There is an OVERLOAD of information today on HOW TO EAT!  For me, my “food journey” began about 8 years ago.  My husband is passionate about health and sustainability, so I have learned an awful lot from him.

Five years ago, I decided little changes were the way for me to go, instead of diving head-first into unknown and overwhelming waters.  Where am I today?  I would say I eat healthy, I consume a variety of fruits and veggies, meat when I want and I try to snack on unprocessed foods….nuts, fruit etc.  I do NOT, however, deprive myself ice cream and chocolate if I want it….I eat it when I get a hankering!  For me it is all about balance!   I am always trying to learn more and looking for healthier replacements.

I stumbled  across a startling statistic, which , of course, I can’t find now, but it loosely stated that….Americans spend approximately 7% of their income on food and 17% on medicine to treat conditions such as type II diabetes, heart disease and weight management compared to 17% on food and 7% on medicines for the same conditions a mere 10 years ago.  I don’t know about you guys, but this statistic was eye-opening for me.

As a family, we spend roughly 20% of my husband’s salary on our food AND we have a working farm….THAT’S A LOT OF MONEY!!   We have our own grass-fed meat and in the Summer and Fall we grow all of our vegetables and we still spend a ridiculous amount of money on our food.   Does it kill me to spend such a substantial portion of our money on our food….yes and no!  On occasion I am all…..“UGH, I hate spending so much cash on our stupid food…why is everything so EXPENSIVE?!”  Mostly, however, I am happy to spend the extra money….well…. maybe not happy, but resolved, for me, there is nothing more important than what my family and I nourish our bodies with.

For a number of us, budgets are tight and it is difficult to rationalize spending more money for a product marked organic when there is a non-organic version for half the price right next to it….after all, we can just wash it right?  And let’s be honest, there an abundance of information to sort out just to know the language of labeling….100% organic, natural, organic…blah blah blah.

Making changes to your diet can be frustrating and bewildering!

I am not a dietician or a physician.  I am simply a person seeking to eat healthy and supply my children with healthy foods and knowledge about foods.

As a society, we are uninformed and blindly trusting in regard to our food, which is directly linked to our health.  We need to equip ourselves with information and make educated personal decisions based upon our knowledge.

For me personally, it has been a slow acquiring of facts and a gradual transition.  I dove head first into a vegetarian diet for 6 months and I tried vegan with the same gusto for 3 months.  The results…I felt healthier, for sure.  I experienced a tremendous amount of energy and felt an overall well-being.  However, for me, too much change, too fast just doesn’t work.  There are many important factors to know about the vegetarian and vegan eating habits.  And for me, it requires learning before acting upon, at least for it to become a habit.

So what has worked for me…balance.

I have “switched out” many foods.  What do I mean?  Oreos used to be a staple in my house, I have switched to Paul Newman’s version….is it really better….it is a little better.  Gradual changes.  I buy all of my produce, when our garden is not producing, 100% organic.  I have successfully changed my kids from white bread to whole wheat.  I buy organic milk, 100% juices, whole wheat pasta ( I mixed white with whole wheat for a long time and still sometimes do), all fruit jelly and natural peanut butter.

For my family, we eat a lot of fruits and veggies and limit our goodies.  The goodies we do purchase, I try to find “a healthier version.”  For the record, I have a VERY PICKY EATER residing in my home and she detects the slightest of product differences…..the changes for her were extra EXTRA gradual.

Some key things….

1. If finances are an issue, choose a few key items to buy organic…..all berrries and thin-skinned fruits or fruits you consume the skin of…..apples, plums, peaches are important to buy organic.  Fruits you peel or that have a thick skin are not as important to buy organic…bananas, oranges etc.  Apply the same concept to your veggies!  Find a local farmstand during the Summer and Fall months to purchase produce.

2. Switch things out…exchange your cookies, granola bars and cereals for a healthier version…Newman’s, Zbars, Cascadian Farms and Annie’s are good brands to start.

3. Avoid items that have high-fructose corn syrup…check your breads!!  Bread was the most difficult change for my daughter….I started her with one piece of white and one piece of oatmeal, then 2 pieces of oatmeal, then 1 piece oatmeal and 1 piece soft whole wheat…you get the idea.

4.  Buy your milk Organic…this was also a gradual change for my picky eater….I would mix the organic milk with our old brand, gradually increasing the organic percentage until she would drink the organic alone.

5.  Peanut butter is an easy switch, but if not…go gradual, mixing natural peanut butter with your fave brand.  Do not be fooled by the new Skippy Natural, while it does have less is not natural peanut butter and the 2nd ingredient is sugar.  Peanut Butter Tip:  DO NOT discard the oil on top of your natural peanut butter…you need to mix it together.

Obviously, there is a ton of information to sort through, it can be difficult to not become overwhelmed and quit.

Here’s the challenge of the week:

Pick one thing this week to switch in your eating habits….switch one thing out or choose one product to buy 100% organic.

Once it becomes comfortable and well-tolerated move onto a 2nd change and so on.

The most important thing we can do is educate ourselves…it doesn’t matter if we are meat-eaters, vegetarians, vegans or flexatarians….we need to inform ourselves about our food…it is DIRECTLY linked to our health and the health of our loved ones.  Keep in mind that this is  a sensitive subject for people, so avoid cramming your new-found education down someone’s throat.

Michael Pollan is a great author to read if you are interested in learning  about food.  Food Inc is a terrifying and sobering film exposing the processing of our food that we purchase and the movie Supersize Me cured me of fast food FOREVER!!  

Most importantly, allow yourself to learn.

Make small changes that are within your individual comfort zone.

Allow yourself trial and error.

Remember that the tiniest of change is still change and it COUNTS!!

Have a good week!