I have a confession to make.
My real food ideals have gone down the drain the past couple of months. My pantry and freezer full of preserved garden goods have sat untouched. My pressure canned soups lay waiting for me to glance at them again.
The first trimester of pregnancy got the best of me. I felt much sicker this time than with my first two (or at least it seemed that way), and almost nothing seemed tolerable to my nauseous self. Particularly not something I had touched once already.
I think this is largely a modern, industrialized nation problem. What if I was a frontierswoman? I would have sucked it up and eaten whatever was in the garden or what my husband brought home from hunting. What if I lived in total poverty? I would have no choice- I would eat what was in front of me.
So I think in some ways I’m just moping and complaining when I say that my pregnancy made it hard for me to eat well.
Yes, I was sick. But was I really forced into buying cheeseburgers and Chinese and sugary cereals?
Well… I guess no one was twisting my arm.
Regardless, here I am at the beginning of my second trimester (14 weeks), finally not sick most of the time (hallelujah!). I’m thinking about how I can get back on track to eating well again.
My main goals are to:
- Start cooking each meal again
- Shop my freezer and pantry
- Stop buying junk (If I don’t have it in the house, I won’t eat it!)
- Plan my meals ahead
- Make a list before going to the grocery store and stick to it
- Learn not to let my cravings have complete control over me
There are many seasons in life for all of us, pregnant or not, that we throw eating well out the window and just do what it takes to get by. Maybe a family member is hospitalized (as my father-in-law just was) and you’re driving back and forth to visit them. Maybe you’ve got kids in separate daycare and school, and by the time you get home you don’t have time for making dinner and still playing with them. Maybe you work nights and regular, healthy meals are just difficult to plan and arrange.
Whatever your season or reason, first off- give yourself a little grace. Sometimes it’s just plain hard to work yourself up to do what it takes to eat healthy (yet affordable) choices.
Next- look for ways that you can still feasibly make good choices whenever you can. Every time you can say yes to the crock-pot and no to fast food, do so. Every time you can stomach the idea of opening ANOTHER can of green beans over ordering pizza, pep talk yourself into opening that can. When you need to eat out, think of ways you can make better choices than your conventional fast food.
And whatever you do, don’t panic. Seasons are seasons- and they will change. One day things will settle down and it will be easier to get back to the routine of eating nutritious food. Be ready to recognize when that time comes, and get back in the game.
My good friend Rachel often quotes Elizabeth George (a popular Christian author), who says frequently, “Something is better than nothing.” The point is that even if you’re not living up to your ideals, making effort to move in the right direction is the thing that counts. And when you fail, pick right back up where you left off.
So, today, I am not going to bemoan the poor choices that were scattered throughout the early weeks of my pregnancy. Instead, I am going to make better, more nourishing food choices right now. Anyone care to join me?
When we first got married, we were pretty poor. (I say “were.” Still are, but it doesn’t matter!) We didn’t know any better, of course, and we were so twitterpated and happy that the lack of money made no difference. Between our small paychecks and lack of knowledge, we ate a LOT of what I would now call “fake food.” Ramen, bullion soups, Doritos, pre-packaged everything, even (gasp!) margarine.
However, it didn’t stay that way for us. Over the years, we underwent several major changes in our diet as we learned more about what we were putting into our bodies. It’s our goal now to try to use as much, real, whole food as possible in our diets while still allowing ourselves a little flexibility here and there.
Real food has been a catch phrase in the past couple years… I have to admit that I feel a little sheepish embracing any major health trend, but this is one that I feel strongly about. What’s more, I feel strongly about eating well on a very tight budget!
So how did we go from a diet of Ramen and spaghetti to a diet of (mostly) homegrown veggies, (mostly) well-sourced meat and eggs, and (mostly) non-processed food?
The answer is: not all at once, and not all the time.
Eating well has been passed down to me. My great-grandparents grew and prepared their own food out of necessity. My grandparents kept up the gardening/canning tradition, and ate well-balanced meals for as long as I can remember (always including dessert, of course!). My mother always kept a garden and made just about everything from scratch, with packed dinner plates always preceded by a colorful salad.
When Tim and I got our first apartment, however, we were fresh off the college-clueless bus, and most of our meal preparation in school involved pushing a button on the microwave. While we both had lots of kitchen and cooking experience, it just wasn’t in our mindset to do it intentionally for ourselves yet.
What cooking attempts I did make left something to be desired. My first batch of homemade bread was lumpy and dense and I decided that it was a skill I would never pick up. My first roast chicken and accompanying sides weren’t done until 10:30 p.m. because of my poor planning. (And nothing tasted like my mother’s did!)
After moving to a rented house, I had gotten a little better at cooking, plus we tried container gardening. My mom came over and taught me how to can my tomatoes. I tried to do better with nourishing choices, but convenience still trumped calculated preparation most of the time.
Then we moved to a tiny trailer where our landlord told us to go ahead and garden if we wanted to. We dug up a 10 x 10 plot. I bought canning jars, and with the help of my mom and good friends, preserved a lot more of our own food. And one of those friends lent me two books that were largely responsible for a major shift in our eating habits.
The first? Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I approached this book cautiously, not wanting to turn into one of those health nut lunatics who preached to everyone about the evils of McDonald’s. (Yeah, you know the ones I mean.) But as I turned page after page, I became more and more horrified by the intricate problems of industrialized food supply, packaged food, and the lack of nutrients in most of what we consume in the conventional American diet. I also became much more fascinated with the ideas of knowing your food’s source, eating whole foods, and eating nutrient-dense meals. I clearly remember finishing the book and telling my husband, “Wow. This book is making me seriously consider trying to grow all of our own food and stop going to the grocery store.” Two years later, that is exactly what we are in the process of trying to accomplish. (Trying is the key word here.)
(Thanks, Simple Truth, for the image.)
The second book was Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. The author detailed her family’s experience of returning to solely local or homegrown food for an entire year. Yes, you read that right. The family vowed to grow their food or raise it themselves, buy it from a neighbor, or do without it. The Amazon book description puts it this way: “Part memoir, part journalistic investigation, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle makes a passionate case for putting the kitchen back at the center of family life and diversified farms at the center of the American diet.” While I didn’t manage to make it all the way through this book because of some other things on my plate at the time, what I did read was monumentally inspiring to put good food as a priority in our family’s life.
For just over two years now, we have been trying to be (mostly) consistent with eating whole foods, growing progressively more of our own food, and sourcing more of our food from local farmers with quality practices that will nourish both their products and our bodies. Are we perfect? No. Emphatically, NO!!! Did I eat a white-sugar cookie while I typed this post? Yes. Case in point.
Besides, I still have a long way to go. Aside from sourdough baking, I know essentially nothing about fermented foods. I don’t usually keep raw milk. (I’ll pause a minute while all you raw dairy enthusiasts take a moment to collect yourselves.) I don’t get why certain fats are good for certain things and not others, and how to get more nutrition from your food into your body. What exactly do enzymes do, anyway???
Enter Trina Holden’s newest book, Your Real Food Journey. Trina kindly gave me a free copy of her book to read and review on my blog, and I have to say that I really enjoyed it and I am super excited to share some of what I learned with you! Trina’s book was exactly what I needed for the next step in my own journey, and I will be back on Friday with a full review of this real-foodie gem.
Where are you at in your food journey? I love hearing from you!
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