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How to Improve Your Family’s Diet
Posted By Jessica Fisher On January 5, 2014 @ 8:00 pm In Good Eats,Health and Safety,Joyful Womanhood,Meal Planning,Parenting and Family | 43 Comments
This is part 1 of a series designed to help you improve your family’s diet.
If you’re like most moms, you want your kids to be healthy. You want them to grow up with strong bones, and a sturdy constitution.
While we certainly can’t control everything that impacts our children’s health, we do get to have a say in what goes into their bodies. We are what we eat, as my 3rd grade teacher taught me.
What we feed our children throughout their growing years has a huge impact on their health. What we parents eat matters as well. I don’t know about you, but if being a grandmother is such a life-changing experience , I’d like to live to see it!
As the New Year rolls out, lots of us are contemplating what changes we want to make in regards to healthy living. Maybe you want to start an exercise program. Maybe you want to establish earlier bedtimes. Maybe you’re thinking about making some improvements to your family’s diet.
I know I am. I got lazy toward the end of the year, buying more processed items, buying cheaper, more processed ingredients, staying up late, and skipping the exercise. I am ready to get back to some good habits, and perhaps take even more baby steps toward cleaning up our diet and eating better food.
As I mentioned in my list of wants , I’d like my life to be characterized by “healthy food and less temptation toward processed crap, etc.” That means that I need to get a plan in action.
If you’re looking to improve your family’s diet, consider these points:
This is a glimpse into one of my grocery shopping trips in 2008 . (I am the Grocery Geek , after all.) We didn’t have a horrible diet, but neither did we have a stellar one. I’d like to change that.
Five years ago I was mostly concerned with getting food on the table. Any food. We were paying off debt  and our grocery budget for 7 people, including pregnant me, was $400/month. You do what you have to do. It was a means to an end . If you’re there, you will get no judgement from me. Feed your babies as best you can.
Once we paid off our debts, I allowed myself the option to research more about how to improve our eating habits. Before then I was just afraid to know. Odd how we have to choose between eating healthfully and just plain eating. Each year I’ve made some moves to feed our family better quality food: buying more organics, cooking from scratch more, exploring more unprocessed ingredients.
Now that our budget is a little more generous, I’m looking to making some more improvements.
Each family is going to have slightly different goals. I am not one to say that you should do it my way. I have friends who are full-on paleo and others who are super excited about vegan. I’m neither and both, depending on the day. I can see good things and things that I don’t quite buy in both.
Quite frankly, the common ground I see  in fad diets is what I’m striving for: real food, fewer processed items, less/no sugar, lots of water, lots of veg, and regular meals.
I’m geared more toward improving the quality of what I feed my family than abstaining from a particular food group. That whole paleo/vegan debate? I’m just not there right now.
My specific goals for stocking my kitchen include:
The fact of the matter is that the food our moms fed us is not the same food we buy in the stores today. For better AND worse, technology has changed our food supply. I personally think it’s in our best interests to be informed about food technology and how it can impact our future health and that of our kids. Some more food reading is also on my list for the year.
Based on the reading I’ve done so far and what my gut tells me, these are the areas I want to improve on. Your list may look slightly different.
Create your own list. It doesn’t have to be as long as mine. Maybe it’s as simple as “let’s eat more meals at home”. That’s a great place to start, so don’t compare. Think about YOUR family and how you want to improve your family’s diet.
Once you know where you want to grow, I suggest you find some good books on the topic.
If you want to eat at home more often and make your own take-out favorites, I recommend the book The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn . This is one of my very favorite books about cooking in the home kitchen. I reread it every year. Another good one is Make the Bread, Buy the Butter . While I don’t agree with every conclusion the author makes, I think she does a great analysis of what you can make yourself. And it’s a lot more than you think!
If you want to stock up on homemade convenience items, then grab a copy of Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook . Ahem. You’ll have everything you need to know about freezer cooking right there at your fingertips. (There are currently a few bargain copies available for $6.78 . Grab them while you can.)
There are books on probably every topic you’re interested in exploring. Spend a few minutes in the library database or on Amazon and browse until you find a good fit.
Books that have guided my thinking on food include:
Next, consider how you will implement your new changes. I highly recommend discussing this with your husband. If you’re both on the same page, the battle is more than half won. If he’s not on board with your suggested improvements, it won’t be good for your goal or your marriage.
I chatted up my list with FishPapa. He’s cool with it. I even sprung it on the kids, quoting a Michael Pollan phrase: “Eat all the junk food you want as long as you cook it yourself.” They kind of took me to heart and are planning all kinds of messes in the kitchen.
As long as the food is tasty and I’ll providing some healthier alternatives to the junk they think we want, I think we’ll be okay. That said….
No sustainable change happens overnight. As Amy says, it’s a cha-cha . Two steps forward, one step back. That is how we mothers dance through life. Not everything you want to happen will happen when you want it to, if then. So, plan small steps and don’t be discouraged when your peeps don’t embrace whole wheat spaghetti with open arms.
1. Shopping strategies
For me, I’m hoping to adjust my shopping to align with my list up there at the top. There are certain brands and products, like Trader Joe’s and Bob’s Red Mill that I know are a good fit for my goals.
I’m using the Pantry Challenge  to help me use up and clean out the things that don’t really fit my new goals. Then I’ll be back to reading labels and getting myself in a groove as to what fits and what we can limit or do without.
2. Make-ahead meals
Shopping is one thing, but cooking is the harder thing to pull off. I have a plan — once the Challenge is done — to fill the freezer. I’ve got a dozen real food freezer cooking plans to share with you this year, so I’ll be testing several of them during the latter part of the month. I’ll have a storehouse of make-ahead meals  to draw from through the coming month or two.
3. Quick suppers
I’m also working out a repertoire of meals that I can make in 30 minutes  or less. In this way on those nights when my freezer plan doesn’t work, I’ll have a back-up plan that can provide dinner for my family without running for take-out or convenience foods that don’t fit our new goals.
Over the coming weeks, I’ll be sharing more ideas on how to improve your family’s diet. Years ago I shopped heavily with coupons and fed my people more processed foods than I ever dreamed possibly. I also had a daily Coke (cola) habit that I broke. While we still have lots of areas to grow in, we’ve come a long way in the last five years or so.
Stay tuned for more ways to improve your family’s diet:
I hope you’ll join me on this journey to better eating! Let’s chat in the comments.
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URLs in this post:
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 croutons: http://goodcheapeats.com/2013/10/cheese-and-garlic-croutons/
 being a grandmother is such a life-changing experience: http://lifeasmom.com/2013/12/speak-the-truth-in-love.html
 my list of wants: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/01/well-what-do-you-want.html
 one of my grocery shopping trips in 2008: http://lifeasmom.com/2008/06/grocery-geek-reports-4-cent-yogurt-and.html
 Grocery Geek: http://goodcheapeats.com/category/build-a-frugal-pantry/grocery-geek/
 paying off debt: http://lifeasmom.com/2010/10/8-ways-to-get-out-of-debt-frugal-friday.html
 a means to an end: http://lifeasmom.com/2008/07/means-to-end.html
 the common ground I see: http://instagram.com/p/iG2aVepoWo/
 GMO: http://www.nongmoproject.org/learn-more/
 unfermented soy: http://www.keeperofthehome.org/2010/06/the-soy-decoy-dont-be-deceived.html
 this: http://www.100daysofrealfood.com/real-food-defined-a-k-a-the-rules/
 the Dirty Dozen: http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php
 The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143122177/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0143122177&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 Make the Bread, Buy the Butter: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1451605889/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1451605889&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 Not Your Mother’s Make-Ahead and Freeze Cookbook: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1558327568/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1558327568&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 a few bargain copies available for $6.78: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00E8V0JO4/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=B00E8V0JO4&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0143114964/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0143114964&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0767930746/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0767930746&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0062103296/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0062103296&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0375710515/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=0375710515&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1400069807/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=390957&creativeASIN=1400069807&linkCode=as2&tag=oflwtf-20
 it’s a cha-cha: http://amysfinerthings.com/ready-to-cha-cha-in-2014
 the Pantry Challenge: http://goodcheapeats.com/2013/12/pantry-challenge-2014/
 make-ahead meals: http://lifeasmom.com/category/good-eats/oamc
 meals that I can make in 30 minutes: http://goodcheapeats.com/tag/30-minute-meals/
 Eat at home more often: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/01/eat-at-home-more-often.html
 Make snacks healthy: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/01/how-to-make-snacking-healthier-plus-20-healthy-snack-ideas-for-kids.html
 Increase the fruits and vegetable options: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/01/how-to-get-your-kids-to-eat-more-vegetables.html
 How to get your kids to eat more whole grains: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/02/how-to-get-your-family-to-eat-more-whole-grains.html
 How to make junk food yourself: http://lifeasmom.com/2014/03/make-junk-food-yourself.html
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