Celebrations, moderation, and the standard American diet…

Trapolin puts the final touches on our friend's birthday cake.
Trapolin puts the final touches on our friend’s birthday cake.

I feel like I’ve addressed this before, but  I thought this picture was a perfect opportunity to discuss my dietary philosophy.    I have a lot of friends who would be aghast at the amount of sugar and saturated fats in this cake.  Some , don’t even allow their kids to have a birthday cake which I honestly I find to be ridiculous.  The occasional celebratory cake is  not the problem with the standard American diet.  It is our inability to relegate sugar to its proper place in our diet.  The issue lies in daily soda or juice consumption and the additon of high fructose corn syrup to the pounds of processed foods Americans consume, daily.    Also, when people do eat dessert, their serving sizes are far too large.    You would be amazed how many people I can make a cake like this feed.   I also have friends who only eat honey or sugar substitutes.   That doesn’t work for me either.  Honey isn’t really any better for you than organic evaporated cane juice, if you eat too much.      I am also not going to set myself up to be the target of every slimy advertising campaign promoting the newest, greatest sugar substitute.    Excessive sweet is not health producing, regardless of its form.   I wish I could tell you differently, but that just isn’t the way your body works.

Like wise other friends tut tut when I post pictures of breads and grain products.  Personally I don’t  think carbs are going to destroy your health and make you fat.  I think that Americans eat too many of the wrong kind of carbs.   Also,  Americans  don’t soak our grains or ferment them.    There is a reason grandma used to leave the buttermilk pancakes on the counter overnight.     The predigestion of those grains helped rid them of certain elements such as phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors,  that were not health producing.     I truly don’t believe people need to avoid gluten because wheat was bad for us in its traditional form.  But , along with corn, soybeans, and other crop foods, wheat  has been modified in the lab to become something poisonous to our bodies.    Or perhaps, our bodies just can’t handle all the toxins and we are all walking around on overload.  The  impact  genetic modification has had on our food supplies and our health is best left as a topic for another day.

I base a lot of  my dietary beliefs on the fact that I come from a long line of individuals who lived to be damn old eating sugar,  bread and cake at birthday parties.

D0 you know what they didn’t eat? They didn’t eat chemicals.   They didn’t eat high fructose corn syrup, preservatives or petroleum based food additives.    They didn’t eat hydrogenated fats.   There was no plastic in their foods because it was dehydrated, fermented, stored in burlap bags or canned in glass jars.     But my family also skipped a generation and  my parents were kind of hippies.    I think that sort of food preparation has been, for the most part, been erased from cultural memory.   Many foodies out there miss the boat when they tell  young people to eat like their grandma ate.   Because I’ve seen how my husband’s grandma cooks, and I don’t think Franco American Spaghetti out of a can was what Michael Pollan had  in mind when he penned  that recommendation.

There are some things that we try to avoid:

1.  High Fructose Corn Syrup,  Additives,  Preservatives, Food Dyes   Basically if it isn’t a plant derivative, I don’t want to eat it.

2.  Processed, packaged foods that have a shelf life longer than my batteries.

3.  GMO’s ; especially in the form of the grains that I bake with.

4.   Hydrogenated fats

5.  White foods (sugar, rice, flour, etc)    We do use organic, unbleached flour when we bake but I always try to mix it with whole grain flours.

6.  Soy, unless it has been fermented.

Things we try to include in our diet:

1.  Organic food ; especially grains  and legumes in an attempt to avoid GMOs.

2.  Nourishing Beverages; including smoothies,  nourishing infusions,  chai made from nourishing dried roots, and bone broth.

3.  Foods we’ve made from scratch.

4.  Variety —  I can think of many different kinds of grains, legumes, seeds and nuts we have in the house for cooking with right now.    I tend to think we eat far more different kinds of vegetables than your average household does, although I admit I am currently struggling with the kids and their  eating their veggies.

5.  Spices – Since my days of running around renaissance faires, I have know about medieval cookery and its generous use of herbs.

Sometimes though, we cheat and I don’t really make any apologies about it.   I think you are setting yourself up for failure if you are too restrictive about anything.  Failure just leads to feeling guilt and stress.    I don’t need that in my life.

I am pretty sure that there are many ways to eat healthily.  Which diet you choose is not the issue,  what is important is actually taking the time to think about what you eat, how much you are eating and why you eat it.   I don’t think most people do that, and that is what is wrong with the standard American diet.

18 thoughts on “Celebrations, moderation, and the standard American diet…”

  1. In total agreement Stephany! Most Americans even if they do know what is bad for them diet wise, still opt for convenience of the moment. So sad their laziness makes them and their children vulnerable to so many diseases…

  2. In total agreement Stephany! Most Americans even if they do know what is bad for them diet wise, still opt for convenience of the moment. So sad their laziness makes them and their children vulnerable to so many diseases…

  3. It isn’t necessarily laziness, Leslie. I was a single mom, once upon a time. I remember how hard it was to keep up. Steve and I still find it hard to keep up, sometimes. Some people don’t want to believe that the foods are bad for you, because they are so much easier and less time consuming and time is a precious commodity.

  4. It isn’t necessarily laziness, Leslie. I was a single mom, once upon a time. I remember how hard it was to keep up. Steve and I still find it hard to keep up, sometimes. Some people don’t want to believe that the foods are bad for you, because they are so much easier and less time consuming and time is a precious commodity.

  5. Everything I believe as well. Butter and sugar are not the problems in and of themselves, as we know. My grandmother baked — sometimes numerous — pies, cakes, etc. daily; she lived to be 93. She also lived on a farm BEFORE the rise of Monsanto, raised chickens, tended a huge garden, and worked hard physically out in the SUN *gasp* without any thought of sunscreen. The sugar and fat that made up a regular part of peoples’ diets a couple of generations ago were balanced with other real foods, real exercise… essentially more mindful living. Not to mention that the grains and vegetables they did eat were more nutritious then as opposed to now, giving them more bang for their buck.

  6. Everything I believe as well. Butter and sugar are not the problems in and of themselves, as we know. My grandmother baked — sometimes numerous — pies, cakes, etc. daily; she lived to be 93. She also lived on a farm BEFORE the rise of Monsanto, raised chickens, tended a huge garden, and worked hard physically out in the SUN *gasp* without any thought of sunscreen. The sugar and fat that made up a regular part of peoples’ diets a couple of generations ago were balanced with other real foods, real exercise… essentially more mindful living. Not to mention that the grains and vegetables they did eat were more nutritious then as opposed to now, giving them more bang for their buck.

  7. People balk that I use lard, but I make it myself so it’s not the processed shelf-stable crap you get in the store. And really, it’s better for you than butter (which, gasp, we also use!) Our family doctor asked at the big girls’ physical if they drink milk. I told her that they put it on cereal, but all their other dairy is cultured in some way (yogurt or cheese). She then asked if it was skim, and when I said “whole” she fussed over the cholesterol…until I reminded her that they don’t actually drink it as a beverage. Even if they did, they still wouldn’t be getting that much cholesterol. I consider myself so lucky to have grown up with one set of grandparents having a dairy, the other raising chickens for eggs and meat, and my parents hunting the only red meat we ate. I can butcher, and preserve, and cook (not that I have much time inclination for the first, or time for the second these days). How unfortunate to be in a kitchen and not know how to make a meal out of pretty much anything, as long as there are real food ingredients available.*
    *Which is not to say we never eat crap…but I know it’s crap, and I try to avoid it 🙂

  8. People balk that I use lard, but I make it myself so it’s not the processed shelf-stable crap you get in the store. And really, it’s better for you than butter (which, gasp, we also use!) Our family doctor asked at the big girls’ physical if they drink milk. I told her that they put it on cereal, but all their other dairy is cultured in some way (yogurt or cheese). She then asked if it was skim, and when I said “whole” she fussed over the cholesterol…until I reminded her that they don’t actually drink it as a beverage. Even if they did, they still wouldn’t be getting that much cholesterol. I consider myself so lucky to have grown up with one set of grandparents having a dairy, the other raising chickens for eggs and meat, and my parents hunting the only red meat we ate. I can butcher, and preserve, and cook (not that I have much time inclination for the first, or time for the second these days). How unfortunate to be in a kitchen and not know how to make a meal out of pretty much anything, as long as there are real food ingredients available.*
    *Which is not to say we never eat crap…but I know it’s crap, and I try to avoid it 🙂

  9. laziness was probably a poor choice of words, when i meant some folks do know better but still use poor food choices, although they might have the financial resources and time to improve. unfortunately, i do know folks like that:( i like you, live in the real world, and have had to short cut before many times due to many reasons such as availability, money, time…. laughing angela at the crap part! lol! i so am the same:)

  10. laziness was probably a poor choice of words, when i meant some folks do know better but still use poor food choices, although they might have the financial resources and time to improve. unfortunately, i do know folks like that:( i like you, live in the real world, and have had to short cut before many times due to many reasons such as availability, money, time…. laughing angela at the crap part! lol! i so am the same:)

  11. I feel a lot of tension between my desire to get my kids to eat a healthy diet, and my reluctance to force them to eat anything they don’t want to eat. The result is that we try to minimize how much unhealthy and processed food we have in the house (no sugared drinks at all), but also cave in when the kids would rather have a bowl of (low-sugar, whole-grain) cereal instead of what we’ve made for dinner.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with occasional sugary treats. I’m amazed, though, by how much sugar gets into my kids’ diet, even as we try to be conscious of it. We just got back from a three-week road trip, where, between the ice cream cones and the restaurant “kids’ menu” meals, etc., I sometimes thought we might as well hook them directly up to a dairy-fat and sugar IV. At the same time, I know that their diet is probably a lot healthier than the average American kid’s diet, which is a very scary thought.

    I do wish the rest of the world felt a little less free to funnel sugar into my kids. I like to give them treats myself, but I often feel like I have to restrain myself because they’re constantly being given treats by other people. Last year it sometimes seemed like not a day went by without one of my kids telling me about the cupcake or candy they were given at school (sometimes as a reward for “good behavior” — don’t get me started on that topic). From the kids’ point of view, it must seem like the entire world wants to let them survive on sugar and cake, and mom and dad are the ones constantly saying no. How did we get to that point?

  12. I feel a lot of tension between my desire to get my kids to eat a healthy diet, and my reluctance to force them to eat anything they don’t want to eat. The result is that we try to minimize how much unhealthy and processed food we have in the house (no sugared drinks at all), but also cave in when the kids would rather have a bowl of (low-sugar, whole-grain) cereal instead of what we’ve made for dinner.

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with occasional sugary treats. I’m amazed, though, by how much sugar gets into my kids’ diet, even as we try to be conscious of it. We just got back from a three-week road trip, where, between the ice cream cones and the restaurant “kids’ menu” meals, etc., I sometimes thought we might as well hook them directly up to a dairy-fat and sugar IV. At the same time, I know that their diet is probably a lot healthier than the average American kid’s diet, which is a very scary thought.

    I do wish the rest of the world felt a little less free to funnel sugar into my kids. I like to give them treats myself, but I often feel like I have to restrain myself because they’re constantly being given treats by other people. Last year it sometimes seemed like not a day went by without one of my kids telling me about the cupcake or candy they were given at school (sometimes as a reward for “good behavior” — don’t get me started on that topic). From the kids’ point of view, it must seem like the entire world wants to let them survive on sugar and cake, and mom and dad are the ones constantly saying no. How did we get to that point?

  13. Eh, we homeschool the little ones and by the time they are old enough to make their own choices, they generally have things under control. At 16, Darian makes better food choices than almost all adults that I know. Traveling is difficult, especially since a couple of us in my family actually don’t handle processed food well, anymore. We eat so little of that sort of thing that our body actually kind of treats them like the toxins they are and we get sick.

  14. Eh, we homeschool the little ones and by the time they are old enough to make their own choices, they generally have things under control. At 16, Darian makes better food choices than almost all adults that I know. Traveling is difficult, especially since a couple of us in my family actually don’t handle processed food well, anymore. We eat so little of that sort of thing that our body actually kind of treats them like the toxins they are and we get sick.

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