5 Food Guidelines We Live By

We are a family of peculiar eating habits.  And by peculiar I mean that we {I} go to great lengths to ensure that we’re not ingesting a bunch of pesticides and chemicals and “food products” with ingredients that are more fit to be found under the kitchen sink than inside our bodies.  My children are not always fond of aforementioned eating habits.  They long to be like their friends, ordering nachos with extra gloppy cheese or “smoothies” laden with sugar from the snack bar line of their respective schools.  Schools which pride themselves on a lackluster “wellness policy” that–honestly–is laughable.  I’m hoping that the healthy eating habits I’m instilling in them now will see my kids through long, healthy lives.  And maybe when they’re old and suspiciously sprite, they’ll look back and thank me.

Maybe not.

Either way, our eating habits are not something I intend to change anytime soon.

It recently came to my attention that–based solely on my blog posts–we appear to be a health-nut kind of family.  And I suppose that is partially true, given that I exercise daily and stock our fridge with organic produce and our pantry with wholesome staples.  BUT.  It’s not as though we’re drinking raw egg spinach smoothies for breakfast.  We eat well, but so, too, do we eat fairly normal foods.  I thought I’d break it down here, because a) I’m trying to post every single day this month so, hey why not? and b) in case you’re looking to take baby steps towards a healthier lifestyle and I can be of some assistance.

Here are five food guidelines we live by:

1. If it’s on the dirty dozen list, ONLY buy organic. The general rule of thumb is that if something is naturally sweet, farmers have to use loads of cancer-causing pesticides to keep the bugs away, so, if it’s sweet, buy organic.  This includes: apples, celery, strawberries, peaches, spinach, nectarines, imported grapes, sweet bell peppers, potatoes, domestic blueberries, lettuce, kale and collard greens.  The good news is that there are also plenty of produce picks that are perfectly safe when conventionally grown.  A general rule of thumb to keep in mind here is that if you have to peel it to eat it, you probably don’t need organic.  Here are the items on the clean 15 list: onions, sweet corn, pineapple, avocado, asparagus, sweet peas, mango, eggplant, cantaloupe, kiwi, cabbage, watermelon, sweet potatoes and grapefruit.

2. Drink organic whole milk and eat meats raised without antibiotics. I don’t eat or cook red meat so I can’t speak to grass-fed beef.  I can tell you that my family eats only organic chicken breast and natural turkey (raised without antibiotics).  Access to a local farmer is ideal, but since we don’t have that we opt for organic dairy (including eggs) and meats as the next best thing.  Reason being that buying organic is the only way to ensure we’re not ingesting chemicals and loads of hormones and antibiotics in our food.

3.  Eat minimal canned foods.  Most canned foods contain various amounts of BPA. In order to avoid exposing my family to that toxic chemical,  I use canned foods very conservatively.  I have completely stopped using canned tomatoes in any form.  On rare occasions we do use canned beans, but only as a last minute alternative when soaking dry beans is not an option.

4. Steer clear of processed foods.  My pantry contains mainly staples like (whole wheat) flour, (organic) sugar and (sea) salt.  Because we live in the middle of nowhere we also stockpile items like crushed tomatoes in glass jars, peanut butter, and Trader Joe’s amazingly versatile salsa verde.  We make our own whole wheat bread and hamburger buns (keep your eyes peeled for the recipe on the blog soon!).  We don’t eat cereal other than our own homemade granola.  And my talented husband treats us to from-scratch wheat pancakes every weekend (with frequent add-ins like organic blueberries or hand-picked peaches).  With very few exceptions we DO NOT buy foods that don’t grow.  Every once in awhile you’ll find things like Oreos or marshmellows in my grocery store cart, which brings me to number five.

5.  Everything in moderation. We eat dessert.  Every single night (provided you’ve finished your dinner, that is).  97% of the time it’s something homemade.  If it’s not homemade, it’s probably a handful of Costco’s chocolate covered almonds.  Otherwise, it’s homemade ice cream.  Or homemade cookies or cobbler or cupcakes or cheesecake.  The marshmallows and Oreos are bought from time to time for S’mores or a recipe that calls for crushed Oreos.  What you won’t find in our pantry are “fruit snacks”, Doritos (much to Torri’s chagrin), or any other manufactured sweets.

So, knowing what you know now about our eating habits I’m curious: would you consider us health nuts?  Or are our dietary habits more in line with the average?

24 Replies to “5 Food Guidelines We Live By”

  1. Stupid question: If farmers have to use pesticides to keep bugs away, how are the bugs kept away from organic fruits & veggies?

  2. Not a stupid question. And I’ll offer an uneducated answer. ;) In my experience, organic fruits and veggies are not as visually appealing as conventionally grown ones. That, together with the fact that organically grown produce is significantly more expensive leads me to believe that organically grown crops do not yield as significant an amount of harvestable crop as their conventionally grown counterparts. So I’d guess that a) farmers are having to resort to more creative methods to keep pests at bay and b) pests are still getting to the fruit, and farmers are taking a bigger hit. Just my unresearched thoughts, though.

    1. Actually, in many ways pests are our friends. :-) Yes, organic produce is usually not as visually appealing, but often that’s only b/c it’s been on the shelf for longer. :-( We grow our own veggies, and we use compost for fertilizer, and we don’t have pest issues. I asked the guy at the farm market what differentiated his “organic corn” from the regular, and he said, “we don’t touch it.” I bought the organic (corn is known for being hard to grow organically) and I couldn’t see a difference.) There are more scientific answers and if I had time I’d google it and pass on the links but conventional chemical insecticides cause more problems than they cure. It isn’t THAT hard to grow produce organically. Sad, but true. It is priced higher mainly b/c they have to pay for the certification. And also, the FDA subsidizes the conventional crops. !!!!!!

  3. Definitely not average. I’d say the average family eats a whole lot of crap. I’m not sure if you’re full-blown nuts (over this, anyway ;-) but I do think you are more health conscious than most people.

  4. I would agree with Heather. :) In my circle of friends, I would say I am one of the more health-minded ones – but compared to your list, I am afraid I am falling short. So glad you posted this, it has given me a lot to think about!

    1. Jackie! Oh my gosh, I haven’t heard from you in forever. Are you back to blogging now? Okay so that’s a stupid questions. I’ll just click over and check for myself. SO nice to hear from you!

  5. With all the little tips I’ve learned from you, I’m slowly changing the eating habits of all of us. Thank you for that!

  6. In my experience, your dietary habits are not aligned with others. Because you choose organic, I think that your family is joining a growing number of concerned consumers who have also opted to be more aware of their health. I think that generally people would rather eat better by choosing organic, but what I hear them say is that it is too expensive. I think that it is great that you and Jeff are so aware of what is best for your family!
    PS Do you have any good homemade ice cream recipes? Got a new maker that I wanna use.

  7. Like others said you are probably on the far side of average. I think people want to eat more like your family, but find it hard to do for many reasons. Money, time, family reluctance are just a few reasons I can think of that make this a challenge. But starting small is the way to go.

  8. After your blog about organic spuds I had occasion to go to Costco (by myself). One of the two items on my list was chicken breasts. I found some and put them in the cart & they found their way home.
    Later I was advised by “She who Must be Obeyed” that I had purchased wimpy organic chicken breasts instead of our usual cheaper, dirty, unhealthy, no good All-American chicken breasts.
    After barbequing them it seemed to me that they were tougher than the normal afore mentioned non-organic ones but SWMBO saw no difference in the tenderness.
    I’m wondering if I subconciously bought organic chicken breasts because I felt guilty about pointing out the fallacy of using wimpy organic potatoes for good ol’ All-American potato salad. No, probably not!

    1. I think it *was* a subconscious move. I knew you had a conscience in there somewhere, Gramps. No but really, it did take our tastes a few weeks to get accustomed to the organic chicken breasts. We all agreed that there is a difference in the taste, though I can’t say the texture seemed different.

  9. Unfortunately, you are far from “average”. However, as you know, your habits align up freakishly closely to mine. :-) I do have the privilege of being able to shop from local farms, which is a mixed blessing b/c it takes a lot of time (and gas) but I love knowing the farmer who raised my food. I just picked up a side of beef today (grass-fed and finished, organic, and local) and I buy most of my poultry and eggs from farms or producers-only farmers markets that are nearby. I do buy more processed snackfood than I’d like – but usually organic to avoid GMO ingredients, etc.

    So glad to hear I’m not alone.

    1. I’m always a little green when I read about your trips to the farm. I do wish I had that option here. BUT, reading your posts and so many of the resources you’ve recommended over the years has been immensely helpful. I consider myself very much your understudy. :)

  10. What awesome tips. I am really trying to get our family on a healthier food kick. I hate to admit our kids probably have un-healthy snack habits, but we do cook balanced meals for dinner! Thanks…these are great to get us started!

  11. We pretty much abide by those exact 5 food guidelines. To a “T.”

    Except we do eat cold cereal for breakfast. Cheerios, to be exact. With pure honey drizzled on top. Care to dissuade us away from that habit? I’m listening.

    1. I learned this “Top 5 Ingredients” trick from watching Dr. Oz on Oprah. Basically, you want to avoid buying products that include sugar, salt, hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils, enriched flour, or high fructose corn syrup in the top five ingredients. I will say that I make plenty of desserts at home with sugar as one of the top five ingredients, but since we eat those things for dessert or the rare breakfast treat, I justify it. I wouldn’t opt for Cheerios as a regular breakfast because they include sugar as the third ingredient, salt as the fourth, and something I cannot even pronounce as the fifth. All of our staples include as few ingredients as possibly, and I usually pass on buying things with ingredients I cannot pronounce. We stick with whole foods for breakfast. I’m doing a post later this week with what we eat, if you’re interested. :)

  12. We eat very similarly! I often get the question about afordability but honestly, once you cut out all the processed boxed junk you’re pretty much spending the same amount or even less.

    I’m also not one to cut out real butter or real cream from recipes. I feel that as long as it’s homemade it’s still better than anything from a shelf. And none of us has any health or obesity issues. Not even close. I will, however, sometimes cut sugar out of fruit desserts just because our family likes things more tart than sweet.

    Question for you: What do you do when your kids go to someone else’s house for a meal and that family doesn’t eat as healthy? Does this fall into the everything in moderation category or do you have rules about what they can and cannot eat?

    1. We’re the type of parents who don’t allow sleepovers with people that we don’t know. That, together with the fact that we don’t have any family for miles means that our kids only VERY rarely eat meals away from home. Because it’s such a rare occurrence, I just let it slide. I can tell you, though, that the equivalent issue for me has been in a struggle with the schools. I used to give the kids lunch money once a week as a treat but after seeing what the cafeteria is serving up (we had lunch with Cassidy at school a couple of months ago) I altogether stopped that practice. Also, because she is such a cute little thing, she’s always been able to sweet talk teachers and aides into slipping her donuts or cupcakes or whatnot from the staff parties. I’ve had to take a pretty vocal course of action to get that practiced stopped. It’s tough because people eat so much crap these days, and they consider it “normal”. For us, it’s anything but!

  13. I shop like you do: organic produce, no antibiotic chicken and turkey (I don’t buy beef either, but if I do, it would be grass-fed), wheat bread and pasta, brown rice. But we also eat out on the weekends and that’s where it gets dicey because my teen eats pretty much anything and I don’t police him. However, it is real food and not chips, etc and for the most part, even our restaurant food is good food. I guess our biggest vice is Chik-fil-A (the only fast food place I condone) every 10 days or so when the running around gets to be too much. I can’t have sweets in my house because my daughter and husband have no control, so we eat those on the weekend at a few select places that I know are good and the desserts are made with wholesome fresh ingredients.

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