OK, my friends, let’s talk food.
Gretchen and I talked food for over an hour this week. I went on a walk because IT IS FINALLY FALL IN TEXAS (which means the temps dip below 90), so I crammed my phone into my iPod arm strap thingy, called my friend, and took her with me on my walk. Awesomeness. Almost as good as having her walk with me – but not quite. I’m still trying to convince her that UT-Southwestern would be an excellent institution to employ her husband. But so far, no luck. They insist on staying in stinkin’ Cleveland. Who needs a house on a lake? Really?
We went on a walk. And we talked about food. Sarah, our friend from residency, had just posted on Facebook her success with the 10 Days of Real Food Challenge. I was intrigued. In a nutshell, you eat whole foods (“real” foods) and cut out all the processed foods and chemicals and crap that we have made a habit of shoving in our pie holes. Or, if you just want to dip your toes in the water, you read the labels and make smarter choices. (Here is the complete set of guidelines.)
It makes total sense. Not necessarily convenient, but oh-so-logical. I think my family eats pretty well – certainly better than I did growing up – but we have room for improvement. I buy very little junk food, and I make all of our meals at Dream Dinners, which uses (mostly) fresh ingredients and spices. An occasional dab of Ranch Dressing or chicken base (which makes me gag), but mostly fresh or fresh-to-frozen ingredients. We eat whole wheat bread where “whole wheat” is the first ingredient listed and contains zero high fructose corn syrup. I buy our snacks – walnuts, almonds, and fresh produce – in bulk at Costco… but then I caught a segment on The Dr. Oz show about pesticides in fruits & veggies and a recipe for a wash. Hmmm. Maybe I should reconsider that case of pesticide-riddled Pink Lady apples. But only after we eat them.
It raises all kinds of interesting questions that I will let you ponder, like the inequity of health because healthy food is expensive and unhealthy food is cheap, and how can you eat healthy when you can’t afford to? I will never forget the conversation Gretchen and I had after BJ came home from his 472-hour shift during residency and gently suggested that they cut back on hydrogenated oils. She shot him a look that could have melted lead. Our kids lived on PB&J sandwiches during those years – with the cheap peanut butter – because what else are you going to feed your kids when you live on a resident’s salary? So any suggestion that 1) she wasn’t doing a good job and 2) her life needs to get a tad more complicated …it didn’t go over well.
Fast forward eight years to the present day. After discussing the Real Food Challenge, Gretch told me about The China Study, which takes healthy eating to a whole new level. Their research points to the devastating effects that animal proteins have on the human body.
Hang on a sec. Not just meat, but milk and cheese as well? You want me to give up MILK AND CHEESE?!? You want my kids to give up milk and cheese? Um, no thank you.
And my former hairdresser, Shelli (who is now working for her husband’s small business and not cutting hair anymore and I am DEVASTATED and sorely in need of a trim but I’m totally lost because Shelli has spoiled me for the last several years with her amazing haircutting expertise), educated me on the research against soy. Poison, she says. Google it. Shelli is now raising her own chickens because all the store-bought eggs come from chickens who were fed soy.
Let’s just solve this little dilemma and stop eating altogether. ‘Cause everything is gonna kill ya eventually. You can’t win.
While I’m not willing to throw out everything in my fridge and pantry and go live on a communal farm where we eat plants and sing Kum-By-Yah, I do want to be wise and feed my family healthy, as-close-to-natural food as I can. I absolutely believe that our poor food choices have led to a rise in chronic disease like we have never seen before, and if I can cut back on some of the chemical crap that’s out there and at least slow the progression or lessen the likelihood of some awful disease, then by-golly, I’m gonna do it.
Michael recently started doing this tremor thing with his lower lip. It FREAKS ME OUT, and I will often stop him mid-conversation to make him stop shaking his lower lip. Why? Because his 85 year old dad, who now lives in an Alzheimer’s care facility, has done the same lip tremor thing for as long as I can remember. I’m not saying that hydrogenated oils caused it, but I’m also saying I don’t know what caused it, so if there’s a chance that a healthy diet will keep my husband out of an Alzheimer’s care facility in 40 years, then that’s what we’ll do.
So I finished my walk, hung up the phone, and I was ready to go. Here we come, Central Market. Hello, Sprouts. Good to see you, Whole Foods.
Later that day, I sat with Meghan and Griffin during Nathan’s gymnastics class. We came straight from school, and Meghan was hungry. So she goes to the vending machine and comes back with a bag of Cheetos. OK, just this once. It’s not a habit, right? Then I get hungry, so I dig in my purse and find a snack bag of peanut M&Ms.
Peanut M&Ms do not count. They are survival food. I stayed married during residency because of Peanut M&Ms. I will not sacrifice the Peanut M&Ms.
(I wonder if they make organic?)
For dinner that night, I pulled out Dream Dinner’s Chicken Enchiladas. Fresh ingredients, right? Yes…and enriched flour tortillas. Hmm. But 99% healthy. Maybe 97. Or 82. Good enough. The frozen-then-steamed organic green beans with olive oil and Italian seasoning as a side dish surely outweighed the detriment of flour tortillas.
After dinner, Meghan wanted to make brownies. Not just any brownies, mind you. Ghirardelli Triple Chocolate Brownies. From Costco, of course. In a box. From a mix. With all kinds of preservatives packed inside. Made with eggs from soy-fed chickens.
But they are brownies. I survived my third pregnancy because of brownies. (A pan and a fork. On more than one occasion. And there’s nothing wrong with a pregnant woman and a fork and a pan of brownies.)
And it’s not like we make brownies every week.
The next day, I pack Nathan’s lunch: PB&J with natural PB and organic strawberry jelly on whole wheat bread, carrot sticks & Ranch dressing, organic vanilla milk (tons of sugar, but it’s natural sugar! Ha!), and a brownie. I was volunteering up at his school that day, so I promised him I would eat lunch with him. As he’s filing into the cafeteria with his class, I noticed that he has no lunch bag in his sweet little hands.
“Where is your lunch, Nathan?”
“I dunno. It wasn’t in my backpack.”
Now, “put my lunch and water bottle in my backpack” is on his list. He checked it off. Which means his lunch is either in the car, or he took it out and put it down somewhere and (surprise, surprise) can’t remember where he put it.
So he bought lunch.
Hot dog. White bun. Carrots. Ranch dressing. Chocolate milk.
Carrots, ranch, sugared-up milk. Not that different from what I had packed. But hot dogs gross me out. He was ecstatic. Kept telling me how good it was. Yuck.
(Never mind that I stupidly fed Meghan cut-up hot dogs when she was starting to eat solid food every day because she needed protein and meat and those canned Gerber vienna sausage things looked disgusting.)
We later found Nathan’s lunch in the playroom at home. Sigh. I love the little space cadet, but he is going to give me more gray hair than I already have, if that’s possible.
So. Preservatives bad. Veggies good. Organic better. Brownies and Peanut M&Ms and Cheetos and flour tortillas are OK every once in a while.
Survival? Very, very good.