If I am truthful, I’m in recovery. Like most people, I know on every level that I desire to make good food choices, not only for myself, but for my family as well. It’s a series of daily decisions that engulf my mind, always aware of wanting to make more good choices than bad. If you would ask most people (with the exception of my friend Susanne whom I dodge on the occasional “run in” at the local grocery store so as to not reveal my lack of brown rice and bulgar in my shopping cart!) they would say that I eat pretty healthily. However, the recovery part kicks in because my natural inclination (which stems from my childhood pleasures of enjoying more than the occasional “Ho-Ho,” “Oreo” and Coke) is to buy those same foods that brought me such pleasures as a child, rather than those foods that I know are better choices.
This recovery process can be attributed to my mother-in-law, Rhea. Four years ago she introduced me to Canyon Ranch Spa which forever changed my grocery shopping habits. I learned all about the effects of hydrogenated oils, trans-fats, processed foods and sugar. I learned how far I needed to go to adapt to a healthier lifestyle. Would eating every be enjoyable again i wondered? I have subsequently returned to “The Ranch” (as you are allowed to call it as a repeat visitor), every year since. Each re-entry back to “my ranch” is usually greeted with trepidation from my kids with the uncertainty of what foods will soon be added to the “naughty list” after the year’s annual visit.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I do succumb to numerous indulgences. I buy cookies and sugar cereals, ice cream and an occasional soda. I even have been known to buy “Spaghetti-O’s” on occasion. However, I now am much more aware of the types of foods that I would classify as “legal” in my home and I modify my selections based on what I have learned. I’m a big proponent of everything in moderation. Here is a list of some of the most helpful hints acquired on my yearly retreats:
1. The fewer ingredients the better. I have learned if I can’t pronounce it I probably shouldn’t eat it. (For fun, next time you’re online shopping at CobornsDelivers.com compare the label of Breyer’s ice cream carton to just about every other brand. You won’t find more than about 6 ingredients in the Breyer’s brand.)
2. Reduce the amount of hidden sugars. Sugars are hidden in everything and in foods that you would never imagine. For example, by switching to organic ketchup and peanut butter, of which we eat a lot, I was able to make a simple dent in sugar
3. Fiber, fiber, fiber. I’ve learned ways to include fiber in subtle ways with great food choices like Thomas’ Light English Muffins (8g), Sara Lee Hearty and Delicious whole wheat bread (3g), sprinkled flax seed into muffins and pancakes (5g), almonds (3g), Barilla multi-grain pasta (4g). Trust me the kids won’t even notice.
4. Eliminate or reduce high fructose corn syrup. This is a tough one since it seems it’s in just about everything! I found that if you stick to organic cookies, crackers and cereal you won’t lose out on any flavor, but you will lose the high fructose corn syrup.
5. Nitrates. I still struggle with this one because, it too is in everything from breakfast meats to lunch meats. If you are diligent, you can find meat alternatives without them that are still delicious. For example, Hormel makes an all natural turkey and ham that is not processed with nitrates.
My 12-year old paid me the best complement I could hope to hear the other day. He had just come home from the end of the school year 6th grade pizza party when he said, “Mom, why are you not like all the other moms?” I puffed out my chest for reasons different than he was suggesting and answered, “what do you mean?” He proceeded to tell me that, “every other kid in class brought soda with their lunch but me!” Instead, I packed him a good old bottle of water. I couldn’t have had a prouder moment.