The topic of food has always been important to me. Ever since I went dairy-free for a few weeks in 2007 and noticed the difference in my body I’ve been fascinated with how food effects our health. I also believe it is important to train our children’s palates while they are young by introducing them to a variety of foods. It seems that by the time kids are Nora’s age (6), I’ve found that their preferences are pretty set. Lorelei, however, will try anything at age two. I’ve dabbled a few times with being vegetarian and although I don’t absolutely love meat for every meal I do like it (Jason and Nora are also big fans) and have found it to be necessary to the American diet. However, I love vegetables!
During my research, I’ve read a lot of books on vegetarianism and veganism. I’ve gone through many cookbooks at the library that almost always include what they’ve found to be true about either of those diets. I read The Kind Diet most recently and although it is a book about veganism, I really enjoyed her approach to food and being “kind”. (I wrote a book review about The Kind Diet here.) One of the most prolific books I’ve read is The Ethics of What We Eatby Peter Singer. This book was written in such a way that it made me think about our diets without being offended and showed examples of real life choices that all kinds of families have made and why. A while ago I also read What to Eat by Marion Nestle that I think really began my journey of deciding what we should be eating as a family.
I wouldn’t call myself an activist or a Peta member, but after reading Peter Singer’s book in particular I realized that I couldn’t support companies that don’t treat the animals well while they are being raised or at slaughter and don’t feed the animals what their bodies were made to eat. I also realized that perhaps we eat too much meat. If we had a farm or I had to personally kill, pluck and prepare a chicken would I do it every night of the week? This is the main reason why I’ve incorporated buying humanely treated meat whenever I can. They have a certified seal on most packages (much like a certified organic seal) or I’ve been able to do research about the company to find out how they treat their animals. It does cost a little more, but it should and now that cost is in our budget and no longer such a big leap to make. My next step is buying organic butter and cream cheese. It all trickles down, so it makes sense that if I buy meat that is humanely raised, I should support its counterparts as well.
Not all of our food choices are lead by ethics, one specifically is because of an allergy. Most recently we have started to steer clear of food dyes and citric acid. My baby girl usually has a rash on her cheeks and around her mouth. It has been there for a long time and only clears up (but never all the way) using a mild steroid topically. Lotion, cortizone and benadryl did nothing or barely anything to it, so we started paying more attention to the things she eats. It was always there, so it was hard to notice what was causing it. Occasionally there would be a “flare-up” and I was able to pinpoint things that were obvious. I am not very good at resisting junk food when I’m pregnant (I’m currently addicted to Nutty Bars), so for the first time Lorelei and I were eating crap like Pop-tarts and Doritos. Immediately after these two things her face was fire engine red. Later that day she would also have redness and irritability when changing her diaper. We had done a preliminary screening (strawberries, wheat, eggs, milk etc) for allergies which came back negative, so I looked at common ingredients between these two items. Besides fillers and such they both had yellow #6 and Red #40, which are another less common allergy. I began to think that perhaps they were the culprit. But then she ate an apple pie from Mcdonald’s and had a flare-up. There aren’t any dyes in that, but there is citric acid. I had begun to read more labels, noticing that the additive citric acid is in everything. Since we are looking for something that seems to be in everything because the rash is constant, I thought this might be it. After some research it seems we’ve found that she does have a sensitivity (not necessarily a full blown allergy) to Citric Acid, though rare. Citric acid occurs naturally in citrus foods, but the additive is different, grown from a mold and highly concentrated.
It was extremely frustrating to find that almost everything at the grocery store has citric acid in it. It’s used as a preservative, “natural” and cheap, so anything that has a shelf life longer than a few days seems to have citric acid in it. Which lead me to the site, 100 days of real food. Their site is about cutting out processed foods and although their reasoning is different, their “rules” made sense to me. The more I learn, the more I lean towards choosing the organic option if it has limited ingredients or making it myself. Since I pay more attention to the ingredients in the food we buy now, I’ve noticed that they add a caking agent to shredded cheese. I wouldn’t say that Cellulose Powder or Calcium Sulfate is potentially harmful to us, but it’s just another chemical we can avoid by shredding cheese ourselves. However, Calcium Sulfate upon closer inspection is used in the production of citric acid! (I tell you it’s everywhere, lol) I can see why a caking agent is needed because shredded cheese immediately becomes chunky and sticks to itself, so to sell it commercially an anti-caking agent is needed. I doubt I would buy it all sticky like that in the store. Another thing I’ve noticed though, is that when you shred it yourself it definitely tastes better and you don’t need as much. I can probably get away with half the amount of mozzarella cheese I usually use when making lasagna with freshly grated mozzarella as opposed to the bagged stuff. I didn’t buy a high-end food processer either. It’s a cheap one from wal-mart, but it does what I need it to do (and I haven’t killed it yet!).
I feel like we’ve come a long way in the last few years. We’ve definitely solidified that we are meat eaters, but are able to enjoy a variety of dishes and have moved away from a meat/veggie/starch meal every night. We eat more salads and fruits and because of those choices, I feel we are more healthy. Not every meal is the healthiest, but I feel our diet overall is healthy. We are rarely sick and the kids don’t pick up every bug even though Nora started school and so did Lorelei recently. The next step will be exercising more, but that won’t begin until after the baby arrives. Food we are good at, exercising just to exercise…not so much. A hike we can certainly do. :o) I’m sure as the kids grow and I continue to learn things our diet will continue to evolve. Who knows what this next baby will bring to the table (literally), it seems our kids are naturally sensitive to their environment, but I enjoy learning and like I said food in general, so I don’t mind.