Sharing 10 Ways of Making Your Favorite Foods Healthier

When we first learned about Ry’s food allergies and intolerances about two years ago, I felt relieved. Although I was treated with great care, to stave off the overwhelming emotions that I should have been experiencing, I was just happy to know we finally we’re figuring something out. His eczema had been out of control for months, we knew he was allergic to dairy and eggs and cutting those out made no difference in his skin, so there was something else missing. Then we found out he had 7 food intolerances. After cutting these out of his diet, his skin cleared within just a few days. Unfortunately, this did not last long, but it was a major point in our allergic adventures. As a result of the foods we avoid for Ry, we have learned a lot. One of the biggest things we now have to do, all the time, is read ingredients. Even Ry, at 3-1/2, always asks “Mom, did you read the ingredients?”. We’ve also learned many other things on this journey. We try to follow the ten suggestions below to help us all eat healthier. I often joke that my kids are the healthiest little boys you’ll find- asking for more beets, teff pancakes, rice cakes, taro chips, etc. I’ve learned first-hand that kids will eat what you feed them, but it’s our choice to make them a meal or run through the drive through.

  1. Read the ingredients on your food labels. There are a lot of strange ingredients ending up in our food today, typically hard to pronounce and often derived from corn (modified food starch, dextrose, etc.) However, there are options and it’s important to compare products. I use to just look at prices, but have realized one product may contain MSG and another one does not. Chips are an excellent example. 
  2. Use alternative sweeteners (and I don’t mean ‘fake’ ones). While eating equal or sweet-n-low may make you feel well psychologically because they are sugar-free, they are not good for you, just as white, refined sugar is not a healthy choice. High fructose corn syrup is also a big one to avoid. However, there are a variety of alternative sweeteners, such as Stevia, Agave (which is controversial), Honey, Palm sugar or Turbinado sugar, among others.
  3. Reduce your salt intake. I love salt and I know I need to eat less of it, but it’s hard. Opting for sea salt (we like Redmond’s Real Salt) is a better choice and there are also salt alternatives on the market, such as kelp granules. I have to often remind myself that my food will still taste good if I just use less!
  4. Eat good fats. It’s easy to get caught up in the idea of eating no fat or buying fat-free products; however, this is not necessarily the healthiest choice. Our bodies need good, healthy fats. To achieve this, using alternatives fats, such as organic palm shortening, olive oil or coconut oil is beneficial and necessary.
  5. Make your own food. It’s easy to eat out, a lot. Although it isn’t necessarily quicker, it feels quicker- no thinking of what to make, actually making the food or cleaning up the mess. However, when you make your own meal, you know what’s going in it. Plus, it cost less and you can make enough for leftovers for lunch the next day.
  6. Go for organic whenever you can, especially meat. It can be expensive to buy only organic foods, but when you can afford it, it’s a healthier choice. Meat, especially, can be laden with antibiotics and hormones. Organic; however, is free of these dangerous additives. Thinner skinned fruit and vegetables are also more easily penetrated by the pesticides used on them, so if you can’t buy all your produce organic, think about buying your peaches or strawberries organic.
  7. Snack on fresh fruits and veggies. Peel and slice up carrot sticks, cucumber, bell peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, apples, oranges, bananas, etc. and stock up sandwich sized ziploc baggies to pack around for snacks. If the veggies are too hard for the boys to eat on their own, I’ll steam them up just long enough to soften, so they can still enjoy them wherever we are at.
  8. Join a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). I love our CSA. Each week, we receive a multitude of fresh, organic produce that inspires dinners and desserts for the week. Not only are you enjoying organic produce, you are also supporting local farmers.
  9. Avoid genetically modified (GMO) foods. GMO foods are scary- soy and corn are two of the biggest. Right now, the FDA is in the process of approving GMO salmon. The idea of it makes me cringe, especially living in Alaska where wild salmon is so important to our economy and health. At this point, we have no idea what impact GMO foods will have on us, but I’m sure it won’t be a positive one.
  10. Make a weekly meal menu. Sitting down on the weekend, writing down a meal menu for the week, makes dinner planning and grocery shopping much more pleasant. Plus, you go to the store buying exactly what you need. Someone can pull out whatever meat or seafood you need for dinner that evening and best of all, you are prepared. I’ve fallen off the meal planning bandwagon, but I need to jump back on. When I do this, I feel much more organized, efficient and I actually make dinner quite a few times a week (I’m not a big cook, but I like to bake...either way I love to eat!)
There are many different ways we can help our families and ourselves eat healthier. Some aspects of this process are hard, as we learn about the different options out there. For my family, we had to learn about many of this because of Ry’s allergies and intolerances. Although it can be overwhelming when you jump feet first into reading ingredients and avoiding a long list of foods, if it’s for your well-being, it’s not as challenging. The most important thing to remember is to not try and do everything at once. 
Pick a couple ideas and add them in each week. For example, decide to join a CSA and make veggies or fruit snack bags. This way you receive your produce each week and don’t have to think about going to the grocery store, and searching out their organic produce section (although you may want to at some point). It seems that eating healthy is becoming more mainstream, especially now that the problem of childhood obesity is being addressed. Regardless of which steps you decide to take, as long as you’re moving forward in a healthy direction, then you are on the right path. 

Disclaimer: I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and WeightWatchers SmartOnes blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.