Why Eat Healthy?

Why Eat Healthy? - Reasons and resources to help you eat healthier food and enjoy good eats.

Build a Salad Bar

When I first started writing here at Good Cheap Eats, we had been out of debt for just a few months. We’d paid off $18,000 in about 18 months time. We sold what we could sell, took on extra jobs, and reduced our expenses as much as possible. You can read our get-out-of-debt-story if you missed it.

One of the ways that I reduced our expenses at that time was through couponing. I clipped coupons like a maniac. A maniac. By pairing coupons with sales and special deals at my local grocery stores, I was able to feed my family of 8 (6 kids under 12) for about $100 a week. This took a ton of time and energy, all with a nursing baby in tow!

Like I said, maniac.

It was during that season that I also relaxed a lot of my standards for healthy eating. My kids ate more sugary (but FREE!) boxed cereal during that time than I have had in my entire life. But, hey! it was free!

At first it was really hard to buy so many boxed mixes and frozen entrees, but I hated debt more than I hated processed foods. I told myself that that type of fare was a means to an end; that once we got out of debt I would work to improve our diet.

It didn’t happen overnight. But, slowly, over time, I’ve reduced the amount of processed foods that go into my shopping cart. I’ve by no means made all the changes I want to make, but we’re making baby steps toward better, healthier eating.

Why Eat Healthy? - Reasons and resources to help you eat healthier food and enjoy good eats.

The Go-To Salad

In the early days of this blog, the good in Good Cheap Eats signified simply tasty. But, over time, I’ve wanted the word to have a double meaning: good tasting and good for you. Not to mention easy on the wallet.

Here’s my rationale for improving your diet:

1. You’ve only got one body.

Last time I checked, you do better to take care of the one body you have and will ever get. Sure, there are medicines and surgeries to fix problems, but preventive medicine is cheaper and less painful.

No, you are not invincible. Some people can smoke a pack a day and eat a pound of bacon at every meal and live to be 100, fit as a fiddle. But, you have NO idea if you’re one of them. So, hedge your bets, and take care of you.

2. It tastes good!

Healthy food typically does not taste bad. The main thing that convenient, processed foods have going for them is that they are quick and you can be lazy. But, taking time to prepare healthy food is totally worth it. There is much more flavor in a crisp organic apple than some pre-packaged Frankenfood.

Yes, organic apples often do really taste better than the conventional grocery store variety. My kids and husband have never exclaimed over the great taste of grocery store produce. But the stuff that comes from our box from Abundant Harvest Organics gets rave reviews and sighs of joy. Healthier really can taste better.

3. You’ll feel better.

I’ve made enough changes in our family’s diet that my people have detoxed a bit. Except for the occasional msg-laden treat from Grampa, they are eating mostly homemade foods.

Yesterday several kids told me how much better they feel about the foods we eat. My teenage son said that the Cheetos a friend shared with him made him feel sick within ten minutes. Could be a figment of our imaginations, but I don’t think so.

Why Eat Healthy? - Reasons and resources to help you eat healthier food and enjoy good eats.

Plum Popsicles

So what’s healthy?

Ah, the moving target. Healthy has been defined in lots of different ways over my past 41 years. You need to do some research and come to your own conclusions. The more I read, the more I’m leaning toward a whole foods, natural diet, low on the sugar, full on the flavor, and focused on what God made.

Here are some of the resources that have helped me come to some conclusions about what I want to feed my family:

  • In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan – An amazingly good treatise on what the power of marketing and legislation can do to our food supply and our eating habits, not necessarily for the better. His motto: Eat real food, mostly plants, not too much. I can’t argue with that.
  • The Unhealthy Truth by Robyn O’Brien – Another expose of sorts on more of the same, told from a mom’s perspective. She and I are contemporaries, moms of many, and parenting a child with a serious food allergy. I didn’t know about our food allergy when I read the book, but it was super enlightening. Check out her TED talk here.
  • The Kitchen Counter Cooking School by Kathleen Flinn – A fabulous memoir/cooking guide on how to cook almost everything at home and why it’s important to take charge of your kitchen.
  • French Kids Eat Everything by Karen Le Billon - This book convicted me about what a wimp I was being around my kids and their pickiness about food. We’ve made some big improvements, but still have some room to grow.
  • French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano - I know, this is a horrible title, but the book is chock full of common sense and savoir faire. I love her no-nonsense, yet balanced approach to enjoying great food.
  • Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss – I’m currently reading this and am dumbfounded by the research he shows on how scientists have changed our food. Mind-blown, especially by the Tang story. It feels like my entire childhood was a lie. And culinarily, it was. It’s the perfect impetus to get my rear in gear and start cooking more at home.

My personal conclusions?

Why Eat Healthy? - Reasons and resources to help you eat healthier food and enjoy good eats.I want to feed my family real food whenever time and resources allow. This takes some planning like freezer cooking and time-saving kitchen tricks. It also involves having the family on board. I share books and articles with my husband and teenage sons. My younger boys watched that TED talk referenced above and “get me” a little bit more now.

Here are some of my/our current food goals:

I’m actually writing a series over on Life as MOM about how to improve your family’s diet. It’s full of kid- and husband-friendly ways of adding healthy tweaks to your family table.

What are YOUR goals for eating healthier?

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Comments

  1. Hi Jessica, I am actively working on turning our diet around. Thankfully my daughter and I both love to eat healthy foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains. One of my bigger issues is how to provide my daughter a healthy snack for school that doesn’t have to be kept cold. She “has to” have a snack every day. I can provide 50 cents for her to buy ice cream or I can send a snack from home. I have tried sending fruit like apples, clementines or bananas but they end up bruised and inedible (in my picky daughter’s eyes) by snack time. I end up giving her goldfish crackers, pretzels or store-bought granola bars. I should mention I am a full-time working, single mom so as much as I prefer to make things from scratch it just isn’t always possible to keep up with. Any ideas on healthy snacks for kids away from home during the day?

    • My kids really like applesauce for snack. If you can’t do homemade, the little pouches from gogosqueez are really nice. No spoon required.

      • That’s a great idea! I forgot about those :) Thank you!

        • Also, squeeze yogurt that you freeze will probably be thawed enough by snack time while still being safe. I know some schools/teachers don’t like having to cut them open for kids, though. When I was still teaching, I showed my 2nd graders where the scissors were and they would do it themselves.

          Unless you can get a good deal on the healthier kind (still have a lot of sugar I think), you can make a bunch in snack size baggies, fold them over, tape them, and freeze them. I know you said you’re a single mom so that might be too time consuming. Good luck!

    • We have two girls and the same snack packing issues. In addition to the squeezable applesauce I send in dried fruit (raisins and apricots are favorites). While nuts are not allowed, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds are good options. My youngest also likes carrots slices which hold up well.

    • My 8 year old daughter loves healthy muffins. So, I will make some with oatmeal, applesauce, dried fruits, pumpkin- whatever combination I can come up with….and freeze several at a time. Then, I can easily pull one out for snack…or for her lunchbox. She also likes hummus and celery or cucumber slices as a snack.

  2. I am also currently reading Salt, Sugar, Fat by Michael Moss (truthfully, listening to the audio version). I started cleaning up the way we eat a few years ago, but it is a slow process. After getting not quite halfway through this book, I’m ready to fast track the process to completion! My kids are 15 & 11 and the guilt that has come from discovering, via this book, how BAD things were that I let them eat or gave them to eat because I thought it was SO much better than the alternative(s). Capri Sun vs. soda… I thought I was SO commendable for not letting my kids have soda, when it seems that would’ve been the better choice. Ugh! I hope that we both find success in the process of cleaning up the food we are eating. The resources, recipes, menus, tips & tricks that you provide are invaluable to me – thanks for the great work that you do!

    • I haven’t even gotten to the Capri Sun chapter. Oh my! The book is a lot to take in. Maybe I should have gotten the audio. LOL. I’ve had to check it out from the library twice since there’s so much information to process. Good luck, Mama.

  3. One of the books you mentioned – French kids eat everything- was incredible and very eye opening. I dont even have kids but found it a revelation. It really shows how eating healthy absolutely permeates French culture, and the government is 100% on board. It makes sense to give healthy eating such a huge role in our lives. The French really have it figured out in this case. We really have the wrong idea. As I said, i don’t have kids, but I was one of those picky eaters. As an adult I found that so many of the foods I wouldn’t eat really are delicious. And ‘hunger is the best sauce’. One of my best strategies for eating vegetables, which I still can’t look at lovingly, is to be very hungry for my meals, and eat the veg first, a lot of it.

    I was lucky as a kid in that my mom never bought junk food, and chips etc, have never appealed to me as an adult. and to my great surprise, cuz I used to have dessert at every meal, including breakfast, I outgrew my sweet tooth. I work out pretty hard these days (I am 49) and it makes more sense to fuel myself with healthy stuff, not sugar. thats not to say i don’t eat pizza once a week!

    If you have kids, or are planning to, read ‘French Kids eat everything’. we should really move towards a culture that reveres and respects healthy eating, rather than the fast paced fast food lifestyle we currently embrace.

  4. Organic has always been out of the budget for us (it’s typically about 2-4 Times the price of regular), but natural is cost effective, so that’s what I lean to. I watched America’s test kitchen, and they said a typical grocery store chicken has as much as 20% extra weight because of water or broth being injected into it! Our grocery store recently had a sale on a never been frozen, natural, no injections chicken so I decided to check it out. I roasted it and it was AMAZING! My husband said he could eat that every week! It made the same amount of leftovers despite the fact it was over a pound smaller than I usually buy.

  5. Courtney L says:

    Hi Jessica,

    What is the salad dressing that you have pictured here? I love your blogs – thanks for posting regularly!

    • Alicia Nagy says:

      If you click on the blue title “Build a salad bar” it is a link and in the middle of the article, I found recipes for salad dressings.

      I want to thank you Jessica for all of your blog articles! I love checking in and wish I had more time. I am just starting with making healthier meals. I love to cook but struggle to find time to fit this all in. My first goal is to make some freezer meals. Thank you again!

      • Thanks for your kind words, Alicia, and for helping Courtney out. I’m behind on answering all my emails and responding to comments. Let me know if you have any questions regarding freezer meals.

    • That is actually a recipe for Cilantro Dressing that will be in my third cookbook. Wait for it?

Trackbacks

  1. […] heard me talk about some of the books that have shaped my thinking on food. One quote that I have been reminded of recently was that of Michael […]

  2. […] processed items, and going back to more home cooking that we preferred anyway. I also started doing a lot of reading about the processed food industry. My research convinced me that homemade was the way to go. So much so that today we eat a mostly […]

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