Waaaay back when I first started blogging about traditional foods and healthier lifestyles I wrote what has been one of my most popular posts. Good, Better and Best options with our food choices. In hindsight I think it’s one of the most popular posts not because it’s well written but because people desperately need options. Compromise has become a necessity.
We are asked on a frequent basis “But if I can’t find or access xyz food what do I do?” or “If I can’t afford this or that supplement or food item?” What then? What then indeed.
I don’t know about you but I prefer a world with black and white. Nice simple and easy choices. You know, like whole foods are best. Always buy whole foods. Ahhh. That seems simple! I can do that! Only buy whole foods. But then you learn about soil depletion and the effects of fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides and think oh no, whole foods aren’t good enough. They need to be all natural or ORGANIC whole foods. Taking the hit to the budget is worth it. You just tighten up elsewhere. Then you learn about the varieties of whole foods chosen and (gasp) genetically modified to withstand transportation and decide that locally produced, heirloom variety whole foods are the way to go. As you dive deeper and deeper into the world of nutrition the lists of Thou Shalt Not Eat and Thou Shalt Not Source becomes ever longer.
Along with the Eat Nots and Source Nots there also pop up the Prepare Nots with all the different ways whole foods will actually deplete nutrient reserves when prepared improperly. It’s enough to make one want to give up on the whole thing and go get a full meal off the McDonalds Dollar Menu. Except you do vaguely remember how it sits like a rock for hours afterwards and you’d have to resort to downing one of those expensive digestive enzyme pills just to feel human again. Not to mention that article you saw float by your newsfeed a few days about about the McDonalds recall of their apple slices. And if they have to recall apples who can risk a hamburger there?? So instead you sneak a bar of chocolate and try not to think about the fact that it has sugar in it and that Fair Trade is a meaningless term so the poor people you thought were being treated fairly actually are still getting paid a pittance and the whole world of packaging and labels is just one big scam. Then you remember that according to that one MLM company nobody actually sells TRULY raw chocolate but them, everybody else is just lying.
Speaking of scams. Those darn free range eggs you scrounged up the extra money to buy?? Turns out they have soy. Oh yes. GMO Soy. Which means all the hormone free meat you go out of your way to buy might as well have had hormones because you now know how bad GMO soy feed is and how much estrogen gets dumped in the eggs. Those beautiful gorgeous orange yolked eggs. You gaze at the package feeling a little sick but most of all disappointed.
Sometimes it feels like we just can’t win for losing in the nutritious and safe food battle.
It would be one thing if all of this was for us. Us as in adults. But it isn’t. We are slogging through the information wars for our kids. We are sourcing for their health. For their nutrition. In my experience only as our health directly affects our children (ie nutrition in the womb) or our ability to have children do we REALLY get dead serious about the whole nutrition thing. That or a life threatening illness. That tends to do the trick too. It is impossible not to care or to walk away from what is learned and to let go of “ideals” when it involves the next generation. And the parent guilt sets in. Especially if you know now what could have saved your first or second borns a lot of health grief and you see the difference in your next child. Or if you are a parent looking back at your kids lives wishing you had known then what you know now about nutrition.
It’s a guilt laden world. And there are those on all sides who like to add to the guilt because it helps to pad their bottom line and profit margins. There are even the ones who are not guilt-mongers for baser reasons like profits but actually are deeply concerned and well meaning. I typically fall into the later category. It can be incredibly difficult to take good and life changing information about food and use it to live a freer, healthier lifestyle vs. a life of bondage to food legalities. You can’t unlearn what you know. And with knowledge comes responsibility. And with responsibility the weight of an extra burden in our already crazy lives.
There is an art to negotiation. Successful negotiations are all about knowing what is truly important to both parties and what things are optional. As you learn the list of what is crucial may rapidly change. My list looks very different today than it looked 3 years ago. In the process of negotiating the terms of life between current knowledge base, current resources, and currently available options it is important to have narrowed down what is MOST important. What things do you feel comfortable compromising on? How big of a compromise? Below is a sample of my current list. I have mine divided up into Required (the items I don’t want to compromise on) and Allow (the items I’m willing to compromise on due to budget restrictions and or availability)
- Eggs: Free Range Required, Non GMO Soy Required. Humane Treatment required. Allow GMO Free grain. Allow non organic.
- Beef: Grassfed Required. Antibiotic and Hormone Free Required. Humane Treatment Required. Allow to be finished on grains for up to a week before processing. Locally sourced and processed required (Locally = same state) Allow grains used to be GMO/non organic.
- Fruit: Organic/All natural/Sustainably farmed preferred. In season preferred. Transitional crops allowed. Minimally sprayed allowed.
It has been really helpful for me to actually get what the most important things are to me written out in a systematic way. The list can be as detailed as you wish it to be. I would recommend updating it every couple of months if you are on a fast track of learning and trying to make changes for your family. At a minimum the list should be updated about once a year. It can be as basic and simple as the following.
- No Margarine or veggie oil spreads. Only butter. No Butter with flavorings or colors added.
- Read all labels of everything before purchasing. No MSG or HFCS.
Start somewhere. Anywhere. Despite all the nutritional information conflicts it is worth it to make your move somewhere. The worst thing you can possibly do is throw up your hands in despair over not ever being able to get it all done, it all bought and prepared “right” and just decide to do nothing at all. SOMETHING is always better than nothing. A trick I learned a while back that seems to work wonders for me is to always “one up” whatever the convenient temptation is at the moment. If it’s the difference between running to the store to buy them out of Snickers or making a homemade batch of brownies with nutritious ingredients by all means make the brownies. Then you can congratulate yourself on how healthy it is that you used raw sugar and avoided all the horrible ingredients in the average candy bar. It’s the better choice. Maybe one day life will work out to where we can all always have the best. But until then it would save a world of frustration if we could just give ourselves the freedom to do the next best thing. The freedom to compromise.
Food prepared with love, care and attention to details is the best food. Always. Even if it is GMO Sweet corn on the grill. If we lose sight of the purpose of our pursuit of good food, lose sight of our relationship with our children and the generation of kids we want to help then it renders the food battles pointless. Keep the joy in the process. Keep the kids involved. Teach them to enjoy the process of food in all it’s complexities. That it’s about ever so much more than learning how to use the presets on the microwave.
Some of us have, and continue to deal with serious health issues. Our luxury and margins that we can compromise with is not nearly as extensive as those who do not have very specific health issues they are treating with what I like to call “Food Therapy” or nutritional healing. When food is being used as medicine it’s a much more strict and less enjoyable proposition. But even with the strict nutritional healing protocols joy can be found in the process. Food can still be made to taste good.
My kids and I had eggs for lunch today with gorgeous deep orange yolks from free range chickens. Chickens fed Soy feed. We enjoyed every last bite. We also ate raw cheese melted on those eggs from cows fed organic feed. Soy again. We ate every late bite of that raw cheese. And we were grateful for it. Grateful to be able to have and afford raw cheese. Grateful to be able to have and afford egg yolks so obviously full of rich nutrients from chickens that had the freedom to run around and eat bugs all day. We are so grateful for our less than ideal, less than perfect lunch. It was amazing. It was a lunch rich in compromise and nutritional value.
Have you learned the art of negotiation in the food info wars? What is the compromise that bothers you most?