I have always cared about eating well and taking care of my body. I remember when when I was seven or eight asking my dad to explain the nutrtion labels to me, and then being fascinated by looking at them on all different foods.

Some times I care more about it than I do at other times.  Sometimes I eat really well and sometimes I eat five granola bars in day and call it good. So, you know, there’s my life.

I look back at what we were eating three or four years ago, and we’ve definitely made big progress. We eat less processed food, more fruits and vegetables, fewer calories, and an overall better balance. We’ve switched to whole wheat pasta and natural peanut butter and whole grain bread. Our fast food consumption has dropped to nearly nothing. We don’t drink soda and we eat a fairly small number of desserts.

But I still wonder where we can improve and what things make a difference and what things I could just let slide?

Is it better to eat a higher calorie yogurt than a yogurt that has food dyes in it? Is it okay to microwave plastic? Is rice syrup any more nutritious than corn syrup? At what point does the higher cost of natural foods outweigh the benefits? Should I be making my own yogurt? My own jam? Less meat?

What do you think? What makes a big difference and what doesn’t matter all that much?

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  • Reply fluentbrittish March 19, 2010 at 2:00 pm

    I always wonder the same things. What's REALLY the best way to eat? We have so much contradicting information thrown in our faces all the time. Every nutritionist says something different. Every study says something different. I always fall back on the word of wisdom and trust that if it needs to be added upon, the brethren will take care of that. I keep seeing/hearing people talk about food the way "God intended" ("God created food the way he intended us to eat it." Well, guess what! God didn't create the earth with the internet on it, so if we need to eat the way "God intended" we need to play the way "God intended" too).

    I could go off about this for a really long time, but I won't. My point is that – even in nutrition – we are being deceived from many angles, so I always just fall back on the word of God.

  • Reply fluentbrittish March 19, 2010 at 2:04 pm

    One more thing: I think anything that helps you to become more self-reliant is a good idea. Grow a garden. Can some food. Make some jam.

  • Reply Jenny March 19, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    I struggle with balancing the healthy option with the cost. Sometimes I go healthy, sometimes I favor my wallet. Most of the time I go with what I know tastes good, because ultimately, that's important to me. I'm a gardner, and this year I'm also joining a CSA so I can have great local organic produce options. I'm not a big fan of meat. period. (but I'm not ready to jump ship)

  • Reply Lady Susan March 19, 2010 at 2:15 pm

    I would have to agree with fluentbrittish in that anything that makes you more self reliant is a step in a good direction (homemade jam is so much better!)

    Also, I really think that the less processed it is, the better it is going to be for you. So, yeah, that higher calorie dairy product that has less additives, etc might just be better for you in the long run than the "fat free" version with all the weird additives.

    And actually, what it comes down to is what tastes better? The stuff I make from scratch tastes better than the stuff I buy from the store. The vegetables from my garden or from the farmers market tastes better than the sad versions I can find at the store. If I didn't enjoy the taste, I probably wouldn't eat it. In regards to cost benefit–I am willing to pay more for something if I truly think it tastes better.

  • Reply Operation Pink Herring March 19, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    I try to avoid chemicals when I can, so I'll pick the higher calorie yogurt over the one with aspartame and things like that. The other one I am big on is organic veggies, half for health reasons and half for environmental. If I can't get to Whole Foods and I buy non-organic lettuce at Safeway (their organic options suck), no big deal. But when I can, I go for organic, especially with root veggies (not sure if it's 100% true, but I heard that because they're roots they absorb more pesticides, which makes sense).

    Meat is a whole other story. I vowed over the summer to only ever buy from farmers markets so I could get grass-fed, humanely treated meat only… and then the farmers markets closed for the winter, our freezer supply ran out, and I went crawling back to the Sam's Club meat department. Sigh.

  • Reply Sherry March 19, 2010 at 2:28 pm

    I am beyond happy that you two are now whole-wheat pasta people. Oh, so happy!

  • Reply MBC March 19, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I don't know that it's sooo much better for you, but making your own yogurt can save you a ton of money. My husband is absolutely evangelical about homemade yogurt. He has special Swedish yogurt he makes for himself and he makes me Greek-style every few days. It takes about 2 minutes of actual effort to make and costs a fraction of the price.

  • Reply megan March 19, 2010 at 2:59 pm

    some things I really don't want to know about…like what eating a hostess donette will do to me. (there's almost nothing but processed ingredients listed). But I sometimes shy away from that sort of thing. I never microwave anything in plastic or plastic wrap though. because I know it isn't worth the risk. I can just cover the spaghetti sauce or whatever with a paper towel and not worry about it.
    so when I die at an unreasonable age from cancer, blame it on the processed foods, but not from the microwaved plastics.
    p.s. why did you turn on the word verification again? just curious

  • Reply Life of a Doctor's Wife March 19, 2010 at 3:42 pm

    I have the same inner dilemmas when I'm choosing foods. Cost vs. health is something that's a major issue around our house.

    It's especially difficult/confusing when you're trying to lose weight, because so many low-calorie/low fat foods are really chemical-y and over-processed. And so many good-for-you foods (almonds, salmon etc) are high in fat and therefore don't make the "diet foods" list.

  • Reply Jessica March 19, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I just had a similarly riveting discussion with Lance last night:

    Me: "Do you think it's better to drink Soy Milk, because it has less sugar than Rice Milk, even though the Soy Milk is ADDED sugar?"

    Lance: "Um… you're confusing. And you drink like, two drops of milk a day with your cereal"

  • Reply Braden March 19, 2010 at 5:16 pm

    The Gospel of Food asserts that eating foods you enjoy is important not only for your happiness but for your nutrition. Try the first few pages on Amazon.

  • Reply Kayla March 19, 2010 at 5:49 pm

    I eat virtually no read meat. When I do it's because my body is craving it which makes me feel like I probably need the iron or something. I do purchase all my meat from a local meat market that is all grass fed animals and they don't wrap their meat in plastic. It's a little thing that dramatically changes the way my meat tastes and actually saves money.

  • Reply Lonica March 19, 2010 at 8:28 pm

    Homemade is the way to go. After having homemade Applesauce, there's no way to go back to Motts. I will forever want homemade yogurt. Homemade is almost always best… For me its all about good, natural ingredients, cooked simply. P.S. Don't think whole wheat pasta is worth anything… much prefer the original–I'll be healthy some other way!

  • Reply Bean March 19, 2010 at 9:05 pm

    I think it's always best to weigh the importance of each thing…if it breaks the bank, should you really be eating that way? That can go either with organic food OR with eating at a restaurant. But I also know we only get one life and we should enjoy the small things so if that means an incredibly decadent dessert, then so be it. I do think, though, that organic fruits and veggies is a good idea because of all the pesticides on regular ones. If you don't believe me (or anyone else) buy a regular potato and an organic one. Leave them in a dark place for a week. See what happens. Potatoes are a root. They are SUPPOSED to grow, even after cut. The organic one will have sprouts all over it. The other, not at all. That CANNOT be healthy. Wow, sorry for the rant!

  • Reply Saskia Tielens March 20, 2010 at 12:01 am

    One thing I try to do is eat less meat. My nutrionist told me four to five times a week was fine for women, so I try to keep it at 4 meals a week. And even then, it's usually an accessory, not the main dish. I'll do a little fish on the other days, but usually I just make something without meat. And I don't even miss it, to tell you the truth..

    This is important to me because it's not only healthier, it's also better for the planet, and for the animals that God created along with us.

  • Reply Lenore March 20, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I can't even remember the last time I ate fast food. And I have the occasional Fresca when I am in the states, but usually, I only drink water or herbal tea.

  • Reply Carole March 21, 2010 at 2:15 am

    I wish brown rice didn't taste like cooked dirt.

  • Reply Amy Sorensen March 21, 2010 at 3:30 am

    Right now I am focusing on eliminating trans fats from our diet. If the ingredients list has hydrogenated anything, I don't buy it. It is changing some things about how we eat, but nothing I can't find healthier substitutes for.

    That said…I think it is something that, ultimately, you have to work out individually. I listened to a little segment on the news yesterday with this guy discussing how ALL fructose is bad for you, even the kind in fruit, and you know…I'm not buying his idea. To me, on many things it is about balance. TOO much sugar of course is bad, but a little bit, and especially of the fruit variety. Moderation in all things.

    But: I really am passionate about the trans fat. And about nutrasweet. Regular, full-sugar soda is a HEALTHY FOOD compared to diet soda!!! 😉

    PS: the only good jam is homemade jam. Jam is also the ONLY thing I get all domestic-goddessy with.

  • Reply Brit March 21, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Something I have heard a great deal about from vegan friends (vegetarians flock together) about their city food co-ops. I didn't know what that was at first so in case you're in the same boat, a food co-op is where lots of different food providers (mostly farmers) in the area bring their produce, bread, and meat to be sold monthly by the bin. The bin you buy is SEVERELY discounted and normally contains (depending on which level of bin you choose) organic or fresh fruits, veggies, meat, grains, and some canned food. An AWESOME alternative to cut costs on healthy foods. 🙂

  • Reply Miri March 21, 2010 at 10:37 pm

    You've probably seen the latest post on my blog, about Animal, Vegetable, Mineral, by Barbara Kingsolver, and it might be interesting for you to check out if you haven't.

    I'm discovering lately that, to me anyway, the benefits of natural food will nearly always far outweigh the costs. There are some things for which you just have to pay more to get quality, and it turns out food is one of them (because quality food costs more to grow). Do you have a local farmers' market? What I've found out is that naturally-grown produce has much better nutrition and flavor than the industrially-grown things we find at the grocery store, which often have pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, and other things that really aren't meant to be eaten. In fact, the varieties of vegetables that are grown on corporate farms are nutritionally deficient because they've been bred to withstand travel better, at the expense of quality.

    I think the answer to your question also depends on whether environmental factors are an issue for you–food that you buy at the grocery store usually comes from somewhere else, and that involves fossil fuels for transportation that could be avoided if the food was purchased locally instead. (If you can't tell, this is a subject that I'm currently very interested in.) I obviously don't know everything about it, but it's all something to consider and maybe research when you're looking at pros and cons. Check out Barbara's book if you're interested, it's incredibly informative.

    And can I just say, I have always admired the way you and Bart approach food! You two are good. 🙂

  • Reply Rachel March 22, 2010 at 1:32 am


  • Reply Rachel March 22, 2010 at 1:36 am

    Carol, I agree. Brown rice is a tough one. Try soaking your brown rice all day, stirring occasionally and see if it helps. I have enjoyed it much better that way. It still is better when eaten with sauces and such, but I am starting to prefer it over white rice – which is crazy!

  • Reply Chelsea March 22, 2010 at 7:50 am

    I've wondered a lot of the same things. For me it comes down to cost, effort, and health. Unfortunately, in our life right now cost does come into the decisions. Sometimes we can't afford the most healthy option. Sometimes I don't want to spend my entire day making from scratch what I could buy for a lot less money. Ultimately I think moderation is the best policy.

  • Reply Emily C March 23, 2010 at 3:27 am

    We've gone entirely meat-free at home (except I still eat lunchmeat sometimes, as I am pregnant and I WANT TO DANG IT!) and it's made my husband and I less aggressive and less moody.

    Not that we were irrational before, but we've noticed a difference.

    I don't believe full-fat hurts anybody who eats lots of fruits and vegetables.

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