I've pondered this question for a while, usually while I'm walking up and down the aisles of the grocery store, trying to find things that I feel good about feeding my family.
And the truth is, there's very little that I actually buy in the stores that leaves me with a warm, nurturing feeling. I read labels...looking for words like "natural" and "organic." Or labels telling me what that food does NOT contain, the latest catch phrase being "no high fructose corn syrup."
When my kids were born, I believed in breastfeeding. It worked for two of them, and was a complete flop with one. I won't tell you which of my children was on formula from day one and which one would still be nursing if I allowed it, but I will say that the sickest child with the most ear infections never had a drop of formula, and the formula baby has been one little healthy whiz kid! Like everything else under the parenting heading, I would never impose my beliefs on anyone else or judge anyone's decisions....what works for one mom doesn't work for another. But I believed in breastfeeding because it just seemed so...natural. It was real food. The original organic milk!
Then when my babies moved on to "real food"...that's exactly what I wanted to give them. Real food. I remember looking at a jar of bananas, reading all the ingredients and thinking to myself....hmmm....shouldn't bananas only have ONE ingredient? Like, I don't know, maybe....BANANAS! So from that point on when I wanted to feed them bananas, I grabbed one out of the basket, broke it into a bowl, mashed it with a fork, mixed it with a little milk if it wasn't mushy enough, and fed it to them. Voila. Bananas! For other foods, I simply cooked (steamed actually) any vegetables, fruit or meats that I wanted them to have, tossed it into the Vita-Mix (don't even get me started on how much I love my Vita-Mix. Don't even.) and served up some tasty, fresh and real food. And it wasn't that hard! In fact, I would cook most of it on the weekends (because I was still working) and freeze it for the week.
But then the kids got a little older and discovered new foods. Some that I bought. Some they tasted elsewhere. But fast forward a few years to the present and it seems that the bulk of their diets is coming from something in a box. Or a package. Recently, as I watched my son eat a "pop tart" (not the real deal but one that I begrudgingly bought only because it was "organic"...and, while I'm here let me just say that organic is NOT always synonymous with healthy!) I had this conversation with him:
Him: I loooooooove pop tarts. They're the BEST.
Me: They're gross. They are full of sugar and who knows what else. They aren't even real food. You know they'd probably stay good as new on that pantry shelf until you leave for college.
Him: Well, then, I'll take them with me because they're really good.
I've tried to tell myself that I ate pop tarts as a kid and I'm fine, so I hate to deprive my kids because...well let's be honest here....they are good! And I love a big handful of Doritos as much as the next gal. And sometimes I honestly crave coca-cola (especially with a little 'somepin 'somepin in it).
But something deep within me is completely troubled every time I bring that stuff into my home and feed it to my family. For me, it just doesn't feel right. Aside from the fact that I easily drop $100+ at the store each time to fill my cabinets with fake food, I just feel rotten when we eat it. On the other hand, I can go to the farmer's market and walk away with a tremendous amount of food for a fraction of the cost, and feel great about it. I love looking at it....preparing it...eating it....and I love watching my family eat it. Because I know where it came from. I know how it was made. And I know what's in it.
So here's where I am now. I don't want to be wasteful and throw away everything in my cabinets. But when it's gone, it's gone. Those pop tarts' days are numbered.
My plan: If I can't buy it at the farmer's market, or at a neighboring farm, we probably don't need it. I'm going to make as much on my own that I can. Obviously I'll need to buy some things at the store....for instance, I have a bread machine and love making my own bread, but I don't see me grinding my own wheat. I also have a yogurt maker and have been making my own yogurt for a couple of years now. Now if I could only come up with some cute, fun little tubes to put it in so the kids would get excited about eating it. If not, they can eat it from a bowl like we did in the olden days. They can pretend they live on a prairie.
"They" say that you should shop around the perimeter of the store when you shop because there's isn't much on the aisles you should buy. I think a better philosophy is to stay out of the store as long as possible, but when you do go, buy real food with ingredients you recognize. And like Michael Pollan says, buy only foods that your great-grandmother would recognize as food. For me that would include - just to name a few- coffee, sugar, flour, oil and coca-cola (once in a blue moon). 'Cause maybe I have 'somepin to go in it.
Just keeping it real.