My last article talked a bit about adapting what my family was already eating. Familiar foods, shifting to better ingredients. Similar to my take on mac & cheese, I really looked at what processed, packaged foods I was buying to decide what could go and where else I could start making better versions.
This is where I want to reiterate - take it a step at a time. Balance what you WANT to do with what you CAN do. The benefit here too is that when changes are made slowly, you're much more likely to be able to sustain them. Your family is less likely to freak out too! :)
I prepare the vast majority of our food/meals, and I always have visions of doing more. The reality, though, is that I don't want to spend my every waking (non-working) moment cooking; this is not my mother's or my grandmothers' eras. And for that I am glad because although we're pulled in more directions, which can be stressful and tiring, it means we have choices they didn't. And I very much value my choices. So everyday, we do the best we can, and we make new decisions.
Start with awareness. Read your ingredients listings. Take a look at what you stock in your cupboard. What stands out to you as a starting point?
I started with bread quite a few years ago. I remember my mom always baking bread when I was a kid, and here I had a breadmaker sitting in the cupboard, talk about a no-brainer! So out it came, and it's still holding up to this day (several bread-pan replacements and one recall later). I make bread, buns, breadsticks, bagels, and I even cheat and use it to knead my foccaccia dough. I control the ingredients, and there are no preservatives, dough conditioners, or other unhealthy and completely unnecessary additions. As food writer and activist Michael Pollan says, if your grandmother (or great-grandmother) wouldn't recognize the ingredients as food, don't eat it! And yes, you can make gluten-free bread in the breadmaker too.
The next staple I started to buy less frequently, then rarely, was boxed cereals. They're expensive, highly processed, and even the most basic of cereals have unneeded added sugar. Most cereals are simply poor quality carb (often GMO) and sugar bombs, loaded with preservatives, and plied with vitamins (that the body often can't absorb) in an attempt to make claims to suggest that they're "healthy" and "a good start to your day". What they really do is spike your blood sugar and set you up for a crash about mid-morning. Now, I have to admit, my decision to not buy cereal unleashed an uproar in my house. So I weaned them off gradually. I agreed to certain varieties, but only when they were on sale. Then bought them more and more infrequently. Some foods are just hard to let go of, and I'm not saying it has to be all or nothing - just choose consciously. I think a big hurdle is that we're used to variety, so when we cut out something like cereal, which has so many options in the store as to boggle the mind, we need to be able to offer some variety with the alternatives too.
So the question is, what might work for you and your family? And are you going to do a cold-turkey switch, or make changes gradually?