Whatcha Doin'?

I've had a few friends ask What exactly are you doing? Or How do I get started? Or What does all this mean? etc. I don't really know what to say to that. I think "getting healthier" "eating naturally" "Going Green" means different things to different people. I can tell you about what I did, give a few tips, but I'm by no means an expert. And what might work for my family, might not work for yours. So here goes. The non-doctor is in:

Getting started.
This can seem sooo overwhelming. There's so much information out there. So where to begin?

I suggest really looking at your lifestyle and figuring out what you don't like about it. Do you eat out too much? Are you eating too much junk, processed, sodium/sugar heavy stuff? Do you need to pack a lunch for work? Set some guidelines and make a family plan. For me, the start was learning how to cook about 6 years ago. We decided to go on Weight Watchers before our wedding and I bought a WW cookbook. Started making real food- NOT Pasta Roni with canned meat.

I got preggo and started to really monitor what I was eating. (Get pg was a snap for me and I truly believe part of it was how healthy my body was.) When BigBoy was born I started to get crispy (just barely crunchy) and tried to incorporate more healthy options since I was nursing. This was now not about me but about caring for my babe the best way possible. I used cloth diapers, made my own baby food and also started looking at all the chemicals we had in our household and bodies.... (The Mothering Magazine community was a HUGE source of info for me. Lots of knowledgeable mamas ready to help with info)

So at this point we already ate a ton of whole grain, no salt added, low sugar, foods due to WW. We weren't on the program anymore, but those habits stayed in our diet. We don't eat out much because honestly, we don't have the money. It always seems to disappoint me anyway, mediocre food and tired kids.

The next big jump happened here, when we moved to VA. We had a yard, a big one at that! BigBoy started getting interested in the world around us. He was totally into the Presidential election and Inauguration and aware of what was going on in the Big Picture. He started noticing what "helping the environment" meant and was fired up about gardening. We were recycling again on a large scale thanks to curb side pick-up. Between that and composting we have very little actual trash now!

I really can't pinpoint what happened next. We decided to make changes in our diet again to lose weight for this summer, which got me thinking about our diet in general. The Great Recession started REALLY effecting people and I began to examine our overall lifestyles. I felt bloated in all areas. Plus, I'm a project person. If I can assign a task to something, I feel like I'm moving forward. It was time for a major overhaul- our diet, our finances, our environment. I highly encourage you to include your kids if you decide to make major changes like this. We had a family meeting and I really think it made it all click. BB makes comments all.the.time. about being healthy and doing things to take care of the Earth. He ate FOUR apples yesterday as snacks since he "wanted to be healthy." He doesn't freak out if I make something "healthier" he actually gets excited and asks questions about what I'm doing.

We decided on doing a garden, start composting and lessen our carbon-footprint. We turn off lights, use windows, turn off the water when brushing our teeth, and now use the clothesline that came in our yard. We borrow books from the library. I bought canvas bags for grocery shopping. Little things that add up and really can be baby steps when you feel ready to move onto the next task.

I went though our pantry and looked at what we were eating. It really wasn't all that bad, but a LOT of processed crap: cookies, crackers, frozen dinners, LOTS of preservatives and additives (due to my love of WW type products.) But I remember hearing Dr. Oz of Oprah fame talking about food. The 5 Ingredient list (items to avoid in packaged foods) including: hydrogenated oil, sugars, high-fructose corn syrup, enriched flour and bleached flour. He also commented that it's better to eat REAL food since your body knows what the heck it is. Butter? Recognizable. Margarine? WTH?? This makes sense to me. Use traditional foods. We use butter, real maple syrup, olive oil, etc. It tastes worlds better and you actually use less. I try to avoid anything I can't say. I try to buy organic when I can, but sometimes the price doesn't let me. My second choice is "All Natural" which means lots of different things to different brands, so I read, read, read the labels. I don't buy juice anymore, the kids have never had pop and we have are slowly buying less Diet Coke for the grown ups. Choices are milk, soy milk, chocolate milk in the a.m., or water. period. I also started meal planning. It makes a huge difference!

My next step: Making more at home. I have almost completely stopped buying crackers, cookies and other snacks. The kids haven't noticed much ("Oh, we're out, I need to get some more" works pretty well) and my shopping time and effort has dramatically decreased. I can skip full aisles now and pretty much perimeter shop (that's where the necessities are in case you didn't know that. Junk is on the inside, dairy/eggs/produce/meat on the outside) I've made some bread, but fine eating Oroweat/Arnold for now as it's free of HFCS. I know this type of shopping is more expensive (Organic/All Natural) but I'm skipping the processed foods so I really think it all evens out. I'm going to try to make some crackers, more baked stuff and try to batch cook more often.

I'm also trying out new food items like the Great Quinoa Experiment. Adding kale or spinach to dishes or sandwiches. Putting wheat germ into waffles. stuff like that.

I'm currently reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I love it. Again, it just makes sense to me. We have our Victory Gardens in place, composter going and heading into the big growing season for fresh produce. It's part of the slow food movement of eating in season and NOT eating what isn't in season (ie "fresh" tomatoes over winter) This is a good time to start. I'd love to use all free-range meat. I would. But that's the next step. In order to do that, I need to use less meat, which means finding more recipes to try that uses meat as an extra instead of being the main act. I'm not there... yet.

So where does this leave YOU? If you eat out a lot, try making dinners at home more (the crock pot is your best friend!). If you already eat at home, try getting local produce and making new recipes. If you buy a lot of processed foods, use Dr. Oz's list and only buy stuff that isn't full of junk. Buy ONE canvas shopping bag. Go to your local farmer's market or join a CSA. Plant a salsa garden or container garden. Use a new ingredient. Remember this is all totally do-able is you consider it a Process. It won't happen overnight and I don't recommend trying to. You'll get overwhelmed and totally give up. I will also say this is probably easier than you think. We shop at Walmart and sometimes Target. I live in the kinda country. We don't have a Whole Foods or Trader Joes anywhere close by. I have started going to the regular ol' grocery store that sells more items that are natural, organic and has bulk bins (Martins or think Ralphs/Marsh- nicer upscale but not speciality) but that's only been in the past few weeks. We live on one income (that's not huge to begin with.) Prioritize and then take the first step. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me-- The Non-Dr. is available. :)


Shannen said...

I watched the Oprah show last week for Earth day and the comment, "Shop on the outside, stay away from the inside" really made sense to me. Are there many farmers markets in your area? A good way to get cheap, local organic food!
My friend bought this cookbook and raves about it :) Good luck! http://www.amazon.com/Simply-Organic-Cookbook-Sustainable-Ingredients/dp/0811860442

Lisa Spector said...

I'll have to check that out. Yes, we have local farmers. I'm planning on visiting local farm stands here since we decided not to do a CSA this summer.

Are you ready for my visit? ;)

Roxy said...

Wow I didn't realize how good you were doing...I am really proud of you! I just started the baby food thing, I didn't do that with my first.
Any reccomendations on healthy ant repellent?I swear just keeping everything clean and packaged doesn't work, they are after water!

Lisa Spector said...

Rox- do you have the book Super Baby Food? I really liked it. Lots of info. Ants?? hmm... not sure. we had a big problem in Indy last year when we were trying to sell the house. I bought Clorax wipes and hit all the base boards- not so eco-friendly, but it helped. Google it. I bet you can find something that will help. Google is your BFF! ;)


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