Diving Into Clean(er) Eating

I’ve been thinking about getting my family to eat cleaner for some time now.  If you’re like me, a not particularly health-minded person, it can be really confusing as to where to start – because there are SO many articles and opinions, and according to many of them it seems that basically everything you’re eating is killing you (this may be true).  I got overwhelmed and made no changes.  But every time I eat junk or drink a pop, I feel a little bit guilty and decided I had to do SOMETHING.  So I put it out to the greatest crowdsourcing tool we have – Facebook – to get some thoughts from friends who are cleaner eaters (thanks Dan, Lauren and Jenna!) and had a conversation with Joel to set our priorities.  Here is where our family is starting:
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1. Coconut Oil for cooking instead of vegetable or canola

A couple of my daughter’s therapists have talked about the benefits of coconut oil.  One suggested it was good for concentration, another said that her chiropractor suggested everyone use it – benefits to joints, etc.  I don’t believe any of these benefits are proven, but either way, it isn’t as toxic as vegetable or canola oil.  I was worried about it adding a coconut-y taste to our food, but I’ve made scrambled eggs and french toast with it in the last couple days and didn’t notice anything – and I actually thought the french toast cooked more evenly than it does when I use butter.  Care2 has a nice summary of the benefits http://tinyurl.com/l6zqmk3
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Coconut oil is solid at room temperature but melts quickly
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2. No more pop and juice

This one seems obvious.  Sugar, empty calories, bad for your teeth (I’m sure we’ve all heard of the tooth that deteriorated when left in a glass of cola).  At the beginning of my current pregnancy, I was drinking lots of orange juice because I’d heard folic acid was good for baby’s brain development.  Unfortunately, orange juice (or anything acidic for that matter) made me toss my cookies.  I asked my doctor what I could do to make up for it, since I couldn’t drink the juice, and she said “Eat an orange.  I have no juice i my house, it’s not good for you.  I wouldn’t care if you never had another glass of juice in your life.”  Disclaimer: there certainly are healthy juices – I’m talking the sugar laden ones.  I don’t plan on giving up V8.
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3. Organic milk and fruit (especially fruit where you eat the skin)

Ugh, the growth hormones, the fertilizers, the pesticides.  Just thinking of this makes my stomach turn.  We would buy organic milk for our daughter and drink regular ourselves, and once I got knocked up for the second time, we realized that that was just silly.  Unfortunately organic milk is expensive – over $6 per gallon in my corner of the world :-/.  But I feel so much better about putting it into my body and the body of my growing baby.  And as far as organic fruit goes, you have to eat it fast, because it goes bad quickly (like food is supposed to), but there are definitely ways to prioritize if you don’t want to take the plunge completely.  Fruits with thick coverings that you don’t eat, like bananas, avocados, and kiwi, stand up better against pesticides.  There are tons of articles about this if you want to read more.  We eat a lot of strawberries, blueberries, and apples in our house – so we buy those organic.  I read the book Skinny Bitch a few years ago, and while I don’t agree with everything they say and I don’t think eating better is all about being skinny – seriously, my non-pregnant body wants to be 150lbs and that’s all there is to it – they do have some good points about considering where the food you’re eating is coming from.
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4. Humane-certified eggs

I feel very strongly about this one.  And humane certified animal food in general, but I’m not crazy about meat and I am crazy about eggs, so that is where we’re starting.  Besides being pumped up with growth hormones, etc. sometimes animals in factories where mass amounts of food for humans are produced are just plain and simply treated horribly and live miserable lives.  Chickens are kept in cramped, confined conditions for their WHOLE LIVES, sometimes with their beaks cut off so they don’t peck each other since they’re jammed so close together.  There is one chapter in Skinny Bitch dedicated to the treatment of animals in large facilities – it’s enough to make you cry.  The tough part is knowing if the meat you’re eating comes from a place like this, or a farm where the animals are treated humanely (I’m from Iowa, I know lots of these exist).  One way to tell with eggs is to look for the American Humane Certified seal.  The Targets by us carry these eggs, the brand is simply balanced.
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You can find out what farms have to do to earn this seal here: http://tinyurl.com/mrpblnj
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5. Real cheese
It makes me sad, but American cheese is super super processed.  I really like it.  Fortunately, I really like a lot of other kinds of cheeses, so it shouldn’t be too hard to cut out.  When I buy cheese, I now look at the ingredients – milk, vinegar, enzymes, salt, good.  Cheese product, coloring, etc. bad.  To quote my friend Lauren on processed food in general: “Also, I try and not look at that stuff as ‘food.’ Think of it as office supplies since it’s from a factory made months ago. Not a farm or a kitchen.”  Smart!
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Admittedly, this list is a little jumbled.  Number four in particular seems to stick out on it’s own – but like I said, in order to make a change, you have to care about the changes you are making, and this is the right start for my family.  This will be a life change and I have a lot to learn.  The right start for you might be different, and I’d love to hear what people are doing!
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Some other books friends of mine recommended re: cleaner eating:
Never Be Sick Again
Practical Paleo
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