Friday, February 10, 2012

Finding Balance

I recently read a blog post over at Crunchy Betty about finding your moderation.

Her post, and others that I've read recently in the blog world, got me thinking. 

Where is my limit?

What is my balance?

Where should I draw a line and where should I be flexible?

Obviously these are questions that must be asked of every area of your life, but I'm talking about nutrition here. The stuff we put into our mouths. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, every day. 

Sometimes it can become overwhelming. The more I learn, the more I sometimes want to throw my hands up in despair and buy store-bought bread and fruit-roll-ups. I'll be honest, I miss granola bars in convenient packages. I miss canned soup, I miss packaged cereal, and I miss our weekly date with a frozen pizza. 

A lot of my heath decisions have been based on money just as much as nutrition - DIY-ing is a heck of a lot cheaper sometimes. But sometimes it's not. 

Let's take the humble tomato.


It's so simple and easy to crack open a can of diced tomatoes and dump it into your meal, and it's certainly cheap. But canned tomatoes, because of their acidity, are one of the WORST foods for containing BPA. So this fall I canned my own. It was a lot of work, kind of expensive, and I ran out after just a few short months. So I went back to the store-bought cans. Lately I've been experimenting with just buying fresh tomatoes and blanching, peeling, chopping, and adding those to recipes that call for a can of tomatoes. It's about twice as expensive as a can and is way more work, but at least I know I'm not filling my sweet little boys with BPA. 

But here's one of my main issues (I have many): What about when we go out? What about at friend's houses, at church, when we're in town and need lunch... what about those times? What am I going to compromise on and what do we avoid at all costs?

I've been pretty laid back about it up until this point. Since we have almost no "compromise foods" actually in the house, I've relaxed and let that be licence to eat whatever we went when we're not at home. But you're looking at at least two or three times a week in that case.

White flour. White sugar. Processed meats, fake cheese, soy products, unhealthy fats like margarine and vegetable oil. Hydrogenated... trans fats... artificial sweeteners... *shudder*.

But at the same time I don't want to be "That Mom." The one who brings her own snacks for her children, turns her nose up at what's offered her and won't let her kids sample the birthday cake.

At some point, you have to let kids be kids.

BUT at the same time, it's also our job as parents to protect our children from dangerous things. As hard as Theo tries, I don't let him suck on the power bar. Physical dangers have more immediate and visible consequences, but the dangers of a poor diet are far reaching.

I've been very lenient thus far, but even I have my limits. There are certain things that drive me CRAZY and I'm willing to make a stand about.

Beverages are a constant source of irritation for me. All I can think of when I see a tall glass of pop or "juice" is the incredible amount of sugar (and other chemicals) contained therein. Even juice made from 100% fruit contains a LOT of sugar, and is stripped of the fibre that fruit would naturally contain. I almost always say no to pop, kool-aid, sports drinks, and juice - even the "real" juice.

There's really only one thing that's an ABSOLUTE NO on my list of "naughty" foods.

Artificial Sweeteners. Mostly in the form of diet foods. Anything labeled "sugar-free" or "no added sugar" needs to be checked out. Powdered drink mixes, jello, diet yogurts, gum, candy, etc.

I don't want them crossing my children's lips. Diet sodas are an absolute no-way-never kind of thing. I would FAR rather they drink a regular soda than a diet.

Katie from Kitchen Stewardship recently posted a great article talking about different artificial sweeteners. You should definitely check it out if you have more questions, she has great links to her sources all through.

There are a few other things that, although they aren't on the "totally banned" list, I reeeeally don't want my family consuming and want to get better at avoiding.

  • Margarine. If there's no butter, eat your bread/vegetables plain. It's not worth it. 
  • Hotdogs and other highly processed meats. There are usually burgers or chicken at a summer BBQ - we'll go for those instead. 
  • Mayonnaise, Miracle Whip and equivalents. I make my own mayo with healthy olive oil, and sunflower oil is another good option, but store bought mayo - even if it says olive oil on the package - is still mostly vegetable oil. 
  • Salad dressings. I'm not good at this one, I love dressing on my salad. I even think that a good dressing is important because the combination of fat and acid helps your body more readily digest all those raw veggies. But again, number one ingredient on most store bought salad dressings? Soybean oil. 
  • All fast food. This one goes without saying, but it's hard when we're in town running errands and hunger strikes. I either need to get better at planning ahead and bringing food with us, or we need to compromise on some place that does not have golden arches. Subway can be ok... (but all that bread and dressing?). I hear we have a Pita Pit opening up soon, thinking that may become our new go-to place. 

So there's my list. My thoughts. I'm not nailed down on all this yet, and I don't want to become the diet Nazi, but these are just a few things I've been thinking about lately.

Now, I want to hear from you!

How do you find balance when it comes to yours and your children's diets? Do you let them eat what they want when you go out? Are there any "ABSOLUTE NO" foods? Let me know.


  1. I've been thinking about this exact thing recently. I'll be very interested to read more comments here.

  2. This is a very interesting post,I like it :-)

    For us cost of food is very important, with a small food budget, being creative in finding healthy food. So I agree with you, most "convenient" are more expensive and usually full of stuff I don't feel comfortable giving to out little one on a regular basis.

    With that said, we live outside of town, no restaurant, no take our nothing of the sort near by, it help with the temptation of just wanting to get a quick fast meal,because it's not a option, if it'snot there.

    I am home with the girls 99% of the time, my husband worked in town and leaves with the car early in the morning and comes home late at night, leaving me barefoot, yet again another blessing, being home, you can control better what is being serve every day.

    So I spend all day in the kitchen, lots of food preparation and cooking and baking are being made. Our kitchen in in the middle on our house,so it'the best place to be,to keep a eye on the little one etc...

    So here is where I find balance, I will prepare healthy meal and snack,serve them to our family, because that is the only options, most of the time they are very happy to eat what I give them (well I learn that our girls hate cooked carrots, they will NOT eat them, but raw one are ok,you know that is what I would call being a fussy eater lol)

    Yes we bake, I'm a bad baker, so we don't do it that often, so maybe it's a good thing hehe! But in my book, it's ok to let ourself have a treat once in a while.

    when we are out, aka church or visiting friends and family, I let the girls make their own choice in what they want to eat. So I seen our little girls having a oreo cookies in what hand and broccoli on the other, because of course they want to try something new, something that we don't have at home,it's all part of eating out. But they also know that we don't have it at home, and that because I don't "forbid" them from eating "bad" food they give it a try, but they always come back to the food they know, the food that we eat here :-)

    So I let them have bad, food once in a while, I don't make a fuss about it, and hoping that because they know they are 'allowed" to eat it, make it less of a temptation.

    Aren't we all like that wanting to choose something, because it's forbidden hehe? If we say don't touch, of course they will touch,just because!

    wow this is a long comment,sorry about that

    Have a great weekend

    1. Renee your situation sounds exactly like mine! Way out in the country, no stores or take-out nearby... makes it less tempting! Cory's not working right now but when he is I too have no car.

      I don't make a huge fuss when we go out either. I think you're right - forbidding something can sometimes just make kids want it more!

  3. I been changing the way we eat my house hold a lot as of late too. It kind of actually started when I seen your favourite pizza. Then I read another blog of you canning your own goods. I been doing that too. I always bring my own food for my daughter when we are out. When we go out we usually just go to subway. I just get my sub on a flat bread and I try to get something like chicken then to have cold cuts, which I really love. At least chicken is a better option. I been thinking about stuff like sauces and mayo and other things like that too. I usually always have made my own salad dressings though, because I am sensitive to salt and other flavors added in so I just use grape seed oil, olive oil for the base and then add my own herbs to it. If any salt at all I use sea salt. That is better than the brands of salt called "NO SALT". I have a hard time giving up sugar though. I do not know what to use in my coffee when it comes to that. I been trying to use less of it, then cutting it completely out. I also have a hard time not drinking soda. I just love soda too. I use to drink soda at least 5 cans a day or more, but the last month or so I been only drinking about 1 can a day and some days not at all if I do not think about it. I am slowly , but surely weaning myself off of it. I feel like I should go to a rehab for soda addictions. LOL Sorry for the long comment.

    1. I love subway's flatbread! Too bad it's still white bread :S I love using sea salt, I use Redmond's Real Salt. It's kind of pinkish so you can really see the minerals and good stuff in it. And yeah that NO SALT stuff is sometimes mostly MSG!! Exactly the stuff we're supposed to avoid!
      I used to drink sugar in my coffee too but I switched to just cream after getting more health concious. You could try stevia - I sweeten iced coffee with that in the summer. It doesn't taste exactly like sugar and takes some getting used to, but it's zero calories and isn't an artificial sweetener.
      I've never been much of a soda drinker but I LOVE my club soda! It's just carbonated water and I drink it by the CASE. Again it would be a bit of a taste adjustment but now when I taste real pop it tastes sickeningly sweet to me.

  4. Hello Emily, This is my first time visiting. You have a lovely blog! I have wrestled through some of these questions for my own family. First of all, I do the shopping, so I buy what is good for my family. We eat healthy. Most of what we eat we make from scratch. When we are at someone else's home or someone has brought something to our home that we would normally not eat, I have trained my children to eat whatever is given or brought with thanksgiving to the Lord. In this way, we are not offending our hostess or our guest and we are teaching our children that the scripture is our measure. (1 Timothy 4:3-5) I'm aware that these verses are actually in reference to meat ("every creature of God is good") but I think that the "heart" of this is that we would be thankful. So those are my thoughts. :)