Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Salty and the Sweet

When I go grocery shopping, I am one of those annoying people who stands in front of the display carefully reading the list of ingredients on the label. This started last year when I realized how ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup is. The end result is that you end up consuming far more sweetener than you would choose to in any ordinary circumstances because it's in pretty much everything, including things you wouldn't think of, like bread and pickles. So I started reading labels to find items without it, and have pretty much eliminated it from our day to day diet. I've been feeling pretty good lately about how I feed my family, until I read this article on salt.

I went grocery shopping yesterday morning, and I made it a point to read the labels and check sodium content on all the packaged foods I purchase frequently. It was shocking, disappointing, and quite frankly, infuriating. Two slices of whole wheat bread - 13% of daily recommended amount of sodium. A tiny 6 ounce can of plain tomato sauce - 17% of the sodium RDA in just one quarter of the can. Pancake mix - 18% sodium RDA. I could go on, but the basic point is that I thought I was pretty educated about food and making conscious, well-informed choices about diet, and here I was, unknowingly consuming a huge amount of sodium just through the (very) few packaged and processed foods I buy.

I left the grocery store feeling defeated (and without any tomato sauce or pancake mix). My ongoing efforts to eat a healthy diet and feed E a healthy diet seemed futile, especially considering all the concerns about BPA in food packaging and plastics. I want to feed my kid FOOD, not salt and chemicals. And as much as I love to cook and enjoy fresh foods, I don't want to feel like I need to start making my own bread to avoid excess sodium or canning my own tomatoes to avoid BPA. Because there are so many toxins in our environment we can't avoid, I feel I need to do everything I can to keep our food as healthy as possible, but it's a big job. It takes time and commitment, and it's expensive, but I'll keep plugging away. If that means I have to figure out how to make my own bread, then so be it - I've never been good at compromising, and this is one area where I'm not about to start.

What is an area of life that you refuse to compromise on? What changes have you had to make to avoid compromising in that area, and what areas of life have you been willing to compromise? How do you feel about the quality of our food supply? Do you think I'm crazy and just need to start my own farm?


  1. Food is hard. And there is so much information out there that changes. What we do is buy as much unprocessed or minimally processed food as possible. A study came out awhile ago saying that the only thing cultures with minimal to no heart disease, obesity etc.. had was much more unprocessed foods. Not carbs or meat or anything else. (I will look for the study info at some point.) I decided that is they way my family is going. It gives me focus without having too many variables. And it makes sense to me. Anyway, it is a BIG job to give our children and ourselves healthy food. We pay lots more. But food is one area that has NO BUDGET in our home. It's just not an area we are willing to compromise on either.
    PS. sorry for this long comment. i didnt realize that i had so much to say!

  2. Alex, I totally agree that food is the area that has no budget...I just can't see nickel and diming our health like that, you know? But it's really disturbing that healthy, safe food is inaccessible to a large segment of the population, just based on cost.

  3. When we've had to budget food, I just cringed. How can I buy something worse for my family. My husband's work is all about chemical exposures and the problems they cause. I don't think we can take it seriously enough.
    That said, I found my first canned beans that claim no BPA last week. So, things are changing. Slowly, expensively.
    Let's talk bread some time. I've got some rising right now. It's fun to make!

  4. Food. It's such a hard one. I worry about it yes, but I'll be honest, probably less than many. I used to enjoy cooking, planning meals, buying good food. And then I had kids, and though you would think that would fuel my desire, it has dampened it considerably. Why? Because my kids are SO DARN fussy. And after suffering through 4 years of it, I've lost my enthusiasm. It's a lot of work as you say and so discouraging when they won't eat anything. So I balance...I do 3 or 4 really good quality meals a week and worry less about the other 2 or 3. It keeps my kids sort of happy, and me from completely losing it.

    I've always been a believer in moderation. Everything is okay as long as we don't overload. So I chose sodium free as often as I can (which, in Canada, is a lot easier than I think it is for you in the States). I choose fresh over pkg a lot, but not always. Sometimes a kid just loves a chicken finger and french fry.

  5. I'm with Christine - all things in moderation is my mantra. I will give in to french fries from McD's on road trips and even feed them to my toddler who loves them, but otherwise, I am pretty conscious about her diet. I made all of her baby food when she started to eat solids and since then, I've picked organic wherever possible but when it's not, I don't fret over it. I choose fresh over packaged and I provide fruits over juice, so a juice box on the weekend is indulgent and fun.

    Her parents are both healthy people and our parents didn't think twice about our diet of Coke and french fries, so I think as long as we don't go overboard in any case, I think our kids will be ok. The way I see it, mindful eating does not have to be all or nothing. That's how I've approached my own diet and it has worked well for me and that is what I hope to instill in my little one.

  6. I agree with everyone! Food is hard (especially bread - it's either the salt or the sugar); all in moderation. That said, there are plenty of things labeled as food that I'm not comfortable with in any kind of moderation. But salt is my weakness, and not the worst one, I think. I try to limit high-sodium food to one meal per day, and worry not about the tomato sauce.

  7. I'd be interested, Jamie, in your list of HFCS-free products that you regularly buy. You know ... in all your spare time! => (Maybe just the best ones you've found??)