Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Back on the Soapbox - Eat Your Veggies!

Recently on NPR, Morning Edition profiled a family on food stamps that found it was difficult to eat healthy on a tight budget.

In a nutshell, the mom says she can't afford leaner cuts of meat or fresh fruits and veggies because they are so expensive. Even though they have a garden, she finds herself giving her child a bottle of orange soda when he is thirsty.

There is something wrong in this country, folks. I do think that the suggestions outlined for remedying this are good - food pantries and soup kitchens offering cooking and nutrition classes; The First Lady encouraging chefs to volunteer at schools, heck, I love the Naked Chef and all that he did for American TV even though he's not really Naked,..

I find it horrifying that although the US is leading the world in obesity, we are also in fact, way up there in malnutrition. It's time we understand that eating simply is better for our bodies. I don't mean boringly; the best foods are the one popping with flavors - what beats fresh basil or cilantro? Nothing, folks.

I feed my family of seven probably on about $600 a month, and we eat very well. This includes name brand foods, organic, whole wheat and my beer. I'm a couponer - I live and breathe by the - it helps me plan out my food strategy for the week, find the best deals and not waste a bunch of time looking at circulars on my own. That means that I buy stuff when it's on sale - this week we may be eating grapes instead of apples. Not a tough decision, that one. When you are feeding seven people three meals a day, that is a lot of organization and planning to make sure everyone has something to eat and they are eating healthily. These are not faint of heart eaters, either,.. the boys are incredibly active. Already dinner consists of two pounds of hamburger; can't wait til they all hit their teenage years. We are already in discussions to purchase half a cow.

I also believe in Coscto. Defame the large box store all you want, they do have the leanest hamburger and most normal tasting chicken I can consistently count on. I'll also supplement with meats from the store, again, when they are on sale, but I rely on this place. I don't buy a bunch of predone foods - it's not tough to grill up some chicken, steam some frozen (organic from Costco, even) veggies in the microwave and cut up the fruit of the week for a salad for dinner. I don't go that often, so these days I'm somewhere between a normal cart and the flatbed, but like driving a mini-van, I refuse to drive the flatbed.

Yes, I'm lucky to live in Southern California where we have a lot of great local farms to visit, and I also am part of a food coop. I go for the cheap organic box and get what I get. It's introduced us to new fangled fruits and veggies (dandelion greens, anyone? ) that we wouldn't have eaten otherwise. I also visit the local fruit and veggie stand, when I have time. The produce is 50% cheaper than the local grocers. But, to me, time is money, so it's a real treat to herd my brood of five through the confines of that small store.

Check ingredients, too, folks. Artificial sweeteners are not better for your kids. And they are usually more expensive. It's better, in my opinion, to feed the kid sugar (a real food) than some manufactured sweetener. There is nothing in any study done that says sweeteners do anything good for you. Yes, I'll have a diet coke every so often (and visualize my bones becoming porous as I do), but I won't give it to the kids. Soda? Yep, we have movie night once a week and the kids can have soda. Also at special occasions, but as a daily stipend? Never. You can actually survive on water as a liquid, amazing, but true.

High fructose corn syrup? Get it out of your diet. Look at ingredient lists. Even if a bread is whole wheat, it may contain this syrup. A local grocer's brand of whole wheat bread doesn't have corn syrup and is cheaper than named brand white breads. You have to do some work to find this stuff, but you can do it.

I think it's very important to teach kids to eat healthily and how to do themselves. This stuff is learned, folks. Are you going to teach them to pop in a microwave oven and go through the drive thru, or are you going to teach them how to wield a paring knife and make sure their plates are colorful? It isn't easy, but it's worth it in the long run.

Okay, off my soapbox now,..

1 comment:

Boise Wiebers said...

You have some good points. Having to feed a family of 8 going on 9 is not a cheap endeavor, but we do try to eat healthy(ish). People often wonder how we do it, especially with 4 boys and all kids with hearty appetites. One thing that helps is we don't buy junk food for daily consumption. I'll buy some Doritos, for example, when they are on sale. That bag is then stored for an occasion like BBQ hamburger night. Our kids don't get chips, cookies, and a bunch of pre-packaged snacks in their lunches... not necessarily because we are health nuts. It's more to save money on something we don't really need in the first place. I could go on and on. :)

P.S. I must say I do see a little bit of the food stamp person's perspective. Fresh fruits and veggies are expensive, but that doesn't mean one should supplement family diets with soda. Like you, I was thinking "Have you tried/heard of water?".