Friday, March 25, 2011

You Are What You Eat...Really.

Raw food snack.
More raw foods.

Dinner one night---yum!

More healthy snacks.

Miss E enjoying her nachos.

I'm often asked nutritional questions. Not because I have any letters behind my name or because of a degree in anything medically related (I have an MA in Teaching of Writing). I'm asked because I am always learning about nutrition. Always. To the point of yes, driving myself crazy sometimes.

My love of nutrition started with my type I diabetes diagnosis five years ago (yesterday). All the sudden, I was told to count EVERY carbohydrate I put into my mouth in order to calculate my insulin dosages. Mind you, I HATE math. HATE it. Unless I'm calculating a percentage off of an item at the mall. Then math is my friend. But division, addition, subtraction, multiplication, square roots, anything algebra related, calculus---oh my! My anxiety issues (with panic attacks) started and ended with math classes. Yep, it's that bad.

But then when I was told I had a forever and ever and ever disease, one that THRIVED and depended on, gulp, math, I had to get over my anxiety and insecurity and start learning and conquering.

And that's when it started.

I've had a rocky relationship with food. Diabetes does that to the best of us. I used to consume loads of fake sugars (yet wasn't satisfied...) and carbs galore (as long as I cover it with proper insulin, that's ok right?). But the more I learned, the more I changed...for the better.

Becoming a mother made me even more aware of the importance of eating a healthy diet. I didn't want to fill my children with poisons because the foods featured cartoon-character packaging, claims like "made with whole grains" or "low fat" that attempt to cover up unhealthy truths, colorful foods (unnaturally colorful---think Fruit Loops and Pop Tarts), or because I was "supposed" to feed them certain foods like a "Happy" Meal (what is so happy about that, really...) or Lunchables.

Here's the eating guidelines I tend to follow. And when I say "guidelines," let's just say I DO NOT believe in diets. Ever. Any "diet" will not work long term. Period. What I am listing here is how I live, decisions made out of years of research and trial and error, and my family follows the same guidelines:

  • Vegetarian. Why? For one, I've never liked meat. For another, organic meat is really expensive, and traditional meat is full of unhealthy chemicals, hormones, preservatives, and fats. Eating vegetarian, I believe, is healthy (if there's a balanced diet) and saves families a lot of money. There is such a thing as being a flexitarian (like my husband) who eats meat sometimes but also dabbles in vegetarianism. The Food Pyramid puts a lot of emphasis on meat...because guess what? The government deals heavily with

  • Organic (as much as possible). Why? Peace of mind. Though organic doesn't equal healthy (there are organic pre-packaged cookies and chips), choosing organic produce, dairy products, condiments, etc. provides a person with a basic promise---what can and cannot be in those products IF those products are labeled organic by the USDA.

  • Minimal. The fewer ingredients listed on a package, the better. And if you can't understand what a particular ingredient is, it's probably because it's not something you should be consuming. And if you eat a lot of produce, good! That means there is probably no nutritional label to read and decipher.

  • Raw. We are currently working to add more raw foods to our diet. The thought is that important enzymes in foods are destroyed and/or reduced when foods are heated above 118 degrees. Raw foods are so healthy---nuts, nut butters, seeds, fruits, veggies, etc.!

  • Homemade. I try to make as many of our family's foods as possible. Does that mean I'm making my own special pasta sauce on a weekly basis? No. I don't have THAT much time. :) But I don't get our dinners out of boxes or from a fast food chain. I carefully plan out weekly menus, shop accordingly, and enjoy good, real food. We bake our own desserts. Homemade isn't just for nutritional benefit---it also brings the family together in the kitchen.

  • Real. Real foods. Why? Because the more the food has been manipulated, the more fake stuff in it, the unhealthier it is for you. I have diabetes, and fake sugars are heavily marketed to people in my community, but I don't use them. Fake sugars have been proven to make people, over time, GAIN, not lose, weight.

  • Balanced. I strive (though don't keep track of) to feed my family a balanced diet. This means protein (eggs, nuts, beans, cheese), produce (fresh and frozen are best), healthy grains (love my Trader Joe's Seeded Bread Rolls), and desserts. Yes, desserts. Variety is the spice of life, and dessert is the "icing on the cake." We do, occasionally, eat out--and yep, that includes some French fries and stuffed-crust pizza. ;)

What You Can Do As a Parent:

  • Learn to read a nutrition label and ingredients lists. This is crucial! This process takes time. You have to learn the different names for ingredients. For example, in the future, high fructose corn syrup will be labeled as "corn sugar." So while an uneducated consumer scans a label for HFCS, the ingredient can still be in the food, just under another name. MSG, a controversial additive, can be labeled under many terms.

  • Learn the benefits of eating organic foods. Eating all organic is expensive, but you can start by learning about the "Clean 15" and the "Dirty Dozen." I carry a copy of the list in my wallet to reference when I'm grocery shopping.

  • Be careful whom/what you trust. I can emphasize enough that there is no magic diet to follow. If someone claims to have THE answer, run. Quickly. A good expert will offer researched advice but be honest enough to say that there are possibilities and opportunities elsewhere. And never follow a diet that tells you to eliminate entire food groups or requires detox or starvation. PUL-EEZE!

  • Learn nutritional basics. A person's body needs a balance of proteins, healthy fats, and carbs. A registered dietitian is a wonderful resource if your insurance covers his/her services.

  • Be an example! You can't tell your child to "eat your veggies" while you gnaw on a a KFC chicken breast. Well, you can, but it's not very effective.

  • Get rid of the crap. Cleaning out your pantry, fridge, etc. will empower you. Replace the stuff you no longer want in your house with the foods you do. A powerful tip I often read is to place healthy foods in sight---fruits on the counter, veggies in the front of the fridge, etc.

  • Consider reducing meat consumption by experimenting with vegetarian recipes.

  • Utilize the Internet, the library (book and DVD loans), and/or a magazine subscription swaps to save money while making changes.


  • Make small, steady changes. You can do it! You are beautiful and worthy of healthy eating. And your family deserves the very best!


  1. Great post! Nachos look yummy but my lil one wont eat chesse :(

  2. Saw the recent "Essence" article on you and your family--Excelsior!


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