The Easter bunny had the cleverest idea this year and included a jelly bean game in my boys’ Easter baskets. This fun little game has jelly beans of all sorts of flavors. About half of them have normal yummy flavors, while the others (disguised in typical jelly bean colors) have very unpleasant flavors like dog food, stinky socks, and barf. My kids were so tickled by this idea! As they were tasting and either chewing away at their good luck or spitting out the yucky ones, one kid asked a very intriguing question (as kids often do). He said, “Mom how exactly do they get the barf taste in the jelly bean?” Well, I wasn’t exactly sure how to answer it. I mumbled something about some chemical formula that tastes like barf……But his question about the barf flavored jelly bean made me think,… how do we discern real food from artificial food?
Some self-proclaimed food experts would argue that Americans are out of touch with what real food even tastes like after decades of eating high-sugar, high-fat, and overly salty foods. I have no doubt, the leading food companies have brilliant scientists who have developed just the right formula of chemicals and artificial flavors to make humans ever so satisfied, but still wanting more. I’m not going to lie. If you hand me a bag of artificially flavored cheese puffs, I will eat them with vigor and I really don’t care at that point what is in the list of ingredients. That cheesy salty and somewhat sweet flavor tastes so very good it puts a spell of indifference on me! Just keep ‘em coming!
We all know that the explosion of processed food and “white bread” carbs have led to an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, and other chronic issues. My first post of this series outlines the latest national guidelines for general nutrition, including eating more fruits and vegetables, while eating less processed foods. BUT, how do we do this exactly? How do we go about choosing the right foods (when the bad foods taste so good), while providing meals that our family will eat and enjoy? Honestly, it’s hard enough getting my three kids to actually eat the same thing at the same time. I really don’t want to stir things up by suddenly changing our family diet.
But I really want to buy better food, so I’ll start with filling my shopping cart with real foods – or mostly “real foods”. The first step is to obviously read the list of ingredients on food labels. This can be a daunting task. I mean really, if I read every food label of every food that I put in my grocery basket, it would take me literally hours to get through the grocery store. I have basics that I buy and if there are new products I will take the time to stand there and read the labels. I could also shop on-line and read labels as I fill my virtual shopping cart. I generally steer clear of unnaturally weird colored foods like blue sports drinks or “fruit flavored” gummies.
I’ve also been advised to stick to the outside of the grocery store. The peripheral aisles typically have dairy products, meats, and produce. Fill your cart with these items first and then shop the frozen food aisles and finally the inner aisles where most processed foods are found.
At this point I have to accept that things are improving, but slowly. I would like to say I don’t buy any processed foods. But, I do in fact, buy more processed foods than I should. Seriously, my kids would probably go on a hunger strike if I only bought raw unprocessed foods. (Not to mention, – okay I’ll mention it – I would have to find the time to prepare all those unprocessed foods.) So, how do I sleep at night? Well, processed foods are not all created equal. Some are minimally processed and worth the convenience. Actually, minimally processed foods can be a healthy part of your diet if chosen carefully and consumed in moderation. This article by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics provides a nice explanation. So, for now, I’m okay with the cereal and the crackers… And the cheese puffs. Okay okay – not the cheese puffs. But progress is progress and change takes time.
Thank you for reading my post. I really do believe this is a national problem and Moms still do a lot of the food shopping. Please join me on this journey. Sharing our experience and knowledge can only make it better….. we’ll get through this. Stay tuned for the next part of my journey to a more nutritious way of parenting…..