See, I can learn all of the proper cooking techniques a la Nourishing Traditions and find some amazingly healthy recipes at The Nourishing Gourmet (frugal ones, too!), but if I am using processed cheese, eggs from cramped hens who never see the light of day (let alone grass or insects!), bleached white flour and fake "butter" spread, I'm going to be working against my best efforts, to a large degree.
Healthy meals start with healthy ingredients
If you are new to a lot of this nutrition stuff, but really desire to learn to feed your family (and yourself!) better, my best recommendation to you is to initially keep cooking what you're already cooking, but begin to substitute quality ingredients for inferior ones.
Here's an example. Let's suppose that my kids just love my homemade version of mac and cheese, made complete with white flour pasta, margarine, conventional milk, velveeta cheese, and packaged bread crumbs.
Here's what I would do to make that meal instantly more nutritional, without changing much or any of what I'm already doing:
- substitute the white pasta with some whole grain sprouted pasta or brown rice noodles (my favorite brand is Tinkyada- it has a nice texture and doesn't get too mushy)
- use butter instead of margarine (organic or pastured is a huge plus)
- switch the milk to natural, raw milk (or if that's unavailable, then at least organic milk)
- use plain old cheese that I grate myself (white is better than orange, to avoid food coloring, and of course, organic or raw is excellent)
- stick a few slices of homemade or whole grain bread in the food processor for instant bread crumbs
The thing is, it's not that we all need to start cooking exotic and strange concoctions, full of bean curds and alfalfa and brewer's yeast.
Rather, what we need is to go back to more wholesome, standard ingredients instead of all this man-made, processed, chemically-altered, dyed, msg-enhanced, preservative-filled junk that is on the shelves of our friendly local grocery store!
If you were to look through my menu plans, you would see that I make a lot of the same things as everyone else. The difference? What I'm starting out with.
I make chili, lasagna, pizza, tacos, waffles and cookies just like the rest of you! What makes my food so nourishing is sometimes the techniques I use to prepare it, or slightly different recipes (adjusted to use healthier ingredients or more from scratch), but overall, it's just that my kitchen is stocked a bit differently.
If you were to open my fridge, you would find milk, eggs, bread, veggies, yogurt, even ketchup! However, if you look a little bit closer you would see that my milk is natural and raw, my eggs free run, my bread either homemade (soaked) or bought (sourdough or sprouted), my veggies as unsprayed and organic as I can get them (and maybe in greater abundance than in many fridges), my yogurt homemade (with organic milk I buy on clearance) and my ketchup just so happens to be organic and made with agave nectar (though homemade is what I usually use).
The wonderful thing is that because I start with the best ingredients possible, I am able to cook fairly freely and know that my family is still getting an excellent return on my investment of time, energy and money!
What if I'm just not there yet?
Do the kind of ingredients in my fridge sound a bit daunting, or feel out of reach from where you are currently at? If you are not ready to start buying organic or natural everything,
live in a small town with only one grocery store, or are working with an
extremely tight budget, here is one of the best things that I can
suggest you do.
Shop the perimeter of the grocery store!
Avoid all those nasty center aisles, full of cans and
bottles and boxes of who knows what, and instead just began to buy
those items around the outer edge of the stores- meat and fish, dairy,
vegetables and fruits, whole grain baked goods. Take a quick dip into
the aisles for some brown rice, coconut milk, baking powder and toilet
paper, and then sprint back out to the edges as though your life
depended on it!
Two things will happen. One, you will be getting far more nutritional
bang for your buck, as you spend your money on whole foods, instead of
devitalized ones. And secondly, I bet you will even begin to save
money, as you learn not to buy all those tempting foods that the
advertisers want you to think you've just got to have, and as your body
gets filled up on nutritionally dense food (instead of food that is
nutritionally void and leaves your body craving more calories in an
attempt to meet it's needs).
Beyond this, the next step is to improve the quality of what you are
buying even more- organic, pastured, free range, natural, unsprayed,
raw, wild, cultured, sprouted and sourdough. These are the foods that will put
the least burden (digestive, toxic, etc.) on your body, and
additionally will offer it the most nutrients by far. Superior foods
not only contain less of the bad stuff, but far more of the good stuff,
A change of pace
I am preparing to finish my Baby Steps series within the next couple of weeks, for a few reasons. One is that the posts can often by quite time consuming to prepare, and make it difficult for me to have the time to focus on other time-intensive posts during the week. Another is that I am in the midst of writing an ebook on Baby Steps, and if I keep going with this series for too much longer, I will start to run out of topics to cover in my book, and I'd like to keep the topic duplication as minimal as possible, to bring you a book full of fresh, new topics!
In lieu of that series, I thought that I would begin to write a series of posts on some of the more foundational topics in cooking nutritionally for a family- the ingredients, how to shop for them (regardless of the kind of stores you have available to you, or how big your budget is), adapting the recipes you already have and like, and more information on specific foods and food groups.
So my question to you is– What are your burning questions on these topics? What are the areas you struggle with the most and would love to see addressed in this series? What do you find the most difficult in improving your family's diet?
Part of Kitchen Tip Tuesday!