Saturday, July 24, 2010

Because I Like to Stir the Pot: Let's Talk About Food Choices

I have already told you my feelings about McDonalds. I'm lovin' it. (Their words, not mine, but I agree with the sentiment).

You also know that I completely suck at cooking. Baking, now that's a whole different ball of wax. But, vegetables? meat? sauces? suck. suckier. suckiest.

It's not for lack of trying, lack of ideas, or lack of money. We aren't wiping our butts with Franklins but we live okay. I have a whole stack of cookbooks filled with yummy recipes. I've made my share of chicken dishes, fish dishes, beef dishes, pork dishes, casseroles, crock pots, stews, roasts, etc.

I just hate it. Really really hate it. For about an hour before the food is on the table, I can't split my attention from the razor-sharp knife or the hot boiling liquid to tend to my baby (who's hanging off my knees) or my toddler (who's using a glue stick as lipstick) or my older kids (who are all fighting over the one Pokemon card they each want even though we have like eleventy bazillion other cards.) All the work involved, chopping, measuring, stirring, tossing, basting, etc. And the reward? A chorus of "What's THAT?" and "If I don't want dessert, can I skip dinner?" Not exactly the warm fuzzy feeling that Paula Deen gets from her family, I'm sure.

So, I serve a lot of prepared foods at my house. There, I said it. Whew I feel better now. We eat Chef Boyardee. We eat Red Baron. We eat Hamburger Helper and Bisquick and Campbell's. And.... I'm sure there are some folks who are poised with their comment fingers on the keyboard to blast me for being so irresponsible with my kids' nutrition. But, before anyone does that, I want to say that we also eat fruits and vegetables every day. We do have sugared cereal but we also have unsugared cereal and we balance how often each one is served. We buy unsweetened applesauce. We buy turkey hot dogs. We buy light sour cream. We buy sugar-free Koolaid. We're not perfect but we're not blobs with cavities either.

So, here's my point: I am exhausted. I know that my family would be better off if we ate all organic produce, and grain fed beef and free-range chicken, and eliminated high fructose corn syrup and red dyes and white sugar and bleached flour. I KNOW. How in the world could I NOT know? I've barely gotten past the idea that I won't kill my baby if I give her formula, when I move on to facing the idea that I might kill my children if I give them white bread.

I simply can NOT keep listening to people who insist that the way they are doing things for their own family is the only right way. I know parents are passionate about giving their family the best: nutrition, discipline, education, physical activity, role models, medical care, etc. But there has to come a point when we recognize that deviating from perfection is not going to kill us and that it IS possible to live, and thrive, on less-than-perfect food, when eaten in moderation.

I read a blog post recently about a mother who would not send her child to a day-camp that served the following lunch choices: canned peaches, chicken nuggets, bagels with cream cheese, mozzarella sticks, and corn. These choices were simply not acceptable. For her 2-year-old. For one meal a day for a week. Foods that she considered acceptable were: popsicles made out of organic 100% juice, pizza with crust made of whole grain, burgers made from turkey and fries from baked sweet potatoes.

Now, I'm not going to go and criticize her food choices. (Although I wonder where she's going to find a camp with a menu like that.) I actually think it's really awesome that her child eats foods like kale and wild salmon. She's gotten her kid off to a wonderful start. But why are my food choices considered "phood"? (In other words, not real food because it wasn't a food 100 years ago.) My kids eat - and honestly do like - asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, lean turkey, cheese, grapes, bananas, oranges, pears, apples, pecans, walnuts, etc. etc. My kids aren't suffering from the foods they eat. They are thriving and healthy and happy. Here's proof:

I don't have my rose-colored glasses on. I know what mass production is doing to the quality of food. I saw Food, Inc. But I also take the responsibility of nutrition on myself. I recognize that the food industry is in business to make money. They *should* care about my health but really? I'm sure they care more about their bottom line. It isn't their job to make sure my family meets the Daily Recommended Allowance of fruits & veggies. That's my job. I know that eating too much chicken that's been pumped full of hormones will be bad for us. Eating an abundance of beef that's been fed a steady diet of corn instead of grain will become a health risk.

Here's where I'm going to make someone hate me: I think, when a person's health deteriorates because of something they've eaten, it's not because of the food. I think it's because either A: they haven't regulated what they've been eating (too much of something or too little of something else), or B: they have other health issues that would have surfaced eventually anyway, and caused them to get sick sooner or later. I don't think FOOD is the root of evil; I think the mismanagement of food and the transfer of blame to food is the root of evil. Well, food evil anyway.

Okay, so here's your call to action: Be in charge of your food. Be in charge of your choices. Own the consequences of your choices. Take responsibility for your actions. Educate yourself and make decisions about the food you buy based on what works for YOUR family, YOUR budget, and YOUR ethics, to the best of your knowledge. You can't see the future so don't beat yourself up for unforseen mistakes. And remember that it's never too late to make a right choice, the one that's right for you. Start now.

Texan Mama


Ash said...

Sing it sister!

"I don't think FOOD is the root of evil; I think the mismanagement of food and the transfer of blame to food is the root of evil. Well, food evil anyway." Love it.

Be prepared for this - "but Texan Mama, most people aren't that smart. We must TELL people how to eat. And if that doesn't work, FORCE them to eat correctly."

It's become the American way baby. No worries, that new Healthcare Bill will be taking care of that "phood" any day now.

Angel said...

I eat and serve a lot of processed foods too. When I was younger I taught myself to cook and if its just me I like to make my own food all nice and stuff but when I am cooking for kids, lol I have found nothing beats burgers, hot dogs and Mach and Cheese.

Sturgmom said...

I think we all have room to make healthier choices, but I agree with you that McD's or Chef Boyardee once in awhile is probably not going to send us to an early grave.

Jen B. said...

Love this post! I feel so criticized if I give my kids frozen pizza or chicken nuggets. ugh, sometimes I just don't have the energy or interest in making a gourmet meal. I figure if I can sit down with my WHOLE family and enjoy whatever is in front of us (even if it's gross hotdogs) then at least we're all together...and that says something, right??

Lindsay said...

AMEN! I agree with all of these thoughts. Especially the idea that it is not "big business's" responsibility to make sure we eat healthy. They are in it to make money, just as every other American works to make money.

Bridgett said...

We eat local & whole foods (not Whole Foods, Inc, but "whole" foods) because it's cheaper as well as better for us. Seriously. But it takes work and besides some frozen waffles and canned tomato sauce, I honestly don't think there are any prepared foods in my house at the moment--unless you count dry pasta. We eat deer that Mike kills, and that's the extent of the meat that isn't from the CSA. We eat produce in season, we have a garden, and that's that. I spend almost zero time in the grocery store because I've already decided what I'm going to buy and I don't have to read labels anymore...I'm the daughter of a bulimic so food has always been emotionally charged for me, and this is a good part of the reason I focus on THIS part of eating.

That said, I love a glass of orange koolaid.

But in the end, it cannot be ignored that Australia and the US are fattest and have the "lifestyle" diseases to prove it. It's awful, the disconnect between food and good health. I live in the inner city and have a lot of opinions about poverty and nutrition (some libertarian, some liberal). But I won't monologue any further. When it comes to people with means and opportunity (ie, the middle class), it comes down to the phrase: "This is what works for our family." It's an old LLL trick to get your mother-in-law off your back about nursing. :^) Basically, when folks criticize me about my parenting choices, this is what I come back with. This is what works for my family, and I didn't ask for help!!!

Jennifer said...

Can I give you a "hell yeah!" I do the best I can with the resources I have (time, money, ability). I'm so tired of feeling guilty because I don't buy organic yogurt (my kids won't eat it because it's gross) or I let them eat McDonalds once (or twice... or three times) a week. We both work and I don't have tons of time. I'm happy that we sit down together every night at the dinner table and enjoy a meal together. We do the best we can and I'm happy that we do as much as we do.

The Housewife said...

Stopping by from Blogfrog!

I agree with you. Everything in moderation. And while I'm sure that it'd be fantastic if I'm super diligent in my food choices, I have a life, and I don't have a private chef to make all my minute food decisions for me. If I want chicken nuggets, that's my friggin choice!

Don E. Chute said...

I think your doing just fine.

Let me turn you on to something, if ya' haven't tried it already...

'Stouffers' Everything...Lasagna, Garlic Bread, French Bread Pizza. Yum-Yum.


Melissa said...

This post is AWESOME! I have to say that as I type this comment my daughter is eating McDonald's. Lol! We don't eat fast food that often and I think it's perfectly okay in moderation. I hate that people blame McD's for being obese and having health problems. We all have to make the best choices we can with the resources we have. Moderation is the key.

Anonymous said...

I just found you from #31DBBB & I love you. Not in a gay way, but in a I'm a Texan, your a Texan kind of way.
Great site! I really think this is a super topic & I agree. I feel so guilty that everything on my table is not organic this or that. My children did not drink organic milk and they are perfectly healthy.
BTW, my 10 year old is kookoo for Pokemon cards too. Yikes!

Aunt Crazy said...

I love this post! I hate to cook, absolutely abhor the thought of walking up to the stove...seriously! I don't ever mind washing dishes, but I hate cooking. I don't think I am good at it, I am not creative, and it's so hard to make a meal that everyone in my family will eat. We eat out all the time and have for years, so everyone is used to being able to order what they want, making cooking at home even more difficult. I'm trying, I really am. I've been getting some new recipes and I got some pretty red Paula Deen cookware, but my WANT for cooking will never ever be existent. I think moderation is key. My kids order salad and we eat fruits at home. My kids are athletic and healthy. I hate the guilt that comes along with my hate of cooking...SIGH

Laura @ The Things I Said I'd Never Do said...

I actually like to cook and when I can find good deals I'll choose organic and grass fed meats, however the local Chinese restaurant is also on our regular rotation.

Great post! Sometimes it seems like every blogger is only about the most organic foods you can find.

Kacie said...

I think health is a direction to shoot in. The latest hypes may be good or may not be, and you're right, no one is going to die from a Red Baron pizza.

I follow my mom's example. I try to provide balanced meals. If we have cereal for breakfast, we have protein at lunch. If we have ground beef in our dinner one night, we'll have chicken the next. I try to have a vegetable or two with every lunch and dinner. I try to stock healthy snacks so we're not eating crap when the stomach is rumbling.

When I have a choice, I try to make a healthy one. I'll encourage passing over soda for some lemonade. I buy low-fat milk. I look for juices without corn syrup. I look for cereal with whole grain and low sugar.

But... that's just what I shoot for. I don't kill myself over it, I'm not strict about it, I just try to be healthy...