Awhile back, my friend Amy emailed me to ask me for tips for incorporating more natural and organic foods into her family's meals. While I am far from an expert, I am a mom who commits to try and purge any and all preservatives, additives and what I deem "funk" out of my family's food.
So, for Amy, and for anyone else who may be interested, I share some of my tips for healthy, natural eating for today's Tuesday's Tip.
1. Learn to read labels. I know, I know, it is hard enough try and get in, get out and keep your sanity in the grocery story when you have a little one or multiples ones in tow, but label reading can really open your eyes to how many of our foods are manufactured.
If you don't have time to read labels *before* you put them in your cart, take some time to read things in your home. Things like high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated oils have been widely publicized food funk, but there are other frequent additives that show up a lot in foods. Things like sodium benzoate, potassium sorbate, BHT and EDTA are in a lot of foods and simply aren't the best things for you and your family to be eating.
Also be on the look out for foods that advertise in big letters "Natural Flavor!" or "Freshly Made!' Just because something has natural flavor or was freshly made, does not mean it is 100% natural and without funk.
Now that you have read your labels, you are ready to...
2. Come up with an area of foods in your home that need alternatives. If you family eats a lot of crackers, start educating yourself on alternatives that have whole grains and no additives. Other great places to start: breakfast cereals, sauces/dips, treats and juices.
For cereals, try Kashi and other organic lines of cereals. You may be surprised with the array of great kid-centered options of healthful cereals. Trader Joe's is another great resource for cereals, as is Whole Foods or other natural food stores.
In sauces/dips and dressings, be extra aware. Many of these seemingly simple items have ingredient lists as long as my arm and are chuck full preservatives and additives.
I could go on and on, but the simplest way to conquer all the funk in your food is to make incremental changes based on what you learn.
3. Arm yourself with good food information. Independent food sites like labelwatch.com and foodfacts.com offer really good insight into what exactly is in food.
4. Shop the perimeter of your store. Or as in Michael Pollan's Words: "Eat food that came from a plant, not made in a plant."
If you try and keep to the perimeter of your store, you are usually sticking to fresh produce, seafood, meats, dairy and breads. The more whole foods you eat, the better and this is where you generally find whole foods.
5. Make, don't buy. This one is a tough one because I realize that not everyone out there enjoys being in the kitchen. But to the extent that you can replace homemade things with store-bought or carry-out items, you are making leaps and bounds forward in healthfulness for your family.
Along those lines, check out my Ten-rrific Recipe #2, a recipe for a healthy alternative to syrup for your next special breakfast, on yesterday's Sweet Peas and Pumpkins post.