Am I going to suggest that you only eat organic food? No! I know that some of you are not interested in organic food. I'm also a very practical person and I know that organic food is more expensive and that some budgets don't allow for it. Do I eat organic? I spend three weeks each year with my family. While there, for the most part, I eat what is served. The rest of the year, I eat organic.
Am I going to suggest that you become either a vegan or vegetarian? No! I love a good cheeseburger, though when I fix one, it is 100% organic and I usually use bison or ostrich instead of beef.
Am I going to try to teach you all about food pyramids, grams, calories, etc.? No! I'm going to give you a few basic rules for improving nutrition and health.
Rule 1: Yes, you do have to read the labels. On the other hand, if you eat apples, oranges, bananas, carrots, celery, cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. there are no labels to read! The point is: Eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. Frozen produce is also acceptable, but avoid canned fruits and vegetables because the food industry sneaks all sorts of things into those and you would have to read the labels.
Rule 2: Yes, you do have to read the label if the item is in a can or a box. Why would you eat something without knowing what it is? If I gave you a cup of antifreeze (propylene glycol) would you drink it? You might want to read the label on the pancake syrup (especially in restaurants), it usually contains propylene glycol! I put 100% maple syrup, strawberries, or honey on my pancakes. The point is: If you can not pronounce the word or you have no idea what it is, you might not want to eat it!
Rule 3: Avoid white! Instead of white sugar, use brown sugar when you bake. Your children don't need sugar on cereal. Put raisins in oatmeal. Add strawberries, bananas, peaches, or blueberries to other cereals. Put honey in your tea. If you must sweeten your coffee, go to a health food store that sells food (NOT GNC!) and buy STEVIA. Caution: Use only one or two drops before tasting your coffee. It is quite sweet. Also, glucose and sucrose are both sugar! Instead of white flour, use whole wheat. Instead of white bread, buy whole wheat, rye, or multi-grain. Instead of white pasta, buy whole wheat. Instead of white rice, buy brown rice, wild rice, or long-grain rice.
Rule 4: NO SODA! Regular soda has absolutely no nutritional value and contains lots of sugar. Diet soda has absolutely no nutritional value and contains artificial sweeteners. Buy 100% juice. If the label says "orange drink", it is not juice. Read the label. Everyone should drink more water, so mix your child's juice 50-50 with water. Read the label on Sunny Delight! Buy 100% orange juice, apple juice, cranberry juice, etc.
Rule 5: No artificial sweeteners. No aspartame. No Splenda. No pink packages. No blue packages. No yellow packages. I took a lot of chemistry courses in college and you are not supposed to eat your chemistry experiments.
Rule 6: NO MSG! Unfortunately, the food industry does not always list MSG as an ingredient because the FDA lets them get away with calling it a "natural spice". If you eat in Chinese restaurants, ask to speak to the manager. Take the manager aside and tell him or her that your child is extremely allergic to MSG and that the last time he/she accidentally ate something with MSG in it he/she almost died. If you just ask for "NO MSG" you may be ignored, but no one wants the potential for a lawsuit. By the way, many people do react quite violently to MSG.
Rule 7: No High Fructose Corn Syrup. Why is it in food? It is incredibly cheap and extremely sweet. People get hooked on sweet foods and buy more. If I could be "food czar" I'd outlaw high fructose corn syrup except in a bottle labeled 100% corn syrup.
Rule 8: No artificial colors or artificial flavors. Okay, this one may be difficult if you don't shop at the health food store. I have to ask, shouldn't food taste like what it is and look like what it is? Why should any food need artificial coloring or flavoring?
Rule 9: Instead of cake, cookies, and ice cream for snacks or deserts, offer fruit! Save the cake or ice cream for a once a week desert rather than every night.
Rule 10: Ladies my aunts are all shorter than they used to be and none of them were ever that tall. You need calcium! Read the label on Citrical. Yes, I know we all love Paul Harvey's "the rest of the story" and he advertises Citrical. Read the label! Then go to a health food store that sells food (NOT GNC!) and buy either Calcium Citrate or Coral Calcium. Calcium Citrate is what Citrical would be if they didn't add the stuff they shouldn't.
Is reading all of the labels a hassle? Well, frankly at first it will be time consuming. However, unless you have an extremely poor memory, you ought to be able to remember after a few trips to the grocery store, which items are on the acceptable list and which are on the unacceptable list. By the way, even though I shop in the health food store exclusively, I still have to read the labels. For instance: Newman's Own Cookies have palm oil in them. I don't eat palm oil! You might want to make two lists to take with you to the store: acceptable and unacceptable. If you can't do everything I've suggested, pick at least one rule you can follow. When you have gotten used to that, choose a second rule. If you have children, I have to tell you that the two times of the year any teacher dreads are immediately after Halloween and Easter. All of that sugar does make a difference. For the sake of your children, just try this please.
HEALTHY EATING TO YOU!