As I mentioned in my last post, my family’s diet and eating habits have evolved greatly over the past several years. Long ago, when it was just the Mister and me, both working full-time, we ate a LOT of take-out. Bless her heart, the gal at the Chinese restaurant knew my husband’s voice over the phone and knew “no rice” with his meal. We rarely cooked on weekends because we were busy doing young-person stuff and during the week, though I did cook, it was largely starch-heavy meals eaten in front of the TV. It’s okay. I’ll confess it. Then Angus came along, and 17 months later, our sweet little Petunia and the revolution began. Perhaps “devolution” is a more appropriate word as we slowly returned to a traditional style of eating that our great-grandparents would have approved of.
So what is traditional eating? Traditional eating is simply-prepared, whole, nutrient-dense food that our ancestors have been eating for hundreds (thousands?) of years. Fresh fruits and veggies, unprocessed meats and fish, whole dairy, nuts, seeds, eggs, fats, herbs, and minerals. That’s it. It’s really no more complicated than that. I know your hesitations, so I’d like to take a minute to dispel a few myths about traditional eating before we go any farther.
- It’s no more expensive than processed food. You can purchase a whole roasting hen or a package of chicken nuggets for approximately the same price. One is whole and unprocessed, the other, well…..
- It’s not difficult. It’s no more difficult to bake sweet potatoes than tater tots.
- It’s not time-consuming. The aforementioned roasting hen takes 30 minutes in my Instant Pot and yields several meals plus a stock pot full of broth. Can you say the same about chicken nuggets?
- It tastes good! When my bestie switched to a whole food diet, she was truly shocked that simply prepared, nutritious foods could taste so good! And they do, my friends! When you start with quality ingredients, the finished product will always taste amazing.
- You WILL feel better…but maybe not initially. When you begin to transition to a whole food diet, you WILL go through withdrawals as your body detoxes from the ingredients in your former diet. But this too shall pass.
If a traditional diet is healthier, simpler and as quick as convenience food, why do we persist with packaged, drive-thru pseudo-foods? I believe whole-heartedly that it comes down to a bit of fear and a lack of knowledge. When you’re in the kitchen for the first time staring at that whole, naked chicken, it CAN be a little daunting. What the heck do you do with it anyway? So many of us simply did not learn kitchen arts from our mothers or grandmothers, but that doesn’t mean that it’s a lost art and we CAN’T learn. It just takes patience and persistence. You can’t be afraid to make a mistake (Praise God for the occasional pizza delivery!) and you can’t be afraid to try again when you DO fail.
So how do we even begin the transition to a traditional, whole-food diet?
Slowly. Steadily. Intentionally.
Let me throw out a few suggestions and you can pick and choose which may be good jumping-off points for you. Can you…
- Eat at the dinner table tonight?
- Add an unprocessed veggie to your meal?
- Begin moving away from white bread towards whole grain?
- Add a simple, fresh fruit for dessert each night? (Berries and cream are a favorite here!)
- Buy a fresh cut of meat instead of a processed or packaged one?
- Make enough dinner so that you have leftovers for a healthy lunch and can avoid the drive thru?
- Begin eliminating sugary cereals and packaged breakfast foods?
- Offer cheese, nuts, carrot sticks for an afternoon snack?
- Eat at home on Friday night instead of going out?
- Meal plan for the week ahead so the temptation to have something delivered is lessened?
- Replace sugar with honey?
- Shop at a local farmer’s market to find fresh, seasonal produce?
These are just a few of the simplest ideas to get you started but everyone’s journey towards traditional eating is going to look different and will happen at a different pace. And that’s okay! You may want to spend a week or two journaling your meals, really looking at your grocery list and paying attention to how your body feels after different types of foods. Those activities may help you to spot trends that will prompt you to action. And in a couple weeks, I’ll begin to post our own menu so you can get a feel for what simple, wholesome eating looks like.
But here’s my last thought: whatever you do, don’t feel guilty. Don’t feel guilty for eating processed food or for having served it. And don’t be afraid because you’re not sure how to change those habits. Fear and guilt are the muck and the mire that prevent us from growing and changing in so many aspects of our lives. Don’t let it hinder you from making invaluable changes to the way you eat. It all takes time, my sweet friends. If you’re so inclined, start moving your feet forward. Try replacing one unhealthy diet habit with one healthy one and give it plenty of time to “stick”, then move on to the next. Slow and steady, my friends, slow and steady. Til next time—