Few people question the wisdom of eating healthy foods. The health gurus have inundated us with studies proving that oatmeal reduces cholesterol, too much red meat clogs arteries, a glass of red wine a day can reduce chances of getting heart disease, etc.
What many people complain is that eating healthy foods means paying big bucks to eat the equivalent of grass and oats washed down with skim milk or water.
In our family, we have tried to improve the nutritional value of our meals without breaking our budget or disappointing our taste buds. We try not to get too excited about things, keeping everything in moderation. Here is a quick breakdown of changes we have made with links to sites where you can get lots more information.
No, I don't cook with my freezer, but I have been trying to cook things in bulk, freezing the meals in appropriate portions to feed our family. We use the small freezer that is part of our refrigerator and can pack in quite a bit of food stored in freezer bags. Some bigger items we also store in our parents' freezer.
Cooking this way is a tremendous time saver. When I cook spaghetti sauce, I triple the recipe, freezing two-thirds. The next time we want spaghetti sauce, I pop it in the microwave and it's ready in minutes and with little or no mess!
In addition to saving time, home cooking is more nutritional 90 per cent of the time. We are eating fewer frozen pizzas, hot dogs, and other convenience foods that are packed with unhealthy ingredients and preservatives.
I bought the Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 Day Gourmet: A Month of Meals Made Easy (by Tara Wohlenhaus and Nanci Slagle) and really like the recipes, forms, and ideas for how to cook once a month. Since we have an infant in the house, I haven't attempted the marathon cooking day yet, but I hope to do so some time.
Two other titles about bulk cooking I read and enjoyed are Frozen Assets, Dinner's in the Freezer, and Once a Month Cooking.
No More Hydrogenated Fats
Another diet change for us has been to avoid hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats as much as possible. This is no easy task. They are in everything from peanut butter to Bisquick to crackers and bread.
Why avoid them? They have a chemical make up similar to plastic and are impossible to digest. They are an industrial by product that help keep things solid. Basically, it's shortening that floats around in your body until it makes it out or sticks to something.
For more information, click on the link above.
No Sodium Nitrates
Sodium nitrates are also nasty and are found in many processed foods. It is a carcinogen. Ham, pepperoni, lunch meats, hot dogs and the like are prime culprits, but we still do eat them on occasion. We do eat much less than we used to though, following the 80/20 rule. (What you do 80 per cent of the time has the greatest impact on your health.)
Many studies have linked aspartame to a wide variety of side effects including seizures, migraines, memory loss, depression, insomnia, hypertension, weight gain, joint pains, chronic fatigue, impotency, burning urination, and brain cancer.
Aspartame is sold as Equal, Nutrasweet, or Spoonful. It's not just in diet soda, it's also in instant breakfasts, breath mints, cereals, yogurt, wine coolers, frozen desserts, jello, tea beverages, multivitamins, and milk drinks just to list some!
For more information, you can contact some of the organizations below:
Mary Nash Stoddard, Aspartame Consumer Safety Network, PO Box 780634, Dallas, TX 75378, (214) 352-4268.
Barbara Alexander Mullarkey, c/o NutriVoice, PO Box 946, Oak Park, IL 60303.
H.J. Roberts, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.C.C.P., 300 27th St., West Palm Beach, FL 33407, (407) 832-2408
Whole Grains & High Fiber
While soft white bread may be yummy, there is not much value to it. We joke that eating it is like eating air. We either buy or more often make our own whole grain bread. Even our young children love to eat it! Natural Ovens makes several delicious varieties of bread and bagels. I also make homemade granola now which is tasty, easy to do, and a lot cheaper than the boxed varieties. What I like is I can tailor it to our individual preferences too.