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Tuesday, February 19, 2008

What Do You Consider Eating Healthy?

We do not eat low fat, low carb, low salt or low sugar. Though, those last two, we sort of do as a result of the way we eat, but it's not a particular diet we are on. We find that restaurant food is really too salty for us, and since we don't eat much in the way of highly processed food, we don't get a lot of sugar or salt. What I mean is that we don't eschew salt or sugar. I salt our food when I cook, and most of the time we all find that to be salty enough, we eat natural sugars, for the most part, and our sugar intake otherwise is in raw honey (from our bees!), organic evaporated cane juice (not so refined sugar), maple syrup or fruit.

The only huge change we've made in the last few years to how we eat is that we use our salad plates for our main meals. This effectively cuts down our portion sizes, and even if we want seconds, we are getting less than we would have if we used our dinner plates. A pound of dry pasta (whole wheat blend, generally speaking) will feed our family of seven with a little left over now. We find that we are not able to eat quite as much as we used to. This weekend, for instance, we brought home most of our dinner from the restaurant, and it made two more meals for us, not just one. That was with only drinking water and not getting dessert, too.

My main plan of attack in feeding my family healthy food is not to buy processed junk and to use whole grains wherever possible. I'm not obsessive about this, if we eat a packaged cookie, I don't worry about it. I figure we're in better shape to have something like that once in a while than most people who eat it all the time. We make almost all of our own bread, jams, jellies, pickles, preserves, yogurt, salad dressing, etc. Most of our cooking is from scratch, I use cold pressed oils, butter and meat drippings to cook. I've even started making our own cereals (granola and a grape nuts type knock off) and between that and the oatmeal (steel cut oats and rolled oats if we don't have much time), we don't really need any packaged cereals. I don't buy cake mixes, pancake or biscuit mix, canned soup, prepackaged meals, or boxed cookies (with very rare exception). Even though both Rich and I enjoy carbonated drinks, we almost never have soda in the house. All this pretty effectively reduces our corn syrup consumption to just about nil, and we control the salt we eat, what kind of fats we use and how much food coloring and artificial preservatives we put in our bodies. I'd like to start making our own mayonnaise, too, and we have experimented with making our own sausage with some good success.

I am fortunate, because Rich really prefers my cooking to anything else, and the children being raised on it don't really know to want anything else. We go to restaurants very rarely (which also reduces our risk of contracting Hep B), and even then, it is because of the convenience and so I won't have to do dishes. Rich always prefers my cooking to a restaurant, and even at nicer places, I know I can make what we ate better and for a quarter of the cost at home.

Anyway, the other place we have changed how we eat is that we buy locally raised meat that is grown without hormones or antibiotics. We try to get pasture raised meat when we can, and buy organic when it is on sale, we only buy wild caught seafood. We've started buying organic milk and cream since the price of milk went up so much. This costs us about a dollar more than the grocery store brand, and we can print coupons which bring it almost down to the store brand price. The other thing we like about this milk is that the cows are pasture raised, rather than grain fed, which is better for the cows and for us. It is still pasteurized, but not ultrapasteurized, and homogenized so until we can get our own cows, this is the best option for us. We started getting this mostly for the health benefits, but we found that it really tasted better than the standard milk we had been getting. Of course, we also have our eggs from our free ranging chickens and ducks, and the honey from our bees.

We buy organic fruit and vegetables when it is on sale or the same price as the inorganic stuff. We figure for our food budget we get more bang for our buck with the meat and dairy. We do try to grow some of our own food, and we buy at the farmers market in the summer. Because I shop on sale, buy in season, make so much from scratch (I used to make baby wipes, too, but Rich didn't like how easily they tore, and who am I to argue with a man changing a diaper), and am not picky about brands (with a few exceptions) and will buy store brand diapers, dish soap, etc, we are still able to get higher quality meat and dairy and fresh fruit and vegetables, along with our cleaning supplies and paper products for about $500-600 a month.

A larger family has to think about the grocery budget, and I am pleased that this is a way we can keep the rest of our budget lower. Something else we did was to get our main grocery store's credit card. They have a gas discount for every $100 spent in the store, which brings the price down $0.15/gallon, along with a rebate system that gets us a little over 1% of our total spending back in grocery money. We put everything on this card, including our power bill, phone bills, internet, etc, and we just treat it like our bank account and pay it all off each month, so we don't have to deal with interest. This helps us cut down on our grocery bill, because we get anywhere from $80-100 back each quarter that we can spend at the grocery store.

Things like that help us afford better food, though I find that not buying processed foods alone brought down our food bill quite a bit. We get a lot more for our money, I think, because we buy ingredients rather than packaged food. Also that no processed food thing includes things like tofu and TVP. I've only ever eaten tofu twice in a manner that I liked anyway, so it's not a huge loss to me, but it is a pretty processed food, and I'd rather eat dairy, eggs, nuts or beans if I'm not eating meat. I have eaten TVP and enjoyed it, but it is also highly processed, so I'd rather not spend our money on it. I do make cookies, cakes and other sweets (outside of Lent), and we eat them happily, but I know I'm using good chocolate, fresh fruit, honey or organic sugar, butter and not margarine or vegetable shortening, corn syrup and other things we don't want to eat.

Basically, we don't eat packaged or processed foods, have almost entirely eliminated corn syrup, food dyes and artificial preservatives from our diet, eat whole grains, natural meats and dairy, lots of fruit and vegetables and have reduced our portion sizes. This isn't something we spend a whole lot of time thinking about, though, it's just how we eat, and what is available in our home, so that's the way it is. Because of that, we have reduced our sugar and salt intake, though that wasn't a conscious goal.

What ways have you changed how you eat for your family's health? How do you define healthy food?

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We too have reduced our intake of pre-packaged food. I do by organic bread as I love the oats, flaxseed, etc. that gets put into it. But we have for the most part elimanted all pre-packaged cookies, cakes, etc. I too make all the pancakes, biscuits, etc. from scratch and I do make some of our bread from scratch as well as D thinks I am nutty for loving nutty bread! The only real pre-packaged food the kids get is organic cookies. I find they are a great snack in a pinch, however, we get one small bag for the whole week and when it is gone that is it. The rest of the week I make it all from scratch if we want something like that. As for the grown ups in the house, we are not as good. We tend to buy more treats for us then the kids, but I would say compared to the average person it is much less. We maybe get one or two processed treats every couple of weeks with exceptions of course, but we do get Coca Cola for Shabbat, however, it is made With Out cory syrup here. There are some things we have not changed, we can't do as much organic meat as I would like and still do regular meat do to the huge amount of price difference, it is at least double, I don't do organic pasta, and I think D would freak if I switched to whole wheat and I have not switched to Organic Oatmeal as it is about triple the cost, but we do use bulk whole oats as much as possible. Also our frozen veggies are not organic, but that is usually only corn and occasionaly peas, and meat we only use once a week outside shabbos. I would love your cereal recipes. Why did we switched, I love that I can give my kids veggies and fruit with out a hassle on washing, just takes a fast rinse, I love that my kids aren't eating all the sugar and hidden sugar and preservatives. We find the behavior is better and it is nice to know that my kids are not hooked on junk the way their parents are. Although fortunately we are at our worst when it comes fromthe States and that only happens occasionaly.....We also don't freak when on occasion the kids eat pre-packaged food depending on what it is and how much sugar is stuffed in there. I am envious that you can have your own chickens and grown your own veggies. If we ever get permanently settled in a place where have either a patio or a ground floor apt. We want to start doing potted gardening. Spices,tomatoes, peas, etc. I think it is great that you can do so much where you are. I also need to figure out dried beans better. I have yet to successful re-hydrate kidney beans and use them in something that does not require a full day of cooking. I also need more creative yet simple recipes, I guess more stir fry type things. D is not a big bean eater. Would love to hear your ideas.
When I cook, I aim to cook from whole, unprocessed foods for health reasons. I cook a lot less than I ought to--managing to bring a lunch from home is a continual struggle, and don't always make dinner from scratch either. But that's my aim.

I do buy organic milk and imported (and therefore no bovine growth hormone) cheese, but I don't feel like I can claim this is healthier than the non-organic alternatives. I also get a weekly box of organic vegetables in the summer and fall.

I try to keep my portion sizes down, but I am always hungry (typical breakfast is two eggs, a bowl of oatmeal, an apple, and toast, and I still have plenty of appetite for lunch), and it's just just fake-hunger, or pleasure-in-eating.
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