Another Small Healthier Habit

posted by Andrea | 01/20/2016
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healthier habit

As I’ve mentioned MANY times already, when it comes to the food my family eats, I almost always take the “all things in moderation” approach.

I feel like our family does a pretty good job of eating a relatively balanced diet — lots of fruits and veggies, lots of dairy, lots of water, etc. etc. However, as I’m sure you can tell by the crazy amount of dessert recipes on my blog, we eat lots of sweet treats too 🙂

My kids have multiple snacks every day… and they also eat 3 balanced meals every day. They eat their fair share of brownies, cookies, and candies… but they also eat a crazy amount of fruit, yogurt, cheese, eggs, broccoli, etc.

At this point in their lives, I don’t care as much about WHAT they eat, as long as they try a bite of everything and as long as we eat together at the table as much as possible.

Since I’m not very strict when it comes to every morsel of food we put into our mouths, it probably comes as no surprise that I’m not one for radical changes in the way we eat.

I don’t do fad diets (or really any diets at all).

I don’t swear off certain foods or food groups.

I don’t count calories.

I rarely ever read labels.

I don’t pay more for natural or organic.

And I honestly don’t stress about how much or how little of certain foods my kids are or are not eating.

How’s that for being honest! 

Now that Nora has been eating “normally” for over 2 years and Simon seems to have no problem eating a variety of foods, I often let them choose what they eat for breakfast, lunch, and snacks (from a list of a few options) and then they have to eat whatever I make for dinner (or at least try a few bites).

I feel like this attitude towards food has really made eating a “non-issue” in our house as there are no foods that are completely off limits. There is also no talk of dieting, or losing weight, or “avoiding ‘bad foods’ so we don’t get fat”.

There is just FOOD.

There is breakfast food, lunch food, dinner food, snack food, dessert food… and candy (FYI, Culver’s Custard falls somewhere in the dessert or candy food group!)

My kids know they need food to grow… and that they want to grow! They also know that eating is fun and enjoyable and something our family does together (often with friends and family over as well).

That’s good enough for me right now.

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Even though I am not a health food junkie or a nutritionist, it’s still in my nature to always strive for “better” in pretty much everything I do — from cleaning and organizing my home, managing my schedule, mothering my children, and improving our daily health and nutrition.

So for the past few years, I’ve been making really small changes to implement a few healthier habits into our diet.

When we first got married, I excitedly started canning all my own jams, tomatoes, salsa, applesauce, peaches, and pears with locally grown produce (often from our own garden!) I have kept up with this over the past 10 years (everything but the salsa) and I’ve since added pickles to my list of canned-from-our-garden favorites!

A few years ago, I switched to full-fat dairy (which is sometimes really hard to find!) I buy it whenever I can, but I also don’t go crazy shopping at 8 different stores so I don’t need to buy low fat sour cream.

After that, I switched to using butter almost exclusively over margarine. There are a few baking recipes that I still use margarine as the end results are always better that way, but the rest is butter.

Two years ago, I decided to start buying and eating more quality cheeses — and although we still occasionally use Kraft singles to make delicious ooey gooey grilled cheese sandwiches, and Velveeta to make delicious dips, we now almost always eat less-processed block cheeses that I slice at home.

Then last year, we made the switch to buying much heartier breads, as well as using healthier oils and eating better fats. I think we are all enjoying the yummy breads and oils… and although we still haven’t learned to like natural peanut butter, we have integrated avocados into several of our favorite recipes! Also, the kids LOVE snacking on nuts!

Since our family eats A LOT of applesauce, jam, dairy, butter, cheese, and bread I felt like these were all really good steps in the right direction… and by spreading these changes out over an extended period of time, it really hasn’t seemed like a big deal or an inconvenience at all.

In fact, I don’t even think twice about what type of dairy or cheese or bread to buy at the store — it has simply become second nature for me to grab the more nutritious options that we have switched to. And although canning is sometimes messy and time-consuming, I still enjoy doing it as my mom and grandma usually help.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that we WON’T eat store-bought applesauce, low-fat dairy, margarine, processed cheese, white bread, or other less-nutritious fats. In fact, I’m positive we still eat many of these items on a fairly regular basis whenever we eat at restaurants, friends and relatives homes, or various potlucks and picnics. The point is that when we’re at home, we’ve made a point to eat just a little bit healthier than we used to.

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Since these simple changes over time have worked very well for my family, I’ve decided to add another small change this year…

The next healthier change I’d like to make it to start eating less-processed meats.

Instead of buying so much deli meat, I’d like to get in the habit of cooking or roasting my own meats at home — actually buying a beef roast or a spiral ham instead of roast beef and ham at the deli counter, and roasting whole turkeys and chickens instead of eating the more processed deli versions.

It means cooking my own bacon instead of buying bacon bits… and making my own sausage patties instead of buying the more processed links.

It means making my own homemade meatballs instead of buying the frozen ones.

It means making my own Chicken Cordon Blue instead of buying the frozen option… and on and on.

beef roast

I already do some of this… but I’d just like to do more. And coincidentally, Dave’s parents gifted us a quarter of a cow from a local farmer for Christmas, so we’ll soon have a freezer full of fresh beef roasts, steaks, ground beef and more!

Again, this DOES NOT mean we will never eat another chicken nugget, hotdog, or slice of deli meat again. It simply means that whenever possible, I’m hoping to use a less-processed meat option.

I think I’ll actually end up saving a decent amount of money too as deli meat can be quite expensive!

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The next healthier habit I’d like to try is juicing… maybe I’ll start that this summer!

In the meantime, my oven will hopefully be filled with yummy meats on a regular basis.

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29 comments

  1. Natalia

    01/22/2016

    I love the changes you’re making and your strategy is wonderful!!!

    My husband bought a Nutribullet last week and I was sooo upset with him for buying it without even thinking to check with me! He “helped” me with grocery shopping by going to Costco for a few items on a conservative list, and came back with a bunch of toys, including the Nutribullet and a toaster. Well, I had to admit that we needed a new toaster; we’ve been using a half-broken toaster for more than a year. And I have been drooling over the Nutribullet for a couple of months already…
    Well, after my stubbornness wore off, we gave it a try. I’ve got to tell you that I love it! Not the machine itself (it still seems a little too rough and too loud and too “manly” for my hands), but the way I feel after I drink a handful of “extracted” greens, fruits and/or veggies along with a handful of nuts and coconut milk! :)! We easily and happily consume at least 2 cups each of fresh yumminess per day, when before I would “push” myself to have one fresh fruit per day.

    Now, I’m only sorry we waited this long to “splurge” on a good tool. I still haven’t told him that I’m glad that he did not consult with me before buying it. I would have – most likely – said “No, we already have a juicer that we don’t use!” And I wouldn’t even know what we’re missing out on! I’m going to make myself a cool and nutritious drink right now!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the tip Natalia, we don’t have a costco membership, but I might have to look into the Nutribullet on Amazon 🙂

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  2. Diana

    01/21/2016

    Good for you! I’ve tried to switch from deli meat, but my hubby really likes the texture of the meat as opposed to larger pieces of meat. So I try to do leftovers sometimes, but when it is a sandwich, go ahead and use deli meat. Maybe someday I’ll think of something better! 🙂

    Also, what is it about the natural peanut butter that you don’t like!? Have you tried different brands? Just curious, because to me the peanut flavor in the peanuts+salt version is just sooooooo much better that it’s hard for me to imagine someone not liking it! 🙂

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  3. Carol

    01/21/2016

    We make our own sausage out of lean pork loin when there’s a great sale. So much better than the prepackaged version. I know exactly what’s in it, and I can spice it up any way I want. Gotta love the kitchen aid mixer attachments!

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  4. Jennifer

    01/20/2016

    I similarly have tried to cut out most of the processed meats, particularly lunch meat, which my husband was eating every day in his packed lunch.

    My method is this: I buy several chicken breasts, put them all in the crock pot, and cook them several hours. Then I shred the meat and freeze it in containers a week’s worth at a time. It’s not much work!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    sounds like a good system Jennifer! I wish I could get Dave to like chicken salad for sandwiches… but he’s not a fan!

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    Jennifer Reply:

    Actually my husband’s not a chicken salad fan, either. He just eats the chicken with cheese on a dry sandwich! (But he IS a fan of dry meat, which maybe not everyone is!)

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    Sherry Reply:

    Jennifer, what else do you put in the crock pot with the chicken breasts? I’m assuming you need some liquid like chicken stock or water; how much do you use of that, and what else do you put in? Thanks!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Reply:

    To be honest, I don’t add any liquid; however, I do typically cook the breasts on top of a whole chicken because I like to take the meat from those to use in recipes and make stock from the bones. So I’m usually cooking a whole chicken on the bottom, with 2-4 breasts laid on top. There is always a lot of juice in the crock pot afterwards, probably from the whole chicken, and the whole pot is steamy inside so I don’t feel the need for extra liquid. I do sometimes add salt and pepper.

    My husband likes his meat dry and plain (not juicy), so perhaps the results work for us but someone else might like a bit more moisture. If I were cooking breasts only, I’d probably add a little water to get some steam going. Obviously you could also add any kind of seasoning you wanted.

    [Reply]

    Sherry Reply:

    Thanks so much!

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  5. Tamaira

    01/20/2016

    Great post! My husband and I have done things very similar. In almost the same order lol! I have done roast beef for sandwiches for a few years but as for ham I just started that before Christmas. I bought a bone in ham for a great sale price and was amazed at how much better it tasted (it had been several years since I had one obviously lol). It was a good sale but even at full price the savings over deli meat is noticeable I’m sure. Plus I froze the bone and a few scrap pieces of ham so I can make split pea soup. I just used some of the leftover ham on Monday night for homemade pizza and while it looked sad coming out of the freezer (I had meant to use it up earlier so it was just tossed in a bag) it still tasted better than the deli stuff once it defrosted!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Tamaira, I JUST made pea soup last week with the bone from our Christmas ham! The recipe will actually be on the blog next week 🙂

    I also froze several bags of sliced ham as well as some containers of chunked ham (for quiche, pizza, casseroles, etc.) I think my ham ended up being less than $1 per pound which is WAY WAY less than deli meat!

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  6. Debby

    01/20/2016

    I love this post. Everything in moderation. I switched to basically non processed foods last year. Now I kinda have an 80/20 rule. That being 20% of the time I would buy processed. My family enjoys it. Sometimes it takes more prep but we can taste a difference. I have tried this slow steady approach and want to take on roasting and freezing ahead. I never had any off limits foods for my girls and they grew up to be great eaters and very healthy fit althletes. (My college age daughter plays soccer and just ran her PR for a mile this morning coming in at 6:32) #proudmama. 🙂 Even my pickier one that will be 18 on Saturday is now trying and eating all veggies. We always had goodies in our house but my husband and I taught them how to view treats. I too never fought about eating. If they weren’t hungry that was fine, but they weren’t allowed to have treats later. I also used small plates. I feel like some kids are so overwhelmed by big plates and big portions. I recently saw a post where the person put snacks in an ice cube tray. I thought how genius. Keep up the good work!!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Debbie! I LOVE the 80/20 rule and reference it frequently 🙂

    Glad to hear your kiddos grew up to be good eaters and thanks for the tips. We do use smaller plates already (and sometimes I use mini muffin tins for snacks!)

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  7. Julia

    01/20/2016

    Andrea, to me canning is so much more difficult a skill to master so you’re ahead of the game already.

    I am interesting in what steps you might take, particularly to avoid deli meats. I do wish I had a meat slicer and the whole nine so I could make homemade roast beef slices or ham, I just have no clue how to do that. I’d be happy to hear how anyone manages to do that though.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Julia!
    I have no intentions of actually trying to slice my meat as thin as deli meat… I’m thinking more along the lines of making chicken salad, having shredded roast beef (with a little juice), using thicker slices of ham, etc. I don’t think my kitchen has room for a meat slicer 🙂

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  8. Maria

    01/20/2016

    Baby steps have worked way better in my family than a massive diet overhaul.

    If people want to make positive changes in their food, I think the easiest step is to switch to sea salt or real salt. You use it the same as regular salt, but it is far more nutritious and it tastes so much better.

    Also, Andrea, you might enjoy trying the method of applesauce making that my husband and I came up with. We peel, core, and quarter the apples (the 2 and 5 year olds help cut them up with table knives). We throw the chunks in our blender, which is somewhere between the $30 Wal-Mart kinds and the Vitamix, etc. We blend the chunks till it’s sauce, then can it like normal. We don’t add any sugar, because we think it’s really good without it. (And cheaper and more healthful.)

    It’s so much easier than cooking the apples and running them through the strainer or grinder and trying to avoid burns. There are no big messy kettles to wash or apple-juice splashed floors to clean afterwards.

    But the best part is that it tastes like ground-up fresh apples, even after it’s canned.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Maria! I have a feeling that ‘baby steps’ work way better for almost everyone in almost every situation!

    Thanks for the applesauce tip! We can A LOT of applesauce (like 50 quarts) so our method actually doesn’t take us that long considering — but I’ll tuck your tips away for next year!

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  9. Liane

    01/20/2016

    Hi Andrea,
    I applaud your choices in moving to eating real food. And I so sympathize with you plight of driving all over to find things or settling for something else. We found that in our area there is only one brand of sour cream and cottage cheese that has a single ingredient – cream. My goal this year is to consume foods that only come the way God intended them to come. The sour cream, as an example. I’m not about to buy a cow and make my own, but I sure as heck don’t need to buy cream that had 20 different gums and fillers.

    In a similar vein, we eat very little baked goods that I don’t make myself and to date, have found only one brand of bread that has no high fructose corn syrup in it. I’m leery of GMO and pesticide residues so certain things I buy I will try to get organic. Take eggs for example. It is nearly impossible to find eggs that the chickens have not been fed GMO soy so I get organic eggs. I really don’t want to consume Monsanto genetically engineered food that has been created to be able to withstand Roundup. I would not dream of spraying my veggie garden with roundup and then eating the yield. But foods in grocery stores have been exposed to herbicides and have been bred to resist them.

    The way we, and it seems you, also balance this budget wise is we eliminated all the serious junk foods from our everyday eating. Rather than buying food in an overpriced preprocessed condition (think grated cheese with its attendant additives, antibiotics, anti clumping chemicals etc) I buy blocks of cheese and grate it myself. That’s what my mom and grandmother did. I never even saw pre shredded cheese with the exception of Kraft Parmesan until about 15 years ago. It costs more that way also.

    I think I went through the juicing fad phase when it first came out and then discovered that I was throwing out 80% of the food fiber as waste so I switched to making smoothies. I like Ninja blenders for that, and you can make all the great combinations of fruit and veggies and still get all the fiber which, last I checked, is the most valuable part of produce, which aids digestion, prevents certain cancers, and is filling. You can even add protein powder to smoothies also. I like kale, carrots, beet greens and berry combos myself. There’s a ton of great smoothie recipes out there but keep in mind the drink you create may be a very disturbing color and kids may shy away.

    [Reply]

    Deni Reply:

    Thank you for all of this helpful information 🙂

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Liane — and good point about the fiber with the juicer. My kids actually like smoothies more than juice anyway so maybe I should just do more with smoothies right now and keep the fiber in there 🙂

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    Trisha G Reply:

    I second the Ninja blenders or something like that for juicing. We bought a Jack Lalane juicer a few years ago and I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to make juice but changed my mind when I thought about having to clean it afterwards. We don’t have a dishwasher so I’m constantly washing everything by hand and unnecessarily adding 3-4 bulky, gummed-up pieces of equipment to the pile in the sink is not very appealing. 😉 Plus it didn’t take me long to realize that juicing berries is more of a waste than anything. There’s just not much to them unlike carrots or a big handful of kale. And it’s sad because I really love the juices! They are yummy and I feel so much better and have more energy when I drink them regularly. But that hasn’t been for quite a while now. Should’ve gone with the Ninja or Bullet or something!

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks for the tip on the Ninja blender

    [Reply]

  10. Katy

    01/20/2016

    Our family gets a 1/2 beef about every 9 months and while it is a large expense upfront, it saves us so much time and money in the long run! We also get a 1/2 hog every 6 months or so. I almost never buy meat at the store, and it really helps stretch our grocery budget. We live in a very rural area, so buying meat this way is very common here. I have made many of the changes you listed as well, such as using butter and full fat dairy and other less processed foods, and I think these small steps are so much more realistic than drastic changes.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    I’m excited to see how much better this beef tastes. If we like it, I’m guessing we might do more of this in the future (potentially with pork and chicken as well!)

    [Reply]

  11. Kaitlin @ The Mom on Purpose

    01/20/2016

    Thanks for sharing. We have changed our diet in a very similar way…small changes over long periods of time. I think back to what we ate when we first got married over 6 years ago and realize that we actually eat quite differently. We just haven’t noticed any major changes because they’ve all been small over time.

    Our healthy change for 2016 was to start making our own bread from scratch. I received a grain mill for Christmas and started milling my own wheat. While a lot of people have commented that it would be too time consuming, I’ve already got it down to a science. It takes all of 10 minutes to prepare a loaf of bread…thanks to my bread machine! 🙂

    I’ve thought about juicing before. I’m excited to hear about your experiences with it if you decided to make that change this summer. Our families seem to have similar diets and similar thoughts about food.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    Thanks Kaitlin! I actually used to make all my own bread… and then kids sort of ruined that for me. I just couldn’t do it anymore and it felt stressful. I’d like to eventually get back to doing that someday — but not quite yet!

    Also, I was JUST saying to Dave “remember when we were first married and we ate _________” about all sorts of things that we ate then and wouldn’t even think of buying from the store now. It’s fun to see the positive changes over time!

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  12. Emily

    01/20/2016

    I like your baby steps approach to making changes in your family’s diet. Food can so quickly become an obsession/idol (we had this experience years ago when my big girls needed certain foods removed, super overwhelming but learned so much, like not to be a food snob! ) We’ve since be able to eat “normal” again and I have not been careful. Trying to learn and implement better eating habits in our home.

    [Reply]

    Andrea Reply:

    yes! For me, baby steps is pretty much a requirement for any sort of change. I don’t like lots of change all at once!

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