Whole foods in, wholesome feelings out

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama. This month our participants have written about their struggles and successes with healthy eating. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

 This week's delivery (image via emwinslow's flikr)

I was born in 1975 which means my parents were hippies, and then yuppies.  We started out our lives with homemade foods and clothes because that's what they could afford, but as their incomes increased my parents' idea of "food" also broadened to include the fancy "food stuffs" (there's no way today that I can call it just "fancy food".   The processed cheeses, breads, and meats lined our fridge as did shiny aluminum soldiers of Shasta and Coke Classic sodas.

A very typical dinner for us growing up might be hot dogs wrapped in those pop-can croissants with a piece of American cheese... and some boxed mac 'n cheese.  Or maybe we'd mix it up and have cheddar-wurst... with some boxed mac 'n cheese.  We also ate meatloaf, fried shrimp and rice with a mayo-ketchup sauce (that I still crave to this day), spaghetti and meat sauce, Jiffy-Pop popcorn, cream of chicken soup, and ribs.  And sodas.  Lots and lots of sodas.

A few years ago Anthony and I did a White Trash Wednesday weekly dinner party with our friends wherein we made all the dinners from our childhood.  I made everything I listed above and Anthony added Shit on a Shingle and some amazing hotdog medley that included its own aluminum foil pocket.  We drank Pabst Blue Ribbon until bedtime and laughed at our parents' sweet naivete pertaining to nutrition.

So, it's rather shocking to me today to say that I am about as far from that as I could possibly be without actually growing my own foods.  When Hollis was born I became hyper-aware of what went into my body since I was breastfeeding.  Then, in a desperate attempt to discover what caused my eczema, I went to the allergist and discovered some alarming things about my food, unrelated to my careful consideration about breastfeeding.

Naturally, I became even more aware of the food I was eating and serving once I started putting it into Hollis' body directly.  His little body seemed so pure, so innocent, so unaffected.  I couldn't just jam it up with a bunch of fake food bullshit like I did with mine.

Today, we eat 85%-90% local, organic produce and I try to only eat animals whose processors commit to their humane treatment in both life and death.  I love eating meat and believe in my omnivorous roots, but I can no longer contribute to the brutal lives they lead and even more sacrificial and disrespectful deaths they suffer just so I can eat cheaply  (I'm talking to you, Fast Food Chains).  Not to mention the entire supply chain mayhem the workers and environment also suffer.

Mmm. Fake, chemical candies.

My biggest struggle getting to this point was the cost and the commitment to really convert all the way to whole foods.  It's amazing how often modified whatever sneaks into an innocent jar of jelly or Aspergillus in the form of citric acid sneaks into Swedish Fish.  But, I've finally turned that corner and decided that nothing is more expensive than poor health, so I'm willing to spend a little extra on food in order to feel better both emotionally and physically.

My best resources here in Austin are Farmhouse Delivery, which is fantastic.  I get the bi-weekly bushel and it's more than enough for two adults and a toddler, and it's only $39 a delivery, which is considerably cheaper than supermarket organic produce that was trucked in from CA or IA.  I also have Central Market and the Whole Foods Flagship, not to mention Sprouts and Newflower Markets within 10 minutes of me, and several local farmers' markets.  I may not be able to walk to these stores, but they're definitely within my home radius and I take full advantage of them.

Over all, I'm pretty happy about my food choices and I'm hoping to pass on to Hollis a love and respect for his own body and the animals and land we share this life with. 

Now, if only I could find an organic wine that didn't taste like ass...  That would be brilliantly green and organic of me!


 of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Code Name: Mama and Hobo Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated July 13 with all the carnival links.)

  • Why I Love The Real Food Community — Much like many people who follow AP/NP values, Melodie at Breastfeeding Moms Unite! takes the parts of the "real food" philosophy that work for her family and leaves the rest. (@bfmom)
  • Feeding a Family of Six — Mandy at Living Peacefully with Children gives helpful tips for feeding a family of six.
  • Starting Solids at 6 Months — Did your doctor recommend that you give your baby cereal? Sheryl at Little Snowflakes discusses how whole foods are so much healthier (and more delicious) than traditional cereal. (@sheryljesin)
  • Am I What I Eat? — Andrea!!! at Ella-Bean & Co. has figured out a way to avoid grocery stores nearly altogether.
  • Are We Setting Our Kids Up To Fail? — Megan at Purple Dancing Dahlias found that cutting out the junk also transformed her sons' behavior problems.
  • Changing your family's way of eating — Lauren at Hobo Mama has techniques you can try to move your family gradually toward a healthier diet. (@Hobo_Mama)
  • Real Food — What kinds of fake foods do you eat? And why?! Lisa C. at My World Edenwild talks about why she chooses real food.
  • A Snackaholic’s Food Battle — Julie at Simple Life wants to stop snacking and get into the old ways of cooking from scratch and raising her own food. (@homemakerjulie)
  • Food, Not Fight — Summer at Finding Summer doesn't want her kids to grow up like her husband: hating everything green. (@summerm)
  • How Do You Eat When You Are out of Town? — Cassie at There's a Pickle In My Life wants some tips on how to eat healthy when you are out of town.
  • Carnival of Natural Parenting: Food! — Sybil at Musings of a Milk Maker hopes that by serving her children healthy, balanced meals, they will become accustomed to making good food choices. (@sybilryan)
  • There's No Food Like Home's — NavelgazingBajan at Navelgazing revels in the Bajan food of her upbringing. (@BlkWmnDoBF)
  • This Mom's Food Journey — Kat at Loving {Almost} Every Moment made a journey from not paying attention to food to growing her own.
  • Who Knew Eating Was So Hard? — The challenges involved in changing to healthier eating habits take on a whole new dimension when you have a child who has difficulties eating. kadiera at Our Little Acorn shares her own experiences. (@kadiera)
  • Loving Food — Starr at Earth Mama truly believes food is her family's medicine and is willing to spend days preparing it the traditional way.
  • Food Mindfulness — Danielle at born.in.japan details how her family spends money on each category of food. (@borninjp)
  • Food for Little People — Zoey at Good Goog wants to bless her daughter with happy traditions built around good food. (@zoeyspeak)
  • Eat Like a Baby — Have you been told that you should not equate food with love? Kate Wicker at Momopoly shows us why that's not necessarily true. (@Momopoly)
  • Food — Deb at Science@Home tries to teach her children three rules to help them eat a healthy diet. (@ScienceMum)
  • Healthy Living Lactose Free — MamanADroit gives us tips on how to eat healthy if you are lactose intolerant (or just don’t want cow milk). (@MamanADroit)


  1. We haven't fully gone organic but I am trying. We belong to a local farm CSA and they deliver bundles of produce each week. They are organic (although not certified) and it's nice to reduce our carbon footprint at the same time. It takes some getting used to though (no more tropical fruit for us) and it will be difficult to maintain in our Canadian winter so I'm not positive what will happen come the fall.

    It sounds like you live in a great area to get low cost (or lower cost than it is for me) organic food.

  2. I grew up eating pretty darn healthy but I was so excited to have sleepovers at friend's houses and eat their "fancy" food. I'm actually surprised I didn't end up opposite from the way I am now, since they say kids often rebel against how they were raised and change their habits. But nope, not me. I just stopped eating meat, potatos and salad and stated eating chickpeas, eggplant and quinoa!

  3. Are we related? No, seriously. Also, what's wrong with meatloaf?! ;) On a semi-related note, my parents took us out to eat the other night, and Kieran decided he wanted mac & cheese from the kids' menu. When they served it, I was shocked that it was Kraft. Kieran ate one bite and pushed it away. Way to go, kid!

    (p.s. your title has a typo :))

  4. We too hve tried really hard to make everything organic. My parents gre up in Greece, so everything they ate was super natural. My mom always cooked good Greek meals for us, but not with organic materials. I want to do the best for my family, even if it is more expensive.

  5. you know, after we talked, i never got my food post written. because this is SUCH a hot topic for me. basically, i feel exactly the same way you do. when i was pregnant and started breastfeeding i reevaluated the crappy food choices that i hard grown up with. but here's where i struggle– there is literally NO ROOM in the budget for organic foods. we buy good foods, not much processed food, but how do you incorporate these kinds of changes on a super tight budget? people keep telling me to just do it, it's worth it, but what if that means i can't pay my water bill? it's endlessly frustrating because i KNOW how important the good foods are and in all honestly, i can't afford them.

  6. I think I grew up on the same meal plan as you. I did also eat fried bologna with fried potatoes and fried onions fairly frequently. :) The funny thing is I remember it tasting so good, and now when I try those things many of them don't taste anything like what I remember.

    A while back, I switched to an entirely whole foods diet, and I was so happy with the results! Unfortunately, I then got lazy about it and let my meal planning slip. I'm actually noticing a return of eczema and some increased behaviors in my children. I think that your post might be the kick to get into gear that I need.

  7. It's so true that good food is cheap compared to the expense of a lifetime of health problems. I think part of what got us as a culture into this mess re: processed/packaged foods is the devaluing of food and food prep time. We don't want to spend much time OR money on our everyday food.

    Spending time/money on buying and preparing healthy food is like making an investment in your future good health - it's a smart way to spend money!

    That said, we haven't switched over to organic 100%, primarily because of the cost. What I try to do is pick and choose the most important things to buy organic (milk, potatoes, apples, peaches, celery) and buy non-organic when it doesn't make such a huge difference (squash, cabbage, early-season greens). I think a diet that is primarily whole foods will still provide better nutrition than processed foods even if it's not fully organic.

  8. "shit on the shingle" LOL! I love that! Your story is pretty much like mine - I grew up on packet foods, chocolate and squash (which I think is your sodas). Now I have so much awareness about food and the effects it has on our bodies and the environment. Well done you for walking this amazing journey to where you are today. I really enjoyed reading about it :)

  9. Every time I go "home", I am amazed by how far my own diet has drifted from the one that I grew up with... and my parents are and have been pretty progressive foodies. No KD, no hotdogs, wholegrain breads, and a complete meal on the table every evening... usually cooked by my father, who has even learned to make a decent pastry in his retirement.

    But I eat far more veggies, more whole grains, smaller portions of protein, and worry more about where the food came from. I also find I instantly gain 10 pounds every time I go home for a week. Interestingly, after some long-term medical issues, my sister is apparently in the process of opening a raw-food vegan sandwich shop. Maybe it's in the genes, or maybe its in the air.

    Oh, the grumbles, (if you get this far), I *never* did organic until the space started opening up in the budget, and I never managed organic milk at all until a month ago (and even today I bought the regular stuff again). What I did do was change only one thing at a time. When I cut the meat out of my diet because I just couldn't afford it in any form, I shifted part of that food dollar to brown rice. I remember that one, particularly, because it hurt to pay twice as much for the rice. I finally had to figure that I was getting more than twice the value if I counted in 'fullness' and 'nutrition', instead of calories and weight. And literally, I did that for one food at a time over the last ten years as things improved. I hope that helps in some small way, because I know exactly what you mean.

  10. Hahaha! Love this post! You've hit the nail on the head about the way I feel about food too.

  11. I actually grew up opposite of you--my mother got us veggies from a farmer's market, grew her own sprouts, swore off sugar and junk food, served SEAWEED SOUP and PEANUT LOAF ("meatloaf" made from peanuts) to my school friends (no joke) to my shock and horror.

    Now that I am a momma, I lay in bed at night fretting about the non-organic peas I just bought from the farmer's market. It's a curse! Thanks Mom!

  12. I'm just thankful they make organic dark chocolate. A chunk of that a day keeps me very happy. :-)

  13. @Seonaid, that's the best advice i've received on it so far, thank you! that's sort of the process i'm going through right now, i'm working on upgrading all my canned veggies to organic canned veggies. a little bit at a time.

    yes, the budget is *that* tight.

  14. It just stinks that the good food (for bodies & the environment) can cost so much more than lesser foods. I've been trying to balance both costs and quality and its hard!

    My father was a fan of "shit on a shingle", ha ha. My parents were kind of a combo -- lots of fresh fruits & veggies from our garden, but also lots of meat & canned soup-type foods. My husband's dairy & beef allergy has helped our eating, for sure -- so many things are just not a option!

    Good luck on your ongoing quest for good organic wine! Mmmm!

  15. I'm trying to make the move to better and more organic food at the moment - we don't live in a great area for it - but you're right - definitely worth making the effort.

  16. Oh, man, I used to love the nights we'd have hot dogs in crescent rolls. Though we upgraded our cheese choice to actual cheddar. Fancy!

    We ate American cheese for grilled cheese, though, and on other sandwiches. That's one of those "foods" (ahem, cough) I can't believe we regularly ate as growing children. That and bologna. What were my parents thinking? Ha ha!

    When I lived in Berlin in junior high, I went to visit a German friend at her family's vacation house for a couple weeks one summer, and I was homesick and had gotten a stomach bug. After I recovered, I was sitting at the table with them and the mother served sandwich fixings, including American cheese. And I was so amazed. OUR cheese had made it over to Germany! I felt so much less homesick suddenly. I told my mom later, and she was like, "Um, the Germans probably don't call it American cheese. It's just processed cheese." I'd had no idea it wasn't the Most Patriotic Type of cheese.

    the grumbles: Have you seen the lists of the Dirty Dozen & Clean Fifteen? They're a good start to help you prioritize. Also look into buying things like dry rice and beans in bulk from a natural foods store, because they'll be a lot cheaper that way. You have to learn how to cook them from dry, but it's not hard, just more time-intensive than minute rice or cans. (Not sure if you like to cook or have time to, just a thought!) I like to do a bunch at once in the crock pot and then freeze the extra servings. It's tough to eat organic on a budget, and that sucks. I wish the healthiest food was the cheapest instead of the other way around. Some stores have organic store brands (Safeway, for one near me) — still more expensive than conventional but often a little less than commercial organic brands. I don't know if you ever have money accumulated to buy in bulk or the capacity to store it. If so, you could check if there's a co-op near you — sometimes a group will do a bulk order from a wholesaler, and you pay for just your portion. Or you could travel to an organic farm and see what deals the farmer will offer. But, also, don't stress yourself out. Let the changes come gradually as you can afford them. Paying your water bill's also important. Good luck!