Like many Americans, I grew up on the SAD diet – Standard American Diet. White bread, hot dogs, pot pies, canned ravioli, fast food on occasion (and on more occasions once I had a job and a car). My mom did cook some things from scratch though, it wasn’t all junk food all the time. I especially remember her vegetable beef soup that would simmer in the 70’s green crockpot all day. The one that I could not resist taking the lid off of to get a big whiff of that delicious aroma, and consequently was reprimanded for letting the heat out. I get it now, mom…sorry! That soup was sooooo good!
Many years later, I became a vegetarian. I hated the way animals were treated at many “farms.” I continued with vegetarianism for several years, then oddly found myself craving Whopper Jr’s with cheese. The cravings were so strong that I would sneak and eat them, because I didn’t want anyone knowing I had fallen off the veggie wagon! Then I discovered that I was pregnant…that explained it! I’ve been an omnivore again ever since, although now that means buying local, humanely raised (and preferably pastured) meats and eating wild game. I talk myself into eating venison by calling it Wild Fed Free Ranging Organic Forest Beef.
When my son was around a year old, The Homesteading Hippy and I attended a seminar in Michigan called Nourishing Our Children. It’s a very informative seminar put out by the Weston A. Price Foundation, and it was presented by Donielle Baker of Natural Fertility and Wellness. I left there fuming mad! I wanted to go home and throw away all the food in the house and start over.
Only, that was NOT practical. At. All.Being a one-income family means your grocery budget is not quite as flexible as a home where both parents work. But, I wasn’t about to abandon my calling of homemaking and homeschooling just to have more grocery money. Besides, I love a challenge, especially when it comes to cooking!
I began by making small changes wherever I could. I gave away a lot of processed stuff (although some things I just threw away because I could not, in good conscience, give that to someone else!), I learned to make my own seasonings and condiments. I am blessed to live near an organic dairy where I can buy raw milk, so I bought that when I could. We quit eating at fast food places, and I learned how to make and use sourdough, soak rice and beans, and read labels.
A year ago, I decided…well, honestly, Yahweh gently nudged me, to go gluten free. I was NOT happy about it. I pouted for days before finally coming to the conclusion that I needed to quit focusing on what I COULDN’T eat and start focusing on what I could eat. It was hard at first, but after a while, you get used to it and don’t crave bread and other gluten foods as much. You get used to asking “what’s in that” when you eat away from home, or bringing your own food along. You also realize that most people don’t even have a clue what gluten is or what foods would have it. Especially people at restaurants! Every time I go to Panera Bread for a blogger meeting, I have to ask about what is in what I’m ordering and explain that I can’t eat bread/wheat. I usually get soup and salad and even though I already said I can’t eat bread/wheat they always ask me if I want bread or a cookie. Every time.
We still eat more processed foods than I’d like, although by processed I mean stuff I buy at the grocery store. Like cream cheese, which I should make myself because it’s easy and much healthier, but I love the taste and texture of store bought cream cheese. And, it’s easy to just buy it. Or butter, but that is more of an economic factor as buying enough raw milk to get enough cream to make butter is going to bust my budget. I don’t always remember to soak grains, either. But I don’t buy boxes or cans of pre-made foods like hamburger assistant or ravioli.
I read Nourishing Traditions (affiliate link) and try to follow it as best as I can. While there are many foods in there that I love, or at least like, there are some that you could not pay me to eat. Like Beet Kvass. And organ meats…well, I probably wouldn’t eat them unless I didn’t know they were in there. Which means I won’t be cooking any organ meat dishes. It’s hard to overcome an aversion to eating guts, I tell you. I am also a very big texture person, and that makes eating a challenge sometimes. If it doesn’t feel right in my mouth, I’m not eating it. End of story.
Overall, I try to live by the motto of Doing the Best I Can With What I Have. Sometimes, that means we don’t eat foods prepared perfectly (as in soaking rice or other grains), sometimes we eat out, and sometimes we just eat some junk food. At least 80% of our meals I prepare at home, from scratch. I try to buy organic as often as possible. I read labels all the time, and if I can’t pronounce it I probably won’t buy it. I say probably because sometimes the budget says I can’t spend the extra dollar to get the product with no ingredients that sound like they belong in a science experiment. Sometimes, it comes down to choosing the lesser of two evils.
The other part of the equation is not letting myself get stressed out over what we eat. Stress is just as bad as artificial preservatives and colorings and pesticides. I strive to cook and eat optimally, give myself grace when it’s not possible, pray over every meal, and trust Yahweh with the rest. I used to almost obsess over every little thing we were consuming, but realizing that THAT is just as unhealthy brought a huge sense of relief and freedom. It’s not a license to just eat poorly all the time, but it helps to remember that 80/20 rule.
Perfection is truly a never-ending pursuit, and getting bound up in the obsession to achieve it will only leave one frustrated and, ultimately, unhealthy. Shooting for perfect, but not beating yourself up when you miss the mark and learning from the experience will guide you along the path of better nutrition without stressing you out and harming your health. Your family will thank you, and also be more healthy, if you adopt that strategy instead.
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