I think I’m doing pretty good these days when it comes to what we eat. It always could be better but it’s relative. When I think about what I used to eat 5 years ago and what I eat now, it’s a big improvement. Being pregnant and having kids has opened my eyes to nutrition for both me and them. We are so lucky to have access to fresh, wonderful produce; it has changed my comfort zone of which vegetables I prepare. These two things have made a big impact on what I keep in the house and what we eat as a family.
Let me start with what I keep in the house. A few years ago, after one of the speaker events sponsored by the Coastside Mothers’ Club focusing on Healthy Fats, I started to rethink food. Dr. Endemann talked to us about partially hydrogenated fats. It made me start to really look at labels. I stopped buying products containing these fats since now I knew of the health risks associated with them. My next big change was high fructose corn syrup. I’m not sure where I learned about it but when I realized how it was made and how it affects our blood sugar, I cut it out. With the rise of diabetes in children in the US, I wanted to eliminate any risk factors I could control.
I spent extra time in the store reading labels. Some times I would buy another product and some times I would just put it back and say to myself “I’m just not going to buy that.” I encourage you to do what’s best for your family. If you are looking to make changes, make small ones and do it gradually. Rome wasn’t built in a day.
Now, about the same time that was happening, I also started to frequent the farmer’s market. There was always such variety at the market. I would some times feel overwhelmed and just buy the produce I knew how to cook. I remember the first time I bought fresh beets and baked them at home. That was a leap for me! The more I went, the more I started talking to the farmers, learning the best way to prepare the vegetables and taking the produce home to experiment. In the past, kale was a garnish to me and I had never cooked with it. Now, it’s a regular part of the repertoire.
Where should you start? The buzz word these days is to eat from the rainbow; eat foods that represent the different colors to get a wide variety of the necessary nutrients. If you never have salad, eat it twice a week. If you only eat romaine, try some darker, leafy lettuces. Go to the store with the kids and let them pick out any vegetable they want. I recently discovered Cheddar Cauliflower which I let them pick. I would have never picked it because I didn’t know what it was. It is a nice alternative to the regular variety of cauliflower.
Another change you can make is increasing your whole grain intake. The recommendation is that half of our grains be whole. If you always eat white bread, rice and pasta, try some of the other ones. Worried about how long brown rice takes to cook? Try making it in the rice cooker but use a ratio of 3 parts water to part rice. Works like a charm! Have you had quinoa yet? It’s actually a seed that acts like a grain. Called a supergrain, quinoa is highly nutritious and can supply us with all of the body's requirements: carbohydrates, fats, protein, vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Find it in the bulk section, cook it up like rice and add flavoring to it like cumin and coriander or feta and toasted pine nuts.
You might be reading this feeling overwhelmed. Where do I start? I want to remind you that my evolution began 5 years ago and was very gradual. It has been a process. If you are interested in changing your eating habits, start with something small. You can do it!