I sat across the table from an accomplished neurologist last week as he went on and on about the importance of diet and exercise for optimum health. He quoted various case studies with amazing results and then warned us that these studies go largely ignored because we live in a world of treatment, not prevention.
When I asked, “What can we do?” his answer was simple. Eat better and exercise. There was a bit more, but the most important piece was this; we can work toward preventing major disease for ourselves and our kids just by changing our diets.
I know, hearing about healthy food choices can get annoying at worst and overwhelming at best. It seems like it’s everywhere and with all the other things we’re responsible for as parents, all we want is to eat our Cheetos in peace. I get it. I love Cheetos. Is there anything better while playing a game of Foxy Bingo or relaxing with movie? I sometimes think McDonald’s french fries were sent here directly from heaven. My kids still eat their fair share of chicken nuggets and goldfish. Mostly, being broke is still very fresh in my mind so I hate spending money on one thing when I can find another one cheaper.
And yet, I am here to tell you even my junk-food loving, cheap skate self has made some life changes based on what I’m seeing and hearing about diet and long-term health. If I can do it, so can you. The trick is starting slow and keeping it simple. What I did was begin by simply paying more attention.
When I give my family health history at the doctor, it’s laughable. Two parents, dead from cancer and siblings with everything from auto-immune diseases to high blood pressure and tumours. I usually joke and say, “but my husband’s grandmother lived to 103 so I’m hoping my kids get his blood.”
It’s funny, but true. When I peed on that first stick all those years ago, I was instantly more aware of my genes. After a brief period of doom where I felt like I was killing my future offspring, I became committed to doing everything I could to make sure I didn’t make matters worse by neglecting what was within my control. Now, I know I can’t single-handedly fight cancer or Alzheimer’s, but I can instill habits that will go a long way toward prevention for all of us.
Here’s the problem with it. It’s not easy. Like anything, once the changes are made it becomes more routine thus more simple, but starting out can be overwhelming and hard. Hard enough to stop you in your tracks.
So, for today, I’m not talking about cleaning out the pantry and buying all organic. Where I started was simply making sure I recognized the ingredients in what I was eating. I figured, if I can’t even say the names of ingredients, how can I be sure they’re not bad for us?
Try this for a week: look at every food label in your house and as you reach for it in the grocery aisle. Then ask yourself some questions. If there are more than five ingredients, how many of them can you identify? Try to google** a few ingredients and see what you come up with. Are there unnecessary dyes or added sugars? (Why do fruit smoothies need added sugar?) Would the thing taste the same without these mystery additives? And here’s the kicker; can you substitute something fresh for this item or even make this same thing at home?
Awareness is the first step. That’s where I started. You should too.
**I am NOT advocating believing all the stuff you read on the internet about food. Researching healthy eating can lead to all kinds of crazy. Make sure you are reading information from trusted sources, or at least someone more critical than “Bob’s Website on Good Eats” or “They’re out to get us.com” and other such ventures.
This is an original post for Jersey Moms. Cristie, a New Jersey mom, can be found at The Traveling Circus and The Right Hand Mom where she regularly shares new food adventures as well as recipes and ideas. Cristie understands busy so all tips are shared with over-worked parents in mind.