Last year, I tried an experiment I called the Food Stamp Challenge. Feeding my family on $2 per person, per day. Could it be done? Would we be forced to eat ramen noodles every meal?
If you remember, I came in under budget and there were plenty of fresh fruits and veggies on the menu.
This year, I have a different perspective on food. I’ve been doing some reading (The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Nourishing Traditions, The Unhealthy Truth, Why Your Child is Hyperactive, Eating Well for Optimum Health) and some watching (Food, Inc., Supersize Me). I’ve decided to make changes in our diet, for health reasons and also for social justice reasons.
I believe Monsanto’s business practices are unethical and immoral. The CAFOs – confined animal feeding operations – seem to be almost as bad for the workers as they are for the animals.
Low levels of antibiotics are causing superbugs. My purchase of these industrial companies’s products contribute to that, in however small a way.
Every week, it seems, there is another recall – ground beef, spinach, peanuts, hazelnuts, ground beef again. I was shocked to find out that the USDA cannot shut down a meat factory if e. coli is found. They don’t have the authority. I don’t trust the FDA (and their latest shenanigan, calling Big Pharma drugs preventative medicine, doesn’t make me believe they have the average American’s best interest at heart.)
But, I live in the real world. We have a budget. I can’t get grass fed beef right now (it’s almost $20 a pound at the store, and the farmers don’t take food stamps.) I can’t raise my own chickens, making sure they are pastured. I don’t think I can avoid GMO soy and corn, not 100%.
And so I invite you to learn with me, and join me as I take baby steps towards a real food diet. I’ll be following a Nourishing Traditions type meal plan, but I’m still learning. I’ll make mistakes, and I’ll make the diet my own.
I will have to compromise, so I am prioritizing my food principles.
With that in mind, here is MY Real Food Manifesto.
Priority 1: MSG Free, Dye Free, avoid certain chemicals
We will continue eating foods with no monosodium glutamate (MSG), artificial sweeteners, BHA/BHT/TBHQ, or artificial colors.
This not only eliminates many artificial harmful chemicals, but it is a critical component of our therapeutic diet for Mr. R.
Priority 2: Hormone Free dairy and meat
We will consume meat and dairy from animals that are raised without artificial growth hormones.
Priority 3: Antibiotic free meat and normal feed
We will buy meat and dairy from animals that are raised without antibiotics. We will endeavor to buy food animals that eat their traditional diet (i.e., grass fed ruminants), but if we can’t do that, we will place our next priority on food animals who are fed non-GMO feed. Pastured chickens therefore have a higher priority than organic chickens raised in a giant shed.
This includes farm raised seafood. Fish were not created to eat corn and antibiotics.
Priority 4: Avoiding Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)
We will try to reduce or eliminate our exposure to GMO crops, including vegetable oil (which is almost always GMO soybean oil) and the many different corn products. This is a general guideline, and I know we won’t be able to be 100% compliant. Corn and soy are simply in too many products.
We will make a special effort to avoid high fructose corn syrup. (HFCS)
Priority 5: Organic fruits and vegetables
Especially root vegetables, which store nutrients and chemicals from the soil. I know I won’t be buying everything organic, but I will make a special effort to avoid the “dirty dozen“, buying organic versions of the most pesticide laden crops.
These include: peaches, apples, bell peppers, celery, spinach, nectarines, strawberries, cherries, kale, lettuce, carrots, pears, and imported grapes.
Priority 6: Seasonal, local fruits and vegetables
Eating in season is better for the pocket book, and food tastes better if it’s eaten when it is supposed to be harvested. Eating local increases accountability and reduces impact on the environment, while supporting local food producers.
Priority 7: Probiotics
We’ve been giving Mr R acidophilus for years. I will try to make cultured and fermented foods a larger part of our diets. These are traditional, real foods that use beneficial bacteria to preserve and enhance nutrition. Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles… the list is endless!
I think creating a hierarchy of priorities will help me navigate the supermarket.
What is real food? I define it as food made with recognizable ingredients. Stuff you could make at home, not created in a lab.
Food that is recognizable as food, minimally processed; food that looks like food. This means no dinosaur shaped chicken nuggets, no day-glo yogurt, no oatmeal with melting dinosaur eggs to color it.
Food that doesn’t have artificial preservatives, fake colors, MSG, artificial fat substitutes, or artificial sweeteners.
Food that our grandmothers and great grandmothers and great-great grandmothers would have eaten. This means that the most important thing is not calorie count, but rather the primary goal is nourish growing bodies with foods people have eaten for generations. Real butter, real stock made from bones, real bacon instead of soy-based bacon bits.
If we want whipped cream we’ll use real sugar and real cream, and skip the stuff made with corn byproducts and artificial sweeteners. If we have spaghetti for dinner, we’ll eat sauce made with meat, onions, garlic, and tomatoes and skip the sauce that comes loaded with soybean oil and high fructose corn syrup.
What about you? What’s your food manifesto?