This topic has filled the corners of my mind lately (the ones not filled by all the other really important stuff going on in my life, like little toddler boys pooping in the potty instead of in the diaper for the first time!), mostly because I follow a lot of blogs that focus on healthy food preparation (surprise, surprise!), the majority of them being in the "whole foods" camp. I more or less align myself with the "whole food" line of thinking, which means that I believe an ideal diet includes the following (among other things)
no processed foods
minimal sugars, and those only natural (honey or maple syrup for example)
The reason this has been on my mind lately is that I find myself struggling to match up to the ideals I see in the blogs that I follow (even though all of them are very encouraging to anyone in any stage of their "healthy foods" journey). I get discouraged and upset with myself for not making certain food choices, and then I get frustrated by my circumstances that hinder me from eating more whole foods than I already do.
I am beginning to realize that if I focus too sharply on the healthiness of the food I eat and make, then I will lose focus on other aspects of my life, some of which are far more important than even health and nutrition (as important as those are). This post is as much for me as it is for you, to encourage all of us who struggle to eat healthier, and to provide healthier food for our families. Here's what I've come to realize: while health and nutrition are incredibly important in life, there are other existing factors that create checks and balances and prevent or encourage different levels of healthiness.
Disclaimer: this does not mean that eating healthy and nutritious food is unimportant! On the contrary, it definitely deserves a priority status in anyone's life. I believe that everyone should make every effort to eat as healthy as they can. All I'm saying is that sometimes life interferes and we have to make the best food choices we can with what is given to us.
Everyone's life looks a little different, but maybe some of the following things keep you from eating as healthy as you'd like Relationships This is big for me, a priority that trumps healthy eating each and every time. What I eat is a very personal choice, and I can't force it on anyone. And I mean anyone, even my husband (thankfully, my child is a different story!). Early in our marriage, I was very gung-ho about changing my husband's diet and was surprised and irritated when he resisted my efforts. It was for his good, after all! But after we had a few really serious fights on the subject, I learned to back down... or at least to choose my battles! Our relationship is more important than what we eat.
There are other ramifications as well. I learned (a little too slowly, perhaps) that other people were not as interested/passionate/enthusiastic about healthy food as I was. In fact, that was my one and only reason in the beginning for starting this blog: to create an outlet for myself to rant about healthy food and nutrition without offending and insulting everyone I knew or wanted to know. Whenever I am at a social function, I keep my opinions about the food being served firmly clamped inside my head. It's not worth it to offend other people or make them uncomfortable by my assertions or indignant explanations of why xyz food is not fit for human -or even animal - consumption.
Along the same lines, I've learned not to complain when family and friends choose to go to places like - oh, the horror! - McDonalds. I go with them, and you know what, I eat the junky food. The point is fellowshipping and having fun with people I love, not agonizing over the food I eat.
Budget This one's another biggie. Unfortunately, I simply can't afford to eat organic, grass-fed meat most of the time. If it's on sale for a similar price to conventional meat, sure! I'll take it! Most of the time, though, I can only afford whatever's on sale at local grocery stores. I know it's not the healthiest meat, but at this point in my life, there's nothing I can do about that. People have recommended other options to me, like buying half a cow or the like, which is a wonderful idea... but not possible at this time in my life, and for more reasons than budget.
I have made room in our budget for more organic items, and hope to increase that as time goes by. Currently, I exclusively buy organic milk and use it to make my own organic yogurt. I also buy certain choice produce items (on the dirty dozen list) organic only, and in any case, I purchase locally farmed produce all season long. I do what I can, which may not be as much as I want to do, but it's what I can do.
Space One of the best ways to eat frugally and healthfully is to store fresh fruit and vegetables in season, either by canning, freezing or drying. I currently don't have the means to dry anything, but I freeze and can what I can fit in my freezer and pantry... which isn't much! Also, buying the aforementioned half a cow would be a great cheaper option for healthy meat... but I have no place to put it. I barely have a place to put the regular sized packages of meat at the grocery store, let a lone half a cow. Additionally, I would love to buy wheat berries in bulk and grind my own flour, but I have no room for the berries OR the grinder.
Time This is not as big a deal for me as it is for others, since I am a SAHM with currently only one little charge to look after, and no car at the moment to keep me busy running around doing stuff. I have plenty of time at home to make all kinds of things from scratch, which I enjoy immensely. However, my time, as plenteous as it may be, is not enough for me to consider soaking grains (check out this link if you have no idea what I'm talking about) at this point and time in my life. Many people who advocate soaking grains experience an improvement in their digestive health, but I've looked into soaked grains at length and have come to the conclusion that the scientifically proven benefits are too minimal for me to invest such a lengthy amount of time. Everyone has a different threshold of how much time they can (or will) commit to making their food healthier, and that's mine!
Let me reiterate: healthy eating is a top priority for me, and I think it should be a top priority for everyone. It's a balancing act, for sure, though: you have to fit your healthy lifestyle into the limits created by your relationships, budget, space and time.
What about you? What hinders you from eating as healthy as you would like to, or what do you struggle to keep in balance as you strive to eat healthy? Does any of this resonate with you?