Monday, April 1, 2013

Guidelines and A Balancing Act

(This post is part of a series.  Head over here to catch up on any articles you may have missed!)

As our eating habits change, I realize that we've established some loose guidelines to govern what we eat.  These might be too strict for your family, or not strict enough.  But for what it's worth, here they are:
1.  Eat as many fruits and vegetables as possible.  "Many" meaning large quantities, and wide varieties.  
2.  Eat more whole foods and less processed foods.  The fewer ingredients on the label, the better.
3.  Homemade is better.  Make it at home whenever feasible.  As in "as much as time and money allows".
4.  Whole grain is better than white.
5.  Everything in moderation.  We don't ban candy, ice cream, or pop.  But neither do we exist solely (or even mostly) on those items.  

Honestly, I don't think we'll ever eat sprouted lentils, and I'll probably never make kefir or buy raw milk.  (If you'd like more information about those things or you're interested in other natural foods, you can check out Kitchen Stewardship, where Katie does a fabulous job of researching and explaining tons of stuff!)  I love my brownie sundaes, and I still make jello salads with Cool Whip.  I make casseroles with cream soups, and use white flour in most of my baked goods.  (Although I'm working on both of those things too.)  But I also spend $15-$25 per week on fresh produce for my family, and Little Debbies hardly ever make it into the cart.  While I still make cookies and banana bread (both of which quickly disappear around here!), my kids also snack on carrot sticks, yogurt parfaits, rice cakes, and raisins.  Occasionally we have cinnamon rolls for breakfast (white flour, instant vanilla pudding, and sugar!), but we're more likely to have farm-fresh eggs (from my brother and sister-in-law's chickens) with homemade whole wheat toast.  

If you've followed Cooking Up a Sale for any amount of time, none of the above should surprise you.  You'll find recipes here for gooey bars that start with a boxed cake mix, a meal made completely from processed foods, and a side dish of corn swimming in margarine, cream cheese, and sugar.  But you'll also find recipes for oven-roasted veggies, turkey burgers, and yogurt parfaits.  So what gives?

In our home, it's all about balance.  If I'm serving a meal that includes more processed foods than I wish it did, I'll also make sure to cook up a fresh or frozen vegetable, and I might throw some cut-up fruit on the table as well.  My kids get a (usually home-baked) cookie or bar in their lunch, but they also get fruit and yogurt, and sometimes a vegetable too.  If my son received a birthday treat in the form of a king-sized candy bar (and ate it all!), I'll offer him fruit as an after-school snack.  If I know we're having pizza for supper, I'll make sure lunch is a salad.  

It's worked for us to balance our eating by the day as well as by the week.  (Menu-planning helps immensely with this!)  So, if we have cinnamon rolls for breakfast one day, I'll make oatmeal the next.  If I'm making Cheater Chicken Parmesan (the afore-mentioned meal made completely from processed foods) for supper on Monday, we'll have something like Grilled Pork with Mediterranean Couscous on Tuesday.

Something that I feel is worthwhile to note here:  because we balance healthy food with not-so-healthy food, I/we would never turn up our noses at any food served to us.  Whether we are visiting someone's home or someone brings a dish to pass to my home, it wouldn't even cross my mind to question the hostess/cook on how "processed" her ingredients are or if her dressing was store-bought.  I would happily eat the dessert made with white flour and margarine, without wondering or worrying about what's in it and if the dessert fits our "guidelines".  Remember, those guidelines are pretty loose!  (I do realize that if someone in your family has food allergies, you're forced to ask about ingredients, but I'm only referring here to healthy foods vs. "junk" food.)  We're not so rigid about our eating that we would jeopardize relationships because of food choices.

This "balancing act" might be too laid-back for some health-conscious families, but it's working for us right now.  

What's working for you?  How do you balance your family's eating habits?  Do you have any guidelines for eating in your household, or are your rules more hard-and-fast?

1 comment:

  1. Love this post, Lisa, and I'm glad you decided to address this stuff as I know we've discussed it in the past.

    I'm looking forward to reading this series. I had almost 200 posts in my reader from being out of town this past week so I'm slowly wading through them.