A die-hard City Girl reconnects to the natural world… in the city.

Posts tagged “Food

Turning Over a New Leaf

So you’re still hanging in there with me I see. Well I am very grateful. For every person who decides enough is enough, it is one more person who uses their purchase power to tell Big Food we won’t have it anymore. And if you haven’t noticed, Big Food is listening. They know people are growing more and more savvy about their food and they’re trying to make us think they’re catering. McDonald’s recently started offering whole grain oatmeal and fruit on their breakfast menu.

Which is great until I remember that package of apples I got once that never rotted. Ever. 2 months after being opened the apples looked as if they’d just been peeled and cut. I was disgusted and refused to let my daughter eat them. I was still too afraid to delve deeper into their food, however. Which is a shame. As a parent you want to do what’s right for your children, what will promote strong and healthy growth….

 I spiraled into a shame pit for a moment but we’re back and I’d like to share with you the decisions my family made (which reads as the decisions I made and forced on my family though they’re on board for the most part) to move toward a new lifestyle of clean eating. They were:

  1. No more meals from a box or package, no meals that can go in the microwave or be placed in the oven straight from the freezer (meals meaning something already prepped that requires no work from me).
  2. We will have one vegetarian night per week. . Veggies will take center stage on our plates and make meat the side dish and not the main dish.
  3. We will no longer buy meat from a grocery store (except our co-op). We will only eat pastured meat and dairy products.
  4. We will have no meat in our lunches (except for our growing Diva. I’ve been told by her doctor not to restrict her calories and let them be as diverse as possible).
  5. We will eat organic produce as much as possible.
  6. No more processed condiments, sauces, dressings, etc. We will make our own or at least make sure the ingredients would be what I would put in it.
  7. No more fast food. Dining Out will occur more infrequently.
  8. If we do buy packaged food (like bread, cheese, etc.) it will be organic and processed in a recognizable way and have ingredients that The Diva can pronounce and recognize.

This list seems daunting, doesn’t it?  And where on earth do you even start? If the grocery store doesn’t have it, where do you buy stuff like this? What the heck does “pastured” mean? How do you KNOW how it was processed? Did this crazy lady say “make” my own condiments?!?!?

Okay, calm down. If you’re feeling anything like I was after taking the red pill, you want to know how to accomplish clean eating and you want to know NOW. Very well, here is what I did.

I have to preface this by telling you that I live in the Land Where Hippies Dwell. This means I’m surrounded by people who battle “the system” everyday. This works to my benefit, in this instance, because there is a group of co-operative grocery stores started by concerned citizens and farmers that sell only natural foods. And no I don’t mean Whole Foods (you’ll start to see that grocery stores, even well intentioned ones, are a major part of the problem). PCC Natural Markets is awesome, to be cliché. I am lucky enough to be able to go ten minutes down the road and get clean food.

There is also the very helpful website eatwild.com which is where I found my farm that I purchase my meat from and local farms that sell to the PCC Markets. Here there is a list of local farms in your area, farmer’s markets (THIS is where you want to shop if you can!), co-op stores like PCC, restaurants that use only “wild” products, and butcher shops, etc. You can view farm websites here, which I did in my education.

Unlike the Sara Lee website where you can’t locate ANY ingredients lists for their products (and why the hell not Sara Lee? What don’t you want me to readily know about your food?), the farms are remarkably transparent about every stage of their operations. At 3 sisters Beef where I got my (DELICIOUS IS NOT A STRONG ENOUGH WORD!) beef from, she was very honest to tell me that their bacon does contain nitrates and nitrites (yucky stuff)… for now. And this  is how you know how your food was processed. If you can’t find easily learn how it was processed, then they have something to hide and don’t buy that product. It’s more simple than you think once you know what questions to ask.

 From the farms and the farmer’s markets you want to look for PASTURED meat and dairy. It is not good enough to say organic and I’ll explain why in the next post. But pastured means that your cow grew up outside of The Meatrix but still managed to eat grass (as it’s supposed to), laze around in the sun all day and be treated humanely from birth to butcher. It means they eat what God intended for them to eat and ONLY what God intended them to eat. No we don’t NEED meat to live but for those of us who adore it, we can have it and we can have it without the guilt and the expense to the environment or our health.

I am not going to get too much into cost in this post but I will say this. I am so cheap it’s ridiculous. Cheap, frugal whatever you want to call it, I hate spending what I FEEL is more money than I should. So my second response (after the shock and anger, of course) was “how much is this lifestyle change going to cost me?”. I went to the PCC to just look around and price things out. I purchased a meal for me and my husband to eat and then did price comparisons. I was astounded at how little it varied. I could get clean, whole foods for about the same amount of money as the nasty stuff. Amazing.

I regret to inform you that despite their best efforts it is virtually impossible to eat clean from your local Safeway, Kroger/QFC, Walmart, etc. And believe me, they are trying HARD to make you feel like you can. You cannot. Organic Produce is about as clean as you’re going to get. If you MUST then I’d say go to Whole Foods but they’re a part of the problem too (and more expensive than my PCC so I don’t go there either).  I am currently in the process of getting together a group of people and we will buy an entire cow from 3 Sisters Beef. They will butcher it and cut it up and package it for us. My grandmother used to do this with her neighbors. This is the best way to get your food short of hunting it down yourself. And it’s more than worth the hour drive to get it.

I have been cooking our meals every night. Our eating experience has become one that is so amazingly refreshing and pleasant that I now don’t mind. The food we’re eating… well I’ll get into that more when I discuss the benefits so far with you. Which means you have to stay tuned. In the meantime, stop hanging out with a loser like me and go to eatwild.com and start researching how you can get started in your area. It’s time to take the shovel I’ve given you and start digging.


Clarifications and Elaborations

I see you’ve come back to see what else I have to say which both pleases me (thank you!) and proves that you want to do better for yourself. Like me, you were appalled to learn just how much Big Food is destroying our health so they can increase revenue streams. If you’ve delved as far as I have at this stage then you’re horrified about not only what they’re doing to our food but also to the farmers, the environment and  their contribution to the immigration debate.

Now let’s inject a moment of honesty here. We knew. Certainly we didn’t know everything but we knew to some degree or other that the food we were eating was not altogether the best for us. We knew that the animals that provide our meat, eggs and dairy weren’t raised humanely (there is no way you can supply the American culture with that much food and not know this). We were aware they were putting hormones and antibiotics in the animals. Perhaps we weren’t sure why or what kind but we knew. And we were happy to remain blissfully ignorant to it. Because we are, after all, busy movers and shakers with things to do, places to go and people to see.

And who wants to truly look behind the smoke screen and see what’s really going on? I knew about Food, Inc. the moment it came out in 2008 but I wasn’t ready. I knew that I would learn something that would cause me to completely change my current way of life. But I couldn’t afford it. I walked into Whole Foods once and saw a $25 loaf of bread (not kidding!) and turned around and walked back out. Only rich people can afford to eat healthy, after all, and I am NO WHERE NEAR rich. Not only that but I would have to start making all my food from scratch, maybe even GROW it and who has time for that? And I’d also have to be a vegetarian and NO WAY is that ever happening. So thank you but no thank you, I justified to myself, I’m not ready for the awakening.

Last June I was diagnosed with high cholesterol and elevated blood sugar (and I’ve been concerned about my weight since I’m heavier than I’ve ever been in my life at 165 pounds). There have been a few anomalies in my family history but I was blindsided by the cholesterol thing. Not so much the sugar thing because I’m a sugar junkie but the cholesterol took me by surprise. So I decided it was time to make a few adjustments to my diet.

I learned that you can really bring down your bad cholesterol levels by adding more fiber to your diet so I started eating more bread and oats. It’s funny to me now considering what I’ve learned about bread and oatmeal (the Quaker variety specifically). In August I cut out all added sugars from my diet, vowing to only eat naturally occuring sugars like in fruits and vegetables. After a week of a killer detox headache, I couldn’t believe how much better I began to feel. I’ve maintained a low sugar diet ever since. But feeling better, healthier with more even moods and energy levels led me to think harder about what I was eating- and what I was doing to my daughter through her diet.

By November I was ready. I was ready for the kick in the behind that I knew sitting and watching Food, Inc. would give me. I had spoken to several people who’d watched the movie and their reactions told me I would not come away unscathed. And I didn’t. After watching that movie I wanted to go through my fridge and pantry and purge everything in them.

I began reading. Incessantly. I went to Big Food websites and read them but what I was reading more of than I ever had in my life was ingredients lists on the food products. Because I have now learned that the gigantic nutrition label listing all your fat and sodium content is meant to distract you from the really important information- the ingredients.

Let’s use an example.

If I wanted to make 100% whole wheat honey bread at home, I would need the following ingredients: whole wheat flour, honey, butter, salt and yeast. That’s it. Nothing else. Now, I urge you to go and look at your loaf of bread and read the ingredients. I’ll wait patiently while you do………. done? Is your stomach hurting yet?  Did you even know what half that stuff was? My family were big Sara Lee fans. The Nutrition Label made me feel like I was making a good choice- so low in fat and bad stuff! The ingredients, however, prove that the choice was all wrong. All the added sugars alone were enough to scare me. Let’s not even start on all the fake ingredients. 

And yet they make tons of health and nutrition claims on their products. But if the nutrition label says it’s so good for you, why bother reading those teeny tiny ingredients that you can’t pronounce? Well, the real issue is why do we not think it’s a problem that we can’t pronounce them? Our grandparents (or in the case of many of you, great-great grandparents) never cooked with anything they couldn’t pronounce. My grandmother used to make biscuits from scratch every morning. I bet if I called her right now and asked her for the recipe, dextrose would not be one of the ingredients.

And it’s not just them. It’s virtually everything you find in the grocery store. Very few items outside of the produce section have any nutritional value to you. And if you watched Part Two of The Meatrix above you’ve found even the milk and dairy aren’t good for you. What’s the City Folk to do if they want to unplug?

First, pick up a book. In the Highly Recommended Media section of this blog you will find many of the books I’ve read on my journey to enlightenment and the first one I read was The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan. In this book, he explains different food systems and creates a meal based off each. This is a good place to start but it won’t help you with the HOW (I will in the next post). What it will do, however, is further educate you on the food systems and what each entails. 

But by all means begin educating yourself. Don’t just take my word for it. I am no nutritionist or expert. I am, however, a very concerned consumer and I think- sometimes- we’re the best educators of all.