I’ve been thinking a lot more lately about the food I serve my family. For the past few years I’ve been making a conscious effort to cook from scratch as much as possible. Many days it feels like an inconvenience. It is much easier to pick up a can of cream of mushroom soup from the market than it is to make the equivalent myself with ingredients from my cupboard. I am not, by nature, one drawn to the idea of kneading dough, soaking beans, or dicing onions when there is a much simpler alternative beckoning me as I stroll down the aisles of the local supermarket.
My initial foray into wholesome, from-scratch cooking was not at all about the food being more wholesome this way. I just needed to shave a bit of the total off my weekly grocery bill. We pay a premium for the convenience that convenience foods provide, and I didn’t think I should be paying a fee for a “service” that I could provide myself. It just seemed like poor stewardship to me. It wasn’t until very recently that I began looking at the advantages of shunning boxed, jarred, ready-made meals from a health standpoint. I have begun to do just that, but in many cases, old habits die hard, and it isn’t always easy to get the entire family on board with a new and healthier way of eating.
In recent weeks, however, I have run across a few resources that have given me the shot in the arm I need to think about the real dangers associated with eating “food” filled with additives, sugar, and artery clogging fats inserted to increase shelf-life and provide that taste that keeps us coming back for more.
After reading several positive online reviews of the book Nourishing Traditions, I ordered the book for myself. I’ve received quite an education about the real process of getting most of our foods to the supermarket. One thing in particular resonated with me: the author’s assertion that most of what is accepted as a more healthy diet is easily disproved by a close examination of the very reports used to develop such things as the USDA food pyramid and guidelines by the American Dietetic Association. Like just about everything else in today’s America, she asserts that the standard being promoted is politically correct, heavily favoring nutrients that are grain based, and demonizing most animal based proteins, despite the many recorded health benefits they provide. Still, I was more interested in healthy cooking more than I was the ins and outs of how dietary standards are applied. Thankfully the book was also full of good, nutritious recipes that I look forward to trying out after I make my first shopping run since getting the book.
A documentary that my husband and I watched last weekend that prompted me, for the first time, to roam the supermarket aisles with a much more skeptical eye. The film was Food, Inc., and it is an exposé of the journey our food takes as it goes from the farm (or factory) to the supermarket, and ultimately to the kitchen. There was some liberal corporate bashing, but its overall thesis was sound. The food most of us trust to be safe to eat is in most cases, pretty suspect. The remedy? Eating local or organic as much as possible. The thing I found most intriguing was the massive amount of antibiotics administered to commercial beef and chicken to compensate for the fact that they are fed an unnatural diet (mostly corn) and bred and raised in unnatural, unsanitary conditions.
My last attention grabber occurred just a week ago as Tracey, at In Word Adorning, was noting that the most nutritious, life-filled foods are the ones with the darkest, richest colors. These are the vegetables and fruits that our Heavenly Father lovingly provided to give us natural vitality and strength. Her observation was that all too often our plates are filled to overflowing with colors from a very narrow range; from cream to beige or brown. Our diets are too often dominated by grains, potatoes, bread, or fried food, to the exclusion of nature’s power packed foods for optimal health. She is right. We don’t eat nearly enough fruits and vegetables in this house, either.
All this talk about food and nutrition has a purpose. For far too long, I was one of those people who subscribed to the notion that as long as I received whatever is before me with thanksgiving, I needn’t worry about what I put in my mouth. But this perspective is just another manifestation of the irresponsible living that permeates much of our culture. So we’re turning over a new nutritional leaf in this house. This time, however, the goal is much loftier than superficial outward beauty. The goal is to be strong, capable, and fit for the Master’s use. I’m also joining up with one of my longtime readers, Krystal, a fitness coach who’ll coach and encourage me as I tackle once and for all the goal of getting and staying fit.
There is an area where I would appreciate some reader input. Those of you who eat mainly organic vegetables and quality bred meats know how expensive it can be. To feed a family the size of ours exclusively organic is not a realistic possibility. I would like to begin to incorporate a few foods grown without genetic modification or harmful pesticides, but I don’t view it as a necessity. I believe that when I have done my best to feed my family well, trusting God with our health and well being is the proper position to take. After all, our very lives are in His hands and I can’t insure longevity simply by doing the right things in the kitchen. I do, however, feel a responsibility to do my best. So here’s the question:
Can you give me some pointers on how to balance eating well with maintaining a reasonable food budget? All suggestions are welcome!