This post is going to be hard for me to write because it’s one area in my life where I’m still learning – eating green. What does it mean to eat GREEN? Does it mean eating locally? Does it mean to eat organic? Does it mean that I have to be a vegetarian? Do I have to shop at a natural food store? Do I have to eat raw food? Do I have to eat only fresh food?
Eating green is actually all of those things – and you may incorporate some or all of the aspects of eating green – I don’t believe that there is a right or wrong way to eat green.
My history- I come from a family who likes food, a lot! I can remember many family reunions with everyone huddled in the kitchen cooking for hours, making more food then we could eat in a week. My fraternal grandmother was a tiny frail lady who knew how to cook – she didn’t have a choice with 5 hungry kids and a husband. My favorite family memories as a child involve turkey, ham, mashed potatoes, Yorkshire pudding, gravy, gravy, gravy, and more gravy, desserts, and a few vegetables to go along with it all. I have to say my own personal comfort food has turned into mashed potatoes and gravy.
With that history came heart disease which has been experienced by my paternal grandfather (when I was 2), my father, and my uncles (2 of them) – all of which have had heart attacks or heart surgery. I don’t remember my grandfather since I was only 2 when he passed away – but I’ve been lucky enough to still have these other men in my life today because of the miracles of modern medicine. My father struggles with food daily – he’s been on a roller coaster with his weight since I was a young child – and probably will be on that roller coaster the rest of his life. He’s achieved some wonderful accomplishments with his weight battle – including my senior year in high school when he lost 100 lbs in a year (healthy weight loss – no crash diets – he was eating well and exercising) because he wanted to live to see me get married one day. God has blessed us with lots of extra chances, in addition to his battle with food he had a triple bypass a few years ago and just recently battled larynx cancer (he also battled cigarettes in his younger days). My uncles stories are very similar – each battling to repair the damages that have been made on their hearts by the food they ate for 60+ years.
Me – I’m not sure how me and my brother managed this one but we are both lanky and trim. I’ve always been underweight (please don’t hate me) but I also suffer from Graves Disease (a thyroid disease). When I was in my early twenties I had my thyroid irradiated because that’s what my endocrinologist suggested I do to manage the disease. Looking back I probably would have researched other therapies to help manage the disease naturally – but now I have to manage it with medication that I have to take for the rest of my life.
I don’t share the same love of food that my father has though – while I do love food I guess I picked up some of the lessons my father learned later in his life. The year he lost 100 lbs he was going to Weight Watchers and I really paid attention to what changes he was making. I’ve never had a problem with portion control. My only problem was knowing what was healthy because the only thing I ever learned in health class was what the food pyramid was – and if you are like me it was ALWAYS changing and very confusing.
In theory I know that you should have a well balanced meal with lots of fruits and vegetables and very little fats and sweets. I think we all learned that at some point in our lives. But how does a well balance meal compare to eating green?
When my son was born I did my homework and decided to make most of his baby food from scratchand I continued that tradition with my daughter. However about the time they turn one or two something happened and they find -McDonald’s, processed food, sweets, sodas, and all of the bad things we know in our hearts that we shouldn’t be feeding our children – or ourselves! Our lives get so busy with school and living that it’s easier to pull through the drive-thru and bow to the golden arches! I noticed this trend much soon with my daughter – her caregiver even brags on the days when she takes them out for a ‘treat’ – AKA Happy Meal! My seven year old who once loved mashed avocado turns up his nose at my favorite indulgence. My daughter squeals in excitement when daddy opens the freezer to fix a bowl of ice cream. And I’m embarrassed to tell you how many nights a week I make mac-n-cheese.
Fortunately my husband has started to pay more attention to his own food choices which has allowed me to rethink what we are teaching our children. I’m very proud of my hubby who has, for the first time in our 9+ years of marriage, made an effort to eat healthy and exercise regularly. He’s lost 20 lbs since the beginning of summer and is now back to the size he was when we first met. Even my own clothes have started to fit a little better – with only a few small changes in our diets.
I’ve also had the pleasure of reading Dr. Greene’s newest book, Feeding Baby Green (affiliate link). Dr. Green explains the history of the food industry quite well and how convenience foods were introduced to make our lives easier. He gives us many examples of advertisements from the food industry that tell us these new processed, engineered foods were created to make life easier on us, to make food safer for us, and to provide us with better tasting food. If you are pregnant or have very young children I highly recommend that you read this book and learn how to eat better now when you have the most influence over your child. He even recommends reading this book BEFORE you get pregnant so you can make changes to your own diet so that your body is the perfect home for that growing fetus. While the book ends with the toddler years the lessons he teaches are ageless. I’m only half way done with the book but I’m ready to commit to my family to make the change – slowly!
But how do you make so many changes without a revolt from your family members? My daughter is currently experiencing some pretty severe eczema (I think – we still haven’t gone to the doctor’s for it) on her inner elbows and behind her knees. A very dry and scaly – scratchy rash of sorts. All the indicators that it’s eczema. No one else in my family has ever experienced eczema so I’m reading a lot about it. Most of the articles I’ve read indicate that it’s an allergy to something – probably something that she’s eating. Is it dairy, or wheat, or something else – we don’t know yet.
My goals for the next few months are to take a look at where we can make better choices. Today I decided I was going to visit the local farmers marketto purchase our produce. My son and I headed out after church this morning to experience our first time – granted it wasn’t nearly as successful as I had hoped for. A farmers market to me means fresh, local, and organic – this market only had 7 vendors and the produce was not even organic – and the origin was questionable. Some items were clearly marked – Tennessee tomatoes, organic apples from Chile, and of course the Del Monte bananas. Other items had no indication as to where they were from and when I asked about them being organic the lady clearly told me they were not. BUT – at least I was supporting a local company instead of a large corporation that I would normally be supporting – right?? Oh yeah, and next week – we’ll be looking for a different farmer’s market! (We did stock up on some awesome local honey though – yummy!)
The Eco Chic’s Top 5 Ways to Start Eating Green (the baby steps)
- Ask where your food comes from. Not all foods are available locally and they do have to ship - but how far is your food traveling before it reaches you? As with my experience today, why would I buy an organic apple from Chile when I could go to the super market and get that same organic apple from the USA? Don’t be afraid to ask questions – if they don’t know the answers go somewhere else.
- Go organic! Now for full disclosure I have a problem with this one because of cost. Today I actually convinced my husband that I needed to spend THREE dollars more (double the price of the alternative) to get ORGANIC MILK for my kids and I. It was very hard NOT to put it back and save the money by selecting the non-organic milk. Where do you start with organics if you can’t afford to go ALL organics? Review the Environmental Working Groups (EWG) Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 Guide to pesticides. They even have it in an iPhone app so you can take it with you to the store. I’ve made it a priority to choose to find organic varieties for these twelve fruits/vegetables – and yes, sometimes I still purchase the non-organic varieties if I just can’t spend the extra money.
- Buy fresh whenever possible. Avoid the canned or processed foods. Someone once told me to shop the outside of the grocery store and skip the inner aisles – that’s where all the boxed, processed foods are located. And one more note on FRESH – beware of the pre-packaged fruits and vegetables. You don’t need to buy your apples already cut up and why do we need to buy our carrots processed into tiny smaller bites? Take the extra time to show your family how easy it is (and save some money) by purchasing these items the freshest way possible.
- If you can’t buy fresh – buy frozen insted of canned. Canned fruits and vegetables tend to have extra ingredients (usually salt or sugar) added. The cans also present another problem – most of them are lined with BPA.
- Go meatless at least once a week (or more often). If you’ve watched Food, Inc you already know that our food industry is severely broken – if you haven’t please take the time to watch it. But be prepared that it WILL change the way you look at food. I can’t walk into Mc D’s without thinking about where that food comes from. I can’t eat chicken without thinking about the hormones that have been added to make that breast so large. I try not to send myself into a panic thinking about the consequences of my choices thus far – but prefer to let them lead the changes that I make. Show your kids that dinner doesn’t have to include meat – and invite them to enjoy all the colors of the rainbow in fruits and vegetables.
Full disclosure: This week’s shopping trip included some produce from a farmer’s market, some organic produce, some non-organic fresh produce, some frozen produce, some meats, organic milk, and yes – even some junk food. On the list of items I will try to limit in the future: Lucky Charms, candy bars, and ice cream. The Eco Chic and my family are not perfect and we are just beginning our journey to become more green in our food choices. I’m trying to get my husband to understand that being healthy is not always the same as eating greener. I received a copy of Dr. Greene’s book to review free of charge in hopes that I would pass along my personal thoughts to you.
If you made it this far without leaving I want to thank you for beginning this journey with me. Please share with me your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to food. What changes have you made that were easy and which one’s are you struggling with? I hope to continue to share our story with you in the coming months. Maybe I’ll even find a real farmer’s market next week.
Photo credits: http://www.sxc.hu/photo/1304490
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