Photo credit: lindaaslund via Visual Hunt / CC BY
“As parents, we have the responsibility and the power to create a foundational love for nutritious foods that will influence our children’s choices for decades to come, setting the stage for our children, grandchildren, and future generations to flourish in wellness and health.” ~ Leah Borski
If you are a parent, you know that your life is very busy. Not only do you have a to-do list that’s a mile long, you also have multiple interruptions throughout the day, adding to your list and disrupting your activities. Sometimes you get to the end of the day exhausted, yet wondering what you did all day as nothing seems to be accomplished.
When you have a child with special needs, that can be compounded by 100.
So, how can you find the time to make healthy food? How do you get them to EAT these healthy foods you just spent time making? And to start, what exactly even is “healthy food”? This post will give an introduction to healthy eating, and we will cover many more topics in future posts regarding how to implement individual strategies toward eating healthier.
Changing how we look at health food
A healthy diet, according to Wikipedia, can be defined as “one that helps maintain or improve general health. A healthy diet provides the body with essential nutrition: fluid, adequate essential amino acids from protein, essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and adequate calories. The requirements for a healthy diet can be met from a variety of plant-based and animal-based foods. A healthy diet supports energy needs and provides for human nutrition without exposure to toxicity or excessive weight gain from consuming excessive amounts.”
Prior to my taking this “health food” journey, I thought health food was things like brussel sprouts and wheatgrass: not tasty, not fun, and usually relegated to the corner of the supermarket where I did not visit. Breakfast for me consisted of sugary cereal with lots of milk and a glass of oj or two. When I felt like I really wanted to be healthy, I’d buy the raisin bran cereal.
One thing that healthy eating has taught me is that healthy eating can be FUN. (Honestly, I really do mean this). Maybe not initially, because you’re so consumed with the task of “we have to be healthier if it kills us”. But once you get past the initial shock of trying to change what you eat, you realize that food can be nutritious AND delicious and even fun to make! I used to dread making dinner at the end of the day, when I was exhausted and out of ideas. The other day as I made dinner, I found myself enjoying it and thinking, “So this is what foodies feel like!” 🙂
So how to transition to a healthier way of eating? One step at a time. Here are a few tips:
Look at the carbohydrates that you’re eating. Do you eat a lot of white bread, white pasta, and refined sugar? These products have little to no nutritional value and are not helping you toward health. Could you start replacing some of your processed foods with healthier alternatives? Instead of white bread, could you try whole wheat? Eating whole grains is healthier for your body than processed, “white” food. Article: Whole Grains 101-What Are the Health Benefits?
Another big step toward health is looking at the type of sugars you are consuming. Avoid refined white sugar. There are many healthier alternatives to sugar, including honey, real maple syrup, sucanat, turbinado sugar, molasses, stevia, xylitol, coconut sugar, and others. AVOID HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP AND ASPARTAME. These sweeteners have no value for you and are dangerous to your health. High fructose corn syrup is highly processed and contains mercury. Aspartame is poisonous to your body. These two sweeteners should NEVER be consumed.
Article: Five Reasons High Fructose Corn Syrup Will Kill You
Article: Aspartame: The Most Dangerous Substance Added to Foods Today
What about fats? There’s been a lot of bad publicity about fats for a long time. When it comes to fat, it is not necessarily your enemy. But it does matter the kind of fat you eat. Trans-fats are not good for your body. When you look at a product, check the nutritional label to see if it includes any trans-fats. Anything “hydrogenated” in the list of ingredients also shows you that it’s something to be avoided. Often the fast food you eat will have these bad fats. Try to avoid them.
For years, it’s been stressed that saturated fats should be avoided. Some saturated fats, like coconut oil and palm oil, are very, very good for you. Coconut oil has wonderful healing properties. I will discuss these fats in more detail in the future.
Protein is another important building block to consider. In recent years, the trend toward eating lean meat has led many people to consume large amounts of poultry. I love chicken too, but choosing the right type of chicken is very important. It would be wonderful if every cut of meat we saw in the supermarket was organic, grass fed or pasture raised, free range, cage free, etc. etc. etc. But unfortunately, it’s not. While every form of meat in the supermarket has it’s pros and cons, chicken in particular is one type of meat that you should consider buying organic. Commercial chickens are mass-produced, live in cages stacked on top of each other, given plenty of antibiotics because of the disease they are exposed to from living in such tight quarters, and are fed chicken feed with arsenic in it. Sounds like happy meat, right? Here is one article about arsenic in chicken; there are several.
I’m planning to discuss organic living in more detail in a future post, but if you’re interested in learning more in the meantime, the Environmental Working Group has a great website where you can look over the products you use in your home to see their level of toxicity, which fruits and veggies are better getting organic, and much, much more. Their website is: www.ewg.org
Changing your lifestyle can be scary, especially if you’ve eaten the same way for a long time. Whether you’re in the doctor’s office hearing that you need to eat healthier to prevent complications of illness or save your life, or you’re learning about a healthier lifestyle on your own, it isn’t easy. When things overwhelm us, we tend to shut down and do nothing, saying that we’ll deal with it later. But doing SOMETHING is better than doing nothing. Look at one or two changes that you can make in the way you eat. Maybe it’s simply eating more whole grains or cutting down your sugar intake. But it’s a start.
Over time, you gradually work your way toward healthier eating. For us, the process has taken five years, and we’re still working on it. We started where we were eating a typical American diet (although we did not eat out very often). Then, after our son’s diagnosis of autism, he switched to a gluten and casein free diet, while the rest of us continued eating the way we had been previously. About 6 months after that, our youngest son ended up on a gluten, casein and allergen free diet. I was a dairy addict in denial, and I didn’t end up joining them until probably about 2 years ago, and even then I cheated on occasion (or perhaps a little more frequently). We started with the GAPS diet in February of 2013 (my boys and I) and continue to follow it.
The gluten and casein free diet (GFCF) was literally life-changing for us, but going on the GAPS diet has in my opinion made us healthier. When you start the GFCF diet, you end up substituting many of your “old” foods with gluten free alternatives, added a lot of starches and sugars to obtain a similar taste or texture. And with the fad now to go gluten free, you can find many processed gluten free products in the stores that really aren’t that healthy for you. By following the GAPS diet, we eat an abundance of healthy fats, fermented foods, fruits and vegetables, delicious healthy desserts, smoothies, broths … foods that are fun to eat and incredibly nourishing. Prior to GAPS, my oldest son (who’s 6 years old) was losing weight and hadn’t gained any weight for about 1 1/2 years. He was wasting away, and I was scared. Since September of last year, he has gained 7 pounds! (And I’ve lost the last 10 pounds of my “baby weight”, all while eating any GAPS food I want). Another plus: my boys will eat practically anything, which is a big difference from the picky eaters I used to have. My 5-year-old was begging for fermented radishes the other day (shocking!)
And my husband? He eats our GAPS meals with us, loves the fermented foods, is willing to try anything new … but he still has his own refrigerator in the basement with his “non-GAPS” foods. He says he can’t give his bread up (hmmm … maybe an addiction?) So there’s always progress that can be made. 🙂
If you have questions about switching to a healthier diet, including where in the local area you can find healthier products, please contact me.
Best wishes and happy eating!