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It wasn’t until long after my fourth child was born that I realized that I wasn’t doing enough to make sure they ate healthy food. Our real food journey wasn’t exactly smooth. In the beginning, I didn’t cut all processed foods because I was worried about my families health or ethical values.
Whenever I fell pregnant, I gained weight (over 45 lbs each time). Apparently too much weight (so the doctors would tell me). After the birth of my first three, the weight wasn’t a problem. But after I turned 30 – that ‘baby weight’ would not go away and it was really impacting on my self esteem. I turned to Clean Eating to lose weight when my youngest turned 4 years old.
At first, it started as just another diet. Except that this time it worked.
In the beginning, I was envious of the crappy foods the rest of the family was eating – while there I was stuck at my end of the table eating real foods, fresh salads and whole grains. Oh poor me!
But the longer I stuck with it, the more I started to crave and love fresh, whole foods. And it was then that I started to notice the difference between the food on my plate and that of the kids. They were eating crappy, beige colored foods – and I was the one feeding it to them!
Things were about to change.
From Processed Foods to Real Food in 5 Backward Steps
STAGE #1: I BEGAN TO EAT REAL FOOD (just me, NOT THE KIDS)
I mentioned that I began eating clean to lose weight. This meant learning to read labels and recognize what was Real Food and what was Fake Food. I began to see, for the first time in in all of my 31 years, that what I was feeding the rest of the family was not okay.
STAGE #2: MOMMY WENT A LITTLE OVERBOARD
So this is what I call my ‘Mommy went real crazy’ period. I cleaned out my pantry,quit sugar, bought a ton of whole foods and other ingredients that I read about in health blogs (And to this day have never used).
I started cooking EVERYYTHING from scratch and trying to recreate most items on the supermarket shelf.
Here’s one of the recipes I’m talking about: Fruit leathers .
They literally took me hours to make and the kids devoured them in a minute. It was the last time I made them. I’ve even contemplated removing them from the blog, but decided to leave them there because they are part of the journey.
STAGE #3: IT GOT TOO HARD
I was working my butt off and spending so much time in the kitchen that I got what I consider, Real food burnout.
It all felt too hard so I just gave up. In my head, if I wasn’t doing it perfectly, it meant that I had failed.
STAGE #4: WE QUIT
I started buying the odd drive through takeaway. Saying ‘yes’ to more last minute snacks. I stopped reading labels because I ‘just didn’t want to see what was in it’.
STAGE #5: FINDING OUR WAY
The problem is, you cannot ‘unlearn’ this stuff. You can’t ignorantly go back to a crappy processed food diet because you know what’s in that stuff. And you know that it’s bad for your kids.
During that ‘mommy went real crazy’ stage of the real food journey, I was obsessed with the ‘Rules’. The eat this, not that kind of thinking. I became judgmental and honestly, a pain in the ass to those around me! Like many things in life, finding a sustainable approach that suits your family can take several attempts.
Some people find it surprising, but even two years into our real food journey, we still hadn’t decided what this balance looked like. While I admire people who can sustain a 100% real food commitment, it just wasn’t for us and it certainly wasn’t working. I came to the conclusion that for Real food to work for our family, we needed to find a simple solution that would fit into our lifestyles.
I came up with two simple rules:
1. Our home is a Real food Zone.
2. We Eat five serves of fruits and vegetables a day.
Now this may seem a bit too basic, but it works because it’s measurable and everyone in the family (even the little ones) understand it.
1. Our family spends most of the time at home, so keeping our home a Real food zone means that we naturally eat Real food at least 80% of the time. It also means we don’t obsess over the odd night out, take out or birthday party.
2. I love this 5 a day goal. 85-95% of kids are not getting their five a day of fruits and vegetables. Just by implementing this little strategy, my children have become more aware of what they are eating and also accountable for their food choices. They are fulling up on good foods first instead of reaching for that sugary snack.
Now that we our family is just over four years into our real food journey, I feel as if we have found a healthy balance. My children have all learned to eat their vegetables (not always enthusiastically), everyone can recognize the difference between a Real Food vs a Fake food and, most of the time, we make healthy choices.