Wednesday, January 29, 2014

REAL FOOD FAMILY | our mythical balanced diet

You guys. This weekend I busted the button off a pair of jeans just by sitting down. I was sitting down with a handful of candy and I probably shouldn't be that surprised. I've let my diet go wild - and I'm feeling it in every way. I'm tired - like way way more tired than even someone with a full time job, a family, and some freelance work should be. And also my jeans - they don't seem to fit anymore.

Honestly, I've been yearning to change our diet for a long time and I'm using my tight pants and sluggishness as an excuse to focus how on we eat. I'm going to start with what we buy, store, and cook. "Real Food Family" is a project I'm taking on in earnest - with absolutely no idea where it will lead. The goal is to focus on one small change at a time until we are eating more real food and less processed food. 

As a family we've always had a pretty "balanced" diet .  We eat about 80% of our meals at home. We eat mostly vegetarian; Meat is more of a garnish than the center of our plates. We've grown some of our own food, we shop farmer's markets, we buy some whole grain. Our pantry is also full of lentils, brown rice, and dried fruit. We occasionally enjoy meals out, road food, fast food, even the requisite doughnut here and there. I've always considered our diet pretty "balanced". 

I'm calling bullshit on that "balance" right now. We also eat a plenty of chips (side eye to my husband), and goldfish crackers, and cereal, and ice cream, oh, the ice cream. And of course, none of these are homemade, locally made, or under any guise of being unprocessed. Basically we eat healthy foods at home but we also eat a lot of junk at home too.  Unfortunately, I think our diet is pretty typical of most young families - it's incredibly easy to eat processed foods even if you cook and eat at home and it seems much harder to eat a real foods diet. 

I actually google things like - "what is a whole foods diet?" Maybe I should be embarrassed to type that but I'm not. There are so many different diets - paleo, GAPS, gluten free, vegan - and there are just as many people claiming that one or the other changed their life; I'd bet that most folks who make a drastic change in their diet see improvements because they are eliminating processed foods from their diet - they are essentially cutting out the junk. 

I struggle a little to define this project - I know I want cut the junk from our diets (please see my daily candy habit for details) but I also want to eliminate a lot of the highly processed food from our meals. Its incredibly easy to come home - cook some pasta and toss it will some veggies. The truth is that pasta doesn't have much more nutritional value than a bag of chips - its junk too. All food is processed in some way though - even an apple has been grown, picked and shipped - so we can't just say "we aren't eating processed food". 

The label "whole foods diet" is a misleading label too. It generally means you eat food in its most natural state. It can sometimes refer to a diet of raw foods.  I don't want to eat a bunch of raw kale everyday. A raw food diet isn't sustainable for a busy family like ours. Also my budget doesn't allow me to strictly shop at Whole Foods. 

So a "real food diet" feels like a good label defining how I'd like to see our family eat. I'm still going to eat bread - it should just be mostly whole grain, I should be able to pronounce all of its ingredients and bonus points if its locally made. Here are our new diet goals: 

1. More Fruits and Vegetables 
2. More Whole Grains - 100% Whole Grains she
3. Local meat and eggs
4. Organic, full fat, dairy 
5. Limited packaged foods with as few ingredients as possible 
6. Less refined sugar and more natural sweeteners 
7. "Eat all the junk you want as long as you make it"*

I'm not planning to make a drastic change over night - I'd rather make slow deliberate changes over the next year. You'll still see lots of easy nutritious family meals, lots of clever cooking tips, and delicious cocktails around here, but I'll also be sharing occasional updates on our new goals and what I'm learning along the way. 

WORKING ON: Eating what is already in our house and researching the next steps - probably purging the pantry!  
READING: 100 Days of Real Food  - Lisa is a great resource for real food families. 

Next time I'll be sharing real pictures of our pantry and fridge - the good, the bad, and the 'where did that come from?' 

How do you feel your family stacks up in the real food versus junk food game? Do you think balanced diets are a myth? 


  1. What a great experiment! I follow paleo, myself. Over the last few years of eating paleo off and on and at various levels of strictness, I've found that I just cannot eat sugar. My brain is so addicted to it that I can't control myself around it - processed or otherwise. It took eliminating that and other foods from my diet for a period of time to really understand how crappy it makes me feel.

    Good luck to your family on this journey! Can't wait to read your updates on it!

    1. Hey Meredith! I have way too many friends to count who are doing the pale thing - they love it! I know the bad things sugar does to me too. I make light of it, but its a serious addiction. I'm excited to see where is goes too. I hope you'll check back in!

  2. I can't wait to follow along with this - we're always readjusting and trying to find a new balance.

    1. Thanks Janssen - I think we will always, always be re-adjusting and re-balancing. I think less processed food will be a fun challenge.

  3. I think the day I realized changing habits takes a long, long time I became better at changing them. I like your list a lot. I think I started mine with "buy on the edges of the grocery store". I can't do Whole Foods, but I love the organic section at Kroger. Of course, there's so much error that I can't seem to shake. So I'm excited to see where this segment goes! Also, love the new look ;)

    1. I'm not great at making huge changes cold turkey. It was torture to take Ella's paci away (for me). So I love the idea of making little changes and not being too strict. I also don't ever want us to be one of those families who can't get down on some pizza and cupcakes at a party - you know?


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