So, I’ve been hesitant to report on our latest food challenge, because even my mother has labeled my challenges as “gimmicky” and if my own mother thinks I’m crazy, I’m sure the rest of the world does too. I have almost one week of three under my belt now, though, and decided it was time to share.
Why no processed foods? Primarily for health reasons. I am tired of us putting so many man-made chemicals into our bodies. If you pick up almost any package off the shelf and start reading ingredients, 9 times out of 10 I would bet there is something on there that you have no clue what it is. Even when you do know what the ingredients ARE, a large percentage of the time, the first ingredient is sugar or some alternative form of sugar. So many things are just full of empty calories with no nutritional value whatsoever. What happened to “real food”? This pattern can’t be good for us.
I knew that it would be difficult for my kids to be on board. I started by handing them two pages full of foods that we CAN eat. A long list of fruits, veggies & meat. I had them highlight on the list all the foods they liked or would eat. I also shared with them the list of five things we will be avoiding:
- No refined grains (white flour, white rice)
- No refined sweeteners — sugar, corn syrup, cane juice or artificial sweeteners
- Nothing out of a box, can, bag, bottle or package that has more than 5 ingredients listed on the label.
- No deep fried foods
- No “fast food”
They think I’m possessed.
So, what did we eat? Here’s a journal of our first week on “real food.”
Breakfast: Scrambled eggs, fruit.
Lunch: Snack tray, containing cubed cheese, boiled eggs, strawberries, spinach leaves & cherry tomatoes
Dinner: Grilled chicken, roasted lemon asparagus, steamed broccoli
Snacks: Air popped popcorn with sea salt & a tad of melted butter.
Notes on Monday: We got off to a rough start, because my youngest is allergic to eggs and wasn’t keen on not having her usual breakfast cereal. No child ate their spinach at lunch & only one child ate her boiled egg. I’m pretty sure my youngest only ate cheese and one strawberry. Dinner went pretty well. Even my picky third child tried her required bite of asparagus and claimed it tasted like a green bean.
Breakfast: Whole Wheat Waffles (recipe here – I used whole wheat flour) with homemade butter I made from organic heavy whipping cream from a local farm.
Lunch: Make-your-own salads. Options to top the salad greens were: cherry tomatoes, pine nuts, boiled egg pieces, grated parmesan cheese, grilled chicken & homemade balsamic vinaigrette. I also chopped a fresh pineapple.
Dinner: Brisket, Green Beans, Smothered Squash
Snacks: Apples, freshly picked strawberries from the strawberry patch
Notes on Tuesday: At lunch, I was pretty much the only one with anything green on my plate. My eldest had a lunch comprised of cherry tomatoes and pineapple. We’ve been drinking a lot of homemade lemonade lately, so I tried making a version sweetened with honey instead of white sugar… and even though all gave it a sip, even hubby wasn’t a fan. Oh well. E for effort, I suppose. He did like the way I seasoned the squash, and had a second helping, so there were no leftovers, which I would say is a success around here.
Speaking of hubby, he learned a valuable lesson today on “eating out,” which is what he usually does for lunch. He had a smoothie at a local franchise, and only after I logged onto their website and read him the ingredients at home did he realize that it contained over 20 ingredients, some of which were preservatives and just for color. It was not just the healthy blended fruit he thought he was getting.
Note: Although all tasted it, only my eldest cared for the granola. The other two wrinkled up their noses. #2 had a scrambled egg and #3 ate two apples. This one I’m having a hard time with… how to get something substancial into her system when she’s picky and allergic to eggs. At lunch, though, she was the only one who ate up all her cous cous, so either she was just hungry, or she actually liked it. Either way, an improvement. The others ate a little, then filled up with fresh strawberries. At dinner, the kids all declared the chicken too spicy, so they warmed up some of the “non-spicy” grilled chicken from earlier in the week to eat with their veggies.
Breakfast: Homemade Applesauce (A variety of apples, boiled in water to soften, then pureed in the food processor)
Lunch: Pita sandwiches (in homemade whole wheat pitas) with leftover brisket, lettuce, tomatoes & local cheddar cheese.
Dinner: Passover Meal @ Church: Lamb, Parsley, Horseradish, Boiled Egg, Charoset, Whole Wheat Matzo bread & sparkling grape juice; also brisket & potatoes.
Notes: For the first time this week, my youngest was excited about her breakfast options. My eldest chose to eat granola cereal again. I just had coffee. Lunch was a huge success! Everyone is missing their starchy foods so much that no one even complained that the pita bread was made from whole wheat flour. I don’t know that they even noticed! We’ve been doing better about eating leftovers, too. I think it’s because I don’t have the fallback of frozen foods or ramen noodles to fix for lunch. We’re eating what we have. In my opinion, it tastes a lot better too, but I’m not sure if my children all agree.
The passover meal was not completely unprocessed, but actually, for eating somewhere other than home, it wasn’t bad. I know the charoset had a small bit of brown sugar in it (I made it), and I didn’t eat but a small taste of horseradish. The only thing else that wouldn’t be considered a “real food” was the grape juice, and I only had the two sips as per the custom of the meal. Overall, the participation and experience of the meal was more important to sticking to our restrictions.
Breakfast: Choice of granola, applesauce or a boiled egg
Lunch: Salad, Snack trays for the girls: Whole wheat pita chips, strawberries, pineapple, carrots, cheese cubes, grilled chicken
Dinner: Steak, Smothered Squash, Roasted Broccoli
Notes: We were out late last night, so I wasn’t feeling the whole “get up and cook something from scratch for breakfast” routine. Thankfully, we’ve been doing this long enough that there were foods in the house that we could scrounge through and still fall within the guidelines of no processed food. Lunch went easier today, no balking (3rd child had leftover cous cous), and dinner was fine. Only my youngest ate leftover chicken & applesauce. Is it okay to have applesauce be your staple food for two days? Guess it doesn’t matter now. She’s gone through the entire batch.
Well, it’s not a complete week, I know, but we’ve finished our first “work week.” The weekend may prove to be more difficult — only because if we choose to do anything that’s not at home, it’s not easy to eat real food. Also, it means no Easter candy. Which makes me the Big Bad Wolf in more than just my children’s eyes.
My tummy has had NO issues this week, so that’s a positive. In addition, I lost 5 pounds. Probably mostly water, per my usual “back on the wagon” weight loss, but hey, I’ll take it. I don’t miss the “bad” food as much as I thought I would, although I did really crave a Diet Dr Pepper something fierce yesterday afternoon. I didn’t cave. Instead, I had a cup of hot tea and let the craving pass.
Could I see myself eating this way long term? Actually yes, with a few modifications. It’s improbable that I would never go out to eat, or not eat in people’s homes just because something offered had white flour or was processed. I think the occasional birthday cake or dessert wouldn’t be the end of the world. Even though it takes more effort in the kitchen, I feel like I could eat this way most of the time.
For now, the plan is to make it through the weekend. And then the next two weeks.
Wish me luck.