Tag Archives: eating

Food journey and values update

A little over a year ago, I did a three part series here on the blog about the role food played in my life growing up and the changes I had made over the years to the way we ate based on books and research I had read.

Part 1: Childhood

Part 2: Teens and Young-Adulthood

Part 3: Up to the then present

I think I felt kind of confident at the time that where we were at was a good place and I didn’t foresee any more major changes in the future. I felt pretty educated about the subject. I was also just kind of “done” on the subject of food research. It can be exhausting looking into all of the information and following rabbit trails. I knew what I knew and I was good with what I knew. I trusted some places and brands over others. I felt I was doing my best with the knowledge, budget, family support, etc. that I had.

Well, a year makes a difference. News stories are written. New books are recommended and written. Things get more complicated. Husbands read books of their own. And blissful ignorance isn’t good enough anymore at some point.

So I sort of feel like now this will be an ever changing and expanding storyline in my life. As I find out more things my values are going to change. There is a Maya Angelou quote, “I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”

So, enough changes have taken place recently in our diet and lives that I have more to share.

The biggest impact on our lives was that Stephen read The Omnivore’s Dilema by Michael Pollan and I read Eating Animals by Jonathan Saffron Foer.

There have also been numerous articles in various publications over the last year about the FDA, USDA, our country’s food system, farming, pesticides, conglomerates like Monsanto, etc. that have caught our attention and made us think.

In some ways, writing about this seems especially hard because we still don’t have it all figured out. I also don’t want to offend people or make them think that what they are doing isn’t good enough because it is a subject I can get pretty fired up about. Nor do I want to offend those we eat with in our circle of friends and family that may not either share our same values or for whatever reason can’t make the changes that we have made due to their budget or dietary needs, etc. So forgive me if I ramble or don’t seem to have it all together quite yet.

So a year ago we got our dairy, meat and eggs from Trader Joe’s. We joined back up with the CSA Abundant Harvest for our produce. We still ate out at places that were above McDonald’s, but didn’t claim to source their ingredients from organic farms or even any place different than where ever it is that McDonald’s sources their ingredients from. We ate processed food from time to time (snacks mostly), but I did try/have to make a lot of things from scratch due to the kids’ food allergies. We avoided soy (except occasionally in the fermented form of soy sauce) due to things I’d read about phytoestrogens in soy products. We avoided non-traditional fats/oils and instead used mostly real butter and olive oil. We sometimes splurged for grass fed beef, but I had a hard time learning how to cook it and it was expensive so we mostly just got whatever was on sale and marked “organic” at Trader Joe’s. We trusted Trader Joe’s. We trusted labels like “organic” and “free range.” We made little effort beyond the more “superior” grocery stores like Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods to find out where our food came from.

And that last line is where all the change comes into our lives. After reading the books we did, neither of us could be comfortable ever again just walking into a grocery store and blindly trusting. We wanted to know.

Google searches led to reports and news articles and farm websites that told us (or went to great efforts to keep secret) where our food was coming from and we didn’t like everything that we found out.

Labels like organic now mean nothing to us if the cows/chickens/hogs are fed the same “organic” non-traditional diet (in other words “organic” corn and soy) as their non-organic counterparts. Or if they are kept in identical claustrophobic factory conditions with a small door where they are allowed to access outdoors, but don’t because they are too sick/obese/etc to be able to do so.

We started eating way less meat/eggs/dairy. We only get meat/eggs/dairy from places that we can find more about and trust that the animals are treated decently, given food they are traditionally supposed to eat and space/lifestyle/habitat/etc. that they are traditionally supposed to be in. Mostly that means we source these things either through our CSA via add-ons to our weekly box (I just discovered they have a whole series of videos about each of the farms), our local farmer’s markets and sometimes Whole Foods carries “local” stuff (an example is that I discovered the chicken our CSA sells from a family farm in Sanger, CA is available at Whole Foods and about $2-3 cheaper).

We have like three places we feel OK about eating out at. We are trying to figure how to eat when we are in social situations with people that don’t eat like us and for whom this is of no concern. It’s daunting sometimes. But I think it’s worth it. I think the changes we are making send a message and have an impact even if it is a fairly small one.

If you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask questions.

And one more thing… Chicken, people… Just Google “chicken fecal soup” and tell me you can be comfortable walking into any grocery store and buying a package of “organic” chicken again (hint, make sure your chicken package says 0% additional moisture, you are welcome).

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This face…

…is the face of my daughter this morning documenting the fact that we are allergy free.

The past couple weeks I’ve been letting the kids eat whatever, eat what we eat, sharing food with them when we go out to eat with a few more tightly controlled and closely watched experiments. The last of those experiments was this morning when I fed her French toast with real egg and bread.

We’ve had no reactions that I can tell.

I am so very happy. This makes my life so much easier. It’s one of the best days ever!

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Daily, 12/4

A few years ago, pre-kids I was over at Talia’s and laughing because I caught a glimpse of her kids’ lunch plates and noticed they had eaten their apple slices like you would eat an orange slice, leaving the peel behind. Well, guess who started doing the exact same thing all on her own at breakfast today?

Kids are weird.

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Daily, 11/1

I like the idea of a daily glimpse. Keeping it up for now.

When I left the room Sprout had just discovered an entire rice cake that Bean left on the floor. When I came back some crumbs were all that remained.

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Sprout at six months!

Dear Sprout,

What a month! Half of the first year is over and I just can’t believe it went by so fast. In many ways I am thankful for this since it was something I was pretty terrified of while pregnant. So here we are at six months.

We spent Father’s Day in Bakersfield with both of your grandpas:

There was a lot of teething, which, for the most part, you did not handle as joyfully as you did in the past months:

The teething has produced six teeth:

We hung out with cousin Avory quite a bit:

(Avory is teething too, so us mamas had our hands full while your Papa was away on a camping trip)

A few weeks ago I decided to ignore my intuition and go with the crowd. Everyone I knew that had a baby about the same time as you were born had been trying food. I knew you were not ready, but ignored my own advice given just a few weeks prior to my sister and decided that you “needed” to be starting to try food. Over a two day period I forced you to try oatmeal that your sister was having, rice we were having with dinner one night and avocado. You hated it. Gagged on it. Your tongue thrust reflex was still clearly in place. You weren’t even sitting up yet. I knew you weren’t ready and yet I did not listen to what I knew and went with what everyone else was doing. I felt so dumb afterwards.

I talked to our pediatrician about it at your appointment this week. She said food wasn’t a big deal and that clearly you are thriving on just my milk alone. (Have I mentioned how much I love your pediatrician?)

I’ve also been doing some reading on the subject. It seems grains aren’t that great a first food in some circles. A friend (one of the ones already feeding solids) mentioned this to me a few weeks ago and I was honestly shocked that she gave egg yolks as a first food to her baby.

Then I read Real Food for Mother and Baby by Nina Planck (I read her first book a few months ago) and it all made sense. Since their true first food is milk, baby’s digestive systems are designed to mostly break down protein and fat. So meat, eggs, and yogurt are better first foods according to this theory. I think I am understandably still very wary of the eggs and cow milk products though.

Planck also advocates a baby lead transition to eating solid foods where you basically put the food in front of them and let them feed themselves. No mashing. No spoon feeding. I have to say I pretty much was already on board with this idea. After all the eating troubles I’ve had with your sister, I am just so far beyond trying to shove mashed up food into your mouth with one of those teeny baby spoons. Your pediatrician likes this idea too.

Whatever we’re having, you have a little. If you put it in your mouth, no big deal. If you don’t put it in your mouth, no big deal. When you are ready, you will be ready.

This morning I decided to try again. For breakfast I made an open faced egg sandwich and grilled sausages for your papa and I and oatmeal for your sister. I put a spoonful of her oatmeal on your tray and a slice of sausage.

At first you were not too sure about the sausage you managed to stick in your mouth:

But then you warmed up to the idea:

You also threw quite a bit of it on the floor and your sister stole some bites.

So anyway, that about sums this month up. We love you little boy, you are such a joy and make our family so complete. I can’t imagine our lives without you.



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My food journey, part 3: Life changes and bumps in the road

I was completely revulsed by what I read about the food industry in Fast Food Nation. I was also overwhelmed. Back in 2003, you couldn’t just walk into any store and find free-range, grass-fed, organic, rBST-free, etc. type stuff. There were only a couple places you could find it in Bakersfield and it was expensive. My husband’s income from his first post-college job was not huge. But I knew I just couldn’t put regular meat from the grocery store or from fast food restaurants into my body knowing what I knew about the meat industry in particular. Despite reading several passages aloud from the book, Stephen was not really convinced or impacted. So I retreated back to vegetarianism and continued to prepare meat for him and nearly gag every time I did.

But as with any shock to the system, we humans get over it and tend to go back to our old ways with time. And that is what I did. Stephen and I were busy with work, church, and life. Sometimes it was just impossible to find the time and energy to cook decent food and actually sit down together and eat it instead of shoveling crap food into our faces as we rushed down the road to the next activity.

We need reminders and wakeup calls from time to time to get back on track and do what we know is right. For me that next wakeup call was watching the movie, Supersize Me. Stephen and I were both really grossed out after watching that movie and basically didn’t eat any McDonald’s level fast food for over a year.

The next bump in the road for us was when I got promoted to editor at my job (um yeah, I used to be an editor and I know my grammar around here often sucks. Self editing is hard. Don’t judge.) because this meant longer hours for me, particular on production days, work that left me even more drained, and taking work home with me (I would often print off proofs and take them home to edit). We were also really, really involved at church during this time with Stephen leading a worship service on Wednesdays, teaching music theory to upcoming musicians at the church, worship team practices, filling in at other services from time to time, other church events that were held a lot, and Sunday mornings as well.

I was drained much of the time and I didn’t really think it was fair that in addition to working just as many hours at a “real” job, that I was then supposed to cook dinner for both of us and clean up the kitchen and other parts of the house, too. Stephen only really knew how to make a couple dishes though, so the only other choice in the matter was once again fast food and convenience food.  Ugh.

Then I got pregnant and I was so sick that I just really couldn’t cook. So we continued eating more fast food and convenience food. At one point in the pregnancy, Stephen’s mom organized people from the church to bring us meals, but we mainly ate out. Just when I was recovering and getting a good system down of cooking us good food, baking my own bread, getting veggies from a CSA after we moved here, and rarely eating out I got pregnant and felt really sick and tired again. So the fast food and convenience food items returned once more. This time we tried to have more “quality” versions from Trader Joe’s and restaurants like Chipotle, but it was still not the best stuff we could be having.

Since having Sprout I have been cooking more and more. I try to go to the Farmer’s Market at least once a week for our veggies. I plan out our menu around what is in season and I try to only buy meats from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods, though I know this isn’t even completely the best stuff that we should be eating. 

Prior to watching Food Inc., though, I often felt like the grocery store was a battleground with Stephen. We have been grocery shopping together since sometime after I became pregnant with Sprout and while I enjoyed the extra help out when it came to heavy lifting, I hated trying to justify every purchase such as the more expensive organic milk versus the regular milk that is just rBST free. The last few times I’ve gone grocery shopping by myself with both kids during the day (which, let me tell you is asking for a meltdown and leaves me feeling half-crazy) just so I wouldn’t have to deal with it.

I think this is a thing of the past though when you consider the following conversation at dinner the night after watching Food Inc. with him..

Stephen: So, you know a couple weeks ago when you had me pick up some chicken for dinner?

Me: Yeah.

Stephen: Is Foster Farms an OK brand to buy?

Me: Um, no, I don’t think so. I usually just like to get our meat at Trader Joe’s and I get the organic stuff.

Stephen: Well, they are always the ones advertising that they are more natural or whatever.

Me: Yeah, just because they market themselves that way doesn’t mean it is necessarily true.

The fact that he’s probably thinking, “Oh crap, what did I put in my body two weeks ago?” is a very good sign.

I know I still have a lot to learn about food and can be better, but this is a journey, afterall. Some days are just filled with crying babies that leave me physically and emotionally exhausted. So we do eat out still from time to time. When we do have to eat out, we try to pick places where they say they are serving organic food. We don’t eat at McDonald’s or Taco Bell or Carl’s or places at that level, period.

Looking back I realize that I had a great opportunity during my childhood that I often took for granted. As it stands, I would honestly be willing to give a whole lot to be able to live on a similar ranch again so I could raise my own animals the way I want and plant my own garden too. It may have been a lot of work, but I think the benefits reaped are so, so worth it.


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Week Forty Two

We share fruit. Except there isn’t much sharing that goes on.


Pretty much if I get a piece of fruit out to eat she’ll be nearby in no time whinning until I let her practically chomp the whole thing. I usually eat away the skin and the hard-to-get-to bits and she gets the rest.

And if I’m too slow in giving her a portion? This is the face I get:

Complete with loud nose breathing. This is also the same face she gives when she is frustrated about almost anything, the one I talked about last week. I’m dubbing it her stinker face from now on.

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