Do you intuitively know that some of the foods in your pantry aren’t the best for your body? You want the best for yourself and your family, yet something is preventing you from cleaning up the food in your pantry. The reasons may be that:
- You have a lot of packaged foods because of their convenience but are unsure about what is exactly in them because labels confuse you
- You were never taught how to cook using real food ingredients
- You are worried that cooking from scratch does take more time
- You are concerned that it may be more expensive to cook from scratch
- The whole idea is overwhelming and you don’t know where to start
I have always cooked, however not always from scratch. I sometimes used the convenience of the ready-to-use bottled sauces, especially for spaghetti or pasta. That was until I had children with ADHD. I was told by a doctor who specialised in allergies, that some of the additives in food can exacerbate ADHD. If I wanted more peace at home and the children to be able to concentrate better, I had to further clean up my food choices.
I want to instil a sense of confidence that change is possible, one small step at a time, and with the help of the family. Let’s look at how!
Following are the steps I took to make better food choices for myself and my loved ones. By the way, my food bill reduced, especially as I became a savvier shopper who took advantage of food specials and seasonal food.
1. Remove any sense of guilt or shame
Please don’t feel any sense of guilt or shame about what is in the pantry at present. Food manufacturers have used clever yet devious ways to convince us that convenience food is the norm. They continue to
- tell us we are too busy – more important things to do, home cooking became “old fashioned”,
- addict us to salt and sugar,
- advertise to children to make it the norm, e.g., they use cartoon characters on, and toys in, cereal boxes, and
use misleading ingredient lists, e.g., yeast extract is a form of MSG.
2. Know WHY you want to change
If we have a big enough reason why we want to change, it will motivate us more to make that change.
For me, having more peace in the home was a big enough why. What is your reason for wanting to clean up your food choices?
Some reasons why are to have
- more energy,
- less reactive kids,
- clearer thinking,
- a better environment, i.e., less packaging and chemicals, and
- more social time in the kitchen and/or at the table.
Explain your reasons why to your family. Ask why they think making better food choices may benefit them.
3. Have a clear vision of WHAT you want
Knowing our reason why can help us with a clearer vision of what we want. Much like having a photo, of our dream holiday can help us get it, so does having a vision of what foods we want in our fridge and pantry. Adding the emotions activated by the vision will help us remember this vision. Some emotions may be love for our family as we prepare nourishing food, or joy as we socialise over a good meal.
Explain in detail this vision to your family. They may unknowingly have the same or a very similar vision.
So, looking at your pantry, do you see foods in there that no longer fit your vision of what you want?
4. Create a sense of excitement around real food
Create some excitement about real food by:
- Using a Menu Plan to create some excitement about what is to come, especially if the family have had their say in the planning. When glancing over our weekly meal plan, I recently heard one of my adult stepsons say, “Oh that’s my favourite! I’ll make sure I’m home that night!”
- Having a beautiful wholefood Recipe book on the coffee table
- Leaving the computer open at a real food website so beautiful real food is the first thing seen when anyone else sits down. My dedicated recipe website is www.easyreadrecipes.com.
- Grabbing the free recipe magazine at most supermarket checkouts. Here in Australia, Woolworths, Costco, and Coles all have free recipe magazines. I personally find that the Woolworths magazine has the most real food recipes. Give it to the kids to look at on the way home in the car.
5. Start with the easiest task
Overwhelm can be crippling. It is one of the major causes of procrastination. Procrastination is not the result of laziness but often of a lack of confidence in what to do or how to do it.
The easiest task would be to throw out any food with an expired “Use by” date. “Use by” is often on the more perishable foods, whereas “Best before” is often used on the less perishable foods. Often the food is still okay for a time after the “best before”. Throw it away if there is any bulging of the tin or packet or a strange smell or taste.
Your family will have no argument about the fact you are throwing out food that may be obviously bad for them. They may even help as a fun activity, e.g., a prize for who can find the most out-of-date products.
6. Replace food slowly
It is best to slowly get our family on board. No one likes rapid change, especially if it is a change forced upon us.
When replacing an expired or used-up item, replace it with products that have the least possible ingredients.
One option is to replace food quietly and see if the family even notice. If they do, simply say you are trying a new brand and get their feedback.
Or you could get the family on board from the start. Depending on the age, explain why a particular item is not so good for them and get their help to find an alternative.
Grab the Chemical Maze app and start reading labels. You could compare the difference between store-bought and home-cooked. For example, here is the ingredients list of store-bought popcorn, whereas home-cooked has 3 ingredients – popcorn, butter or oil, and salt.
If we make our own we can control the quality of the ingredients, e.g., extra virgin oil instead of the cheap and nasty vegetable oil. Oh, and don’t be fooled by the term “Natural Butter Flavour”. The initial ingredient may start as a “natural” ingredient, however, by the time it is manipulated by chemical processing to become the wanted “flavour”, there is very little left that is actually “natural”. When my kids were young, I was a sucker for this misleading labelling for years.
The conversation with the kids could go something like this,
“I’ve been learning about some nasty ingredients that manufacturers have put into our food. I want the best for you guys, so I want to see if the food in our house has any of these ingredients. I’ve found an app that can help. Would you be willing to help by typing the ingredients from the label list into the app and see what it says?”
If you want some evidence to back up a “home-cooked is better” theory, the book, Lab to Table by Cyndi O’Meara is a very eye-opening resource.
Here is another resource to help with the numbers on the ingredient lists. Click on the image to get a version you can print and put in your wallet or purse.
7. Don’t stress
Don’t stress if all is not as we want when we want it.
If we are stressed when we sit down to eat, then we don’t enjoy our food or digest our food properly which almost negates our effort to improve our food choices.
Firstly, be easy on yourself. When you learn more, you can do more. We may have to be patient and wait for our loved ones to learn more before they will do more.
My husband is not as strict with his avoidance of additives. If he serves me Caesar Salad with a dressing with additives, I focus on the love involved with preparing the salad and the fresh ingredients used as the basis.
Sometimes I’ll come up with a homemade version like I did with BBQ Sauce. I’ll probably do the same with Caesar Salad Dressing one day.
- Keep your eye on your goal, that is, your reason WHY.
- Have patience and be kind to yourself and your family.
- Celebrate each small step forward.
- Continue being a good example to your family.