The BHE and I get asked plenty of questions about our lifestyle, from what I do during the day to how we heat our house (woodstove). The bulk of the questions we answer have to do with our diet. People are always curious when they see how healthy we are and hear about some of the choices we’ve made. This post is dedicated to my sister-in-law, who is ready for changes in her life but doesn’t know where to begin.
Let’s Start at the Very Beginning
Our journey down the healthier-lifestyle path began with a viewing of Food Inc. with further research done on the questions we still had after watching this documentary. There was also the book Wheat Belly and its subsequent cookbook. That was our start.
The BHE is very dedicated to reading the latest in research and news dealing with what we consume. Almost daily he finds something interesting on the Internet in regards to labeling or recalls or how certain ingredients affect our bodies. I’m naturally curious and love to research so find myself looking for more information as well, both on the Internet and in the nonfiction section of my library. We are both dedicated to this quest for a better lifestyle, both of us feeling that our overall well-being starts with our physical health.
How can you think straight and feel like a good person if you’re functioning in a poorly-fueled machine? Our bodies are freaking fantastic machines, and we need to treat them like million-dollar luxury cars rather than the old beater we got as a hand-me-down that we don’t even bother getting oil changes in.
We discuss frequently all the research we have done. We have been known to talk over the dinner table about the hormones used in dairy cows versus beef cattle. There are multiple pig farms in our area that we see on a daily basis so can’t help but talk about the smell…and how those pigs never see the light of day in their lives… and are living in that stench, which has permeated into their skin…which covers their muscles… that humans eat. Huh. Also, since we live in a rural area, we are well aware when the local farms get dusted with pesticides and God-knows-what-else. We hear the planes swooping over repeatedly and see the big combines spraying all their rows. We also see the mists and fogs of poisonous gases drift over the fields and then over the roads and through our town. Yup. That’s on our food, folks.
The very beginning is this: look around, read into it, talk to other people, and for your health’s sake, THINK about what you are eating.
To Clarify Questions on Labeling
We eat a roughly 80% organic and maybe 50% gluten-free diet. In order to do so, we need to read the labels on every item that goes into our grocery cart. There’s so many out there that you need to know what to look for, and once you do, it will take less time to buy groceries*.
We buy organic. I’ve sorta explained that in other posts and will explain it better in future posts. For the sake of this one, know that we don’t like pesticides, extra hormones, or GMOs that are in our food just for the sake of big agribusiness to make a few extra bucks**. Until labeling becomes clearer, the BHE and I look for two things: the USDA Organic seal or the NonGMO Project Verified seal. There are other labels we feel comfortable with but those are on a case-by-case basis. Know that what you want are “organic” labeled foods. Not “natural” or “pure” or “simple” or “gluten-free” or “sugar-free” or “no corn syrup” or “all natural” or even “no unnecessary ingredients.”
My favorite are the “no added” ones: hormones, corn syrup, MSG, salt, preservatives.
Food companies are just that: companies. They are out to make money. So many decided to jump on the “healthy food” bandwagon and slap some nonsensical labels on their packages. Sadly, so many consumers really don’t know the difference. Ask yourself why there would’ve been unnecessary ingredients in the first place…if they are unnecessary. Flip the package over and read that ingredient list. If there is anything you can’t pronounce or probably doesn’t really belong in the food you are buying, put it back. Why is there high fructose corn syrup in my multigrain crackers? If any sweetener is necessary, I’m pretty sure some pure cane sugar would’ve done the trick.
However, not all consumers are aware of this. Many who want to eat healthier have fallen into the trap of looking at those splashed on labels and thinking that means the contents of the package are good for them. I’m not saying that whatever is in there is “unhealthy,” but that there are specific labels to look for and things all consumers should be aware of.
Read It or Weep
If you are buying prepackaged food, read the ingredients list. My two rules of thumb:
- If I can’t pronounce it or I’ve never heard of it, I’m not buying it. (If I can access the Internet on my phone, I might research it before walking away.)
- If the corn syrup or soybean oil used in the product is not from organic corn or soybeans, I’m not buying it. Those are two plants that have been screwed with to the point they probably shouldn’t be recognized as food anymore.
A really good rule of thumb for all of us is to stick to fresh food. Make sure you get all you can into your cart from the fresh produce area of the store before proceeding into the prepackaged goods aisles. I’ve heard plenty of health gurus and exercise celebrities say that we need to shop the outside of the store: produce, freshly-packed meats, refrigerated dairy cases, frozen fruits and vegetables, and so on. That’s where you will find the healthiest foods; that’s where you won’t need labels because an organic apple is just that: an apple. No pesticides, no GMOs, no added anything… just an apple.***
Just the Start
I’ve got tons more to say on the topic but that wasn’t what my sister-in-law was looking for. She asked me to give her an idea of what we actually eat; specifically, she wants a two-week meal plan that includes drinks and snacks. I’m going to work on writing that up for her (and you) now. Also, there will be a part where I discuss where I buy my organic goods and how I look for deals AND coupons for this stuff. Know that I don’t live in some major city where I have competing options like Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and multiple farmers’ markets. We just don’t have those options out here, so I did have to hunt for the good stuff. A couple years on this path means I’ve had the time to search out the best stores and deals on organic foods. I will be sharing all that hard-won knowledge with you.
Stay tuned to Thoughtfully Sought
*Note that I said “buy groceries” rather than “grocery shop.” I think of shopping as something you do almost recreationally, like going to Kohl’s during a three-day sale and touching everything on every rack until you leave with $270 worth of clothes that you only spent $100 on… but didn’t need at all so still essentially wasted $100. But hey, an afternoon well-spent. Right? Wrong. When you buy groceries, you have a list and you know what you need at home and what you want for dinner tomorrow and how much money you’re willing to spend and all the diet needs and restrictions of your family in the forefront of your mind. Hence, the need for the list: write down what you’re buying and stick to it so you can mentally focus on dietary needs.
**I’m all for GMOs that mean we can feed more people or help the environment in some way. There are not only people in subSaharan Africa that are starving or have no access to clean drinking water, but there are those same people in the town you live in. Let that sink in. I digress: not all GMOs are bad but there are many that are questionable. Hence, the need for labeling, the legal obligation of food companies to tell the public what is in our food.
***Check your labels on frozen food because frozen fruits and veggies can sometimes be sprayed with certain compounds so they retain their colors during the freezing process.