Eating healthy is a popular topic these days, but the big question is, “Where do I start?” There is so much information out there and many, many different opinions on what is most important.
My own journey to healthier eating has been a long one. I grew up on a farm where we raised and preserved nearly everything we ate. After getting married and moving into a home of my own, it was exciting to be able to explore the convenience of foods that were available without a lot of work – all it took was money. As the babies started coming (six in all) the budget got a lot tighter, and time was precious. As the years went by, more and more convenient (and processed) foods became available. My main concern was getting something on the table to fill our bellies, and I was totally oblivious to the many additives that were creeping into the processed foods.
Fast forward to about seven years ago – my kids were grown, I was living by myself and I had a more generous food budget. A turning point for me was when my daughter gave me the book Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: by Barbara Kingsolver. It was about the author and her family’s decision to buy only what they could find locally, and raising as much of their food as possible for one year. They started out as complete novices and learned as they went, and some of their experiences were hilarious. Since then I have read, among others, most of Michael Pollan’s books, and especially enjoyed The Omnivore’s Dilemma and Cooked.
My biggest piece of advice is to start slowly. Decide on one thing you can do right now, and start there. Maybe that is cutting back or eliminating drinking sodas. Perhaps it is committing to cooking one more meal at home each week. Don’t try to make huge changes unless they are absolutely necessary, such as a diagnosis of a food allergy for a family member. Once you are comfortable with that one change, add another one. I follow a great blog called “100 Days of Real Food” that started with the writer’s family deciding to not eat any food that was refined or highly processed for 100 Days. This blog is a great place to help figure out where to start, especially their 14 weeks of mini-pledges.
My second piece of advice is to not let worrying about food rule your life. I have tried many different approaches, and have come to believe that counting calories, fat grams or carb counts is not for me. I do try to avoid added sugar and most prepackaged food, but I eat cake and ice cream at family birthdays, and fully participate in meals with family and friends. I also believe that everyone’s body is different and it is important to figure out what works for you. There is no one size fits all!