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The Trouble with “Food”: Healthy Eating for the Whole Family

Today’s post is from guest contributor Jamie Schnell, part-time nurse and  full-time mom in Reno to a rambunctious three- year-old. When she’s not working or chasing her son, she loves crafts of all sorts, writing, home improvement projects and cooking. 

“Is there even FOOD in this?” I found myself saying aloud as I turned the package over, reading the ingredients one more time. It was a moment of frustration, one small instance that sums up my battle in 2013.

In January, after switching to part-time employment,  I realized that my family had slipped into an exceptionally unhealthy eating pattern fueled by two less-than-energetic, overworked grown-ups and an exceptionally picky toddler. We sat on the living room floor eating fries, burgers, and soda from a disgustingly tasty fast food restaurant we used to drive two hours for. Our two- year-old sipped his milk and tucked a fry in his mouth while the three of us chatted. I thought to myself that we had been eating out a lot lately, and I also remembered few “home meals” that did not include pasta in the recent past. My husband agreed. Our eating had gotten out of hand.

IMG_5304It was decided that we would spend the year working toward a better diet. I started researching. Eating healthy seems simple at first; all you have to do is buy healthy food and cook at home. But I honestly had little idea where to start. I knew that we should eat more vegetables and less processed things, but that we would need to find some more convenient things too. As I read about Paleo and clean eating, I became upset perusing articles about chemical-laden, sugar-soaked things sold on shelves and disenchanted by the lack of food in the things accepted as “food” in our culture. I wanted to give up.

Instead, I took the word “better” and breathed it in. It doesn’t mean “perfect,” it means improving. To me, improving means a more gradual approach. We may not have gotten that far yet, but we’re moving forward. Here is our progress:

1. I found an app called Fooducate which has been very valuable to me. You can scan products, see their letter grade (in comparison to other things in their category) and get more information about the different label markings and ingredients. It helps me be more informed about the items in my cart.

2. Instead of throwing out all the evil in my pantry and wasting it, we’ve tried to moderate and work it into healthier things.IMG_5316

3. I grew a crazy garden, which will require better planning next year, but has supplied us with carrots, squash, and grapes this summer.

4. I stopped buying seasoning packets. I’ve been make seasonings myself thanks to these recipes from Keeper of the Home.

5. I sought out real food options in Reno likeTrader Joe’sGreat Basin Community Food Co-op, local farmer’s markets, andBlue Basket Organics.

Some other things we’re working on: meal planning and making meals ahead of time, not buying packaged foods, eliminating added sugar, reducing restaurant food to once a month, and eliminating processed grains from our diet.

Many times I still feel completely overwhelmed by HEALTHY FOOD. I still become crabby reading labels touting ALL NATURAL! HEALTHY! PACKED WITH REAL FOOD! The food culture in this country is messed up and designed to mislead, but I’m hoping to do better for myself and my family, one meal at a time.


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