he doesn't complain as long as I throw in a loaf of white bread every so often. He does have high cholesterol but that is a genetic thing and we have decided that statin drugs will kill him faster than his cholesterol numbers, other than that he is healthy and active, more so than many of our friends our age.

Mountain Home Quilts said...

Really great post Kim! Good ideas to help someone just starting out. It is seriously scary what some people feed themselves let alone their children!

Kim said...

I understand about wanting to eat certain foods because of not having them earlier in life. I ate Coco-Puffs for YEARS as an adult!

You aren't the first person to ask me that question. I can only share what I know and hope that our story is helpful to others looking for change. It's all about balancing the good, the bad and the ugly. It sounds as if you are already doing that by making healthy meals!

By the way~NOBODY can compete with Oreos! They are in a league all by themself! ;)

Anonymous said...

Wow! This post brought back a lot of memories! I still have nightmares about that sauerkraut, apple, sausage casserole. Eww! Too this day it still surprises me that people make cookies from cans or boxes. Everyone~ as long as you keep the cookie jar full of real cookies and don't feed your poor children oatmeal for every breakfast, you can't go wrong. They'll eventually stop complaining and start looking forward to whatever your cooking for dinner. I love you Mom! Besides homeschooling us, teaching us what "real" food is was the best thing you could have done for us. You taught us that healthy food tastes better, keeps you skinner and makes you feel better. Now as adults, we can make better food choices for our own families. ~your oldest child :)

Kris said...

Kim, great post. Thanks. I have changed my whole way of eating also. Hubby is diabetic and he will also. I have not eaten any sweets in a week and have lost 10 pounds already! I will gradualy add that back but only natural sweets. So thanks for the insight.

The turkeys look good. I still have all 9 of mine for a few more weeks. I will keep a tom and the 4 hens. They are really big. I am anxious to see what they weigh.

Sheila said...

@Momma-lana: You're right, you can't exactly keep an adult man from eating what he wants to! However, you can make those meals you cook as wholesome as possible. If 75% of what he eats is healthy, the 25% of unhealthy stuff will do him less harm.

I despaired of ever getting my husband off of all the junk food when we got married, but once we discovered his IBS was linked to grains ... well, he's definitely much more motivated to eat the wholesome stuff I make for him! I try to make the most delicious stuff I can (it helps to know that fat isn't bad, so I make him lots of bacon & eggs, hash browns, and meat) within his dietary requirements. Sure, he misses the Oreos, but since it's his own decision to avoid them, I never have an issue.

In other words, total conversion to a real-food lifestyle is something every adult has to do for himself. Meanwhile, sounds like you're doing the right thing feeding him good stuff whenever you're cooking!