I'm always so surprised by how many people are scared of the word "organic." For 10 years now, our family has been doing the "organic" and healty eating routine, and I have people all the time ask me: What does it mean? How do I know if it's better? Is it worth the higher price? How do I get started because I feel so overwhelmed by it all? Is it really good for me? How do I do this with my Bunch since it seems like a lot of work?
But the questions and interest have started flooding in since the movie Food, Inc. became so widely popular. People are now asking, what do I eat? Since we've had many people ask on this blog (via our survey) about making the transition, I thought I'd offer up a few thoughts on this topic. We know this is not our normal conversation here, but one we wanted to address for those interested. Warning....the hard truth is ahead.
The first thing is know this is a worthwhile endeavor to take on. Eating better and healthier food benefits everyone in your family--less health issues, better behavior, less trips to the doctor. It doesn't have to be expensive to eat well. Beans, rice, a bit of chicken and a salad is better than eating a Lean Cuisine or frozen pizza--hands down! Going through 3 gallons of milk a week for a family of 4 might set you back if you switch to organic, but the truth is we don't need to drink that much milk. Start switching over to more water and you'll find one gallon of organic milk to drink (perhaps some soy milk in the cereal) will, in the long run, be better for everyone. Same with meat. You'd be surprised how little meat we actually need to eat each day.
A big thing to note as well: This is not about losing weight. Healthy, smart eating isn't a diet program. Organic food isn't low in fat or calories. A bag of organic tortilla chips will get you just as fat as a regular one. However, that corn used for the chips wasn't sprayed with pesticides.
HOW TO GET STARTED: The easiest way to get started is to read up on the topic. Ominvore's Dilemna by Michael Pollan is about all you need to get the gist of what you should and shouldn't eat. But it's a bit of a long read for us Bunchers so the Cliff's Notes version is Food Rules by the same author. Seriously, you can read it while watching both your kids eat. If you follow these very basic rules most days, you're good to go. [My favorite rule: #2 Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food.]
Next take a look at your pantry. This was where our family started 10 years ago. Take everything in a box out and start looking at ingredients. You need to know words like "partially hydrogenated oil" or "high fructose corn syrup" or "Yellow No. 5." Things with preservatives like this are not food. They taste yummy and your kids love them because they have fun characters on them. But they are not food and not good for you body. My suggestion is throw it out and don't buy it again. Yes, even the peanut butter. (Peanut butter should have no more than 3 ingredients--peanuts, oil and salt--anything beyond that it junk.)
WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE TO START: If you are looking to make a change in what you eat, anywhere you start is a good start--milk, meat, fish, snack food, organic veggies, chicken, eggs. Organic milk means you reduce the amount hormones you put into you and your children. Grassfed meat, also no hormones, and it actually tastes better. My suggestion is start small. Our house started with organic milk, no preservatives or dyes in snack food, lunch meat, breads and eggs from free range hens. That was it. About 4-5 years ago, we've moved to more naturally handled meat (grass-fed beef, free range chicken and wild-caught fish). In the past year, we've made the transition to organic and/locally grown veggies.
CAN YOU DO THIS WITH YOUR BUNCH? The answer is yes! Our house doesn't have Goldfish crackers or fruit snacks. My kids, while they enjoy these on occassion at friends' houses, do not get these at home. We have raisins, nuts, cheese, carrots, hummus, pita chips, tortilla chips, homemade trail mix of cereals and dried fruit, preztels, etc. While I prefer to make my own chicken strips or pizza, I find Trader Joes has LESS processed food than the regular store at a good price. We don't buy in bulk because I want my kids to think of these "kid foods" as a treat and not a routine meal.
There are a million excuses to not do this, but a million reasons to do it.
I feel so passionate about this cause that I'm going to giveaway a copy of Michael Pollan's Food Rules. If you're interested in changing your food routine or already have, leave me a note here to be entered to win the book. Let me know A) what food change you want to make or B) which one was the toughest to make or C) what question you have on the topic. We'll pick a winner on May 11.