Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Food Revolution Update

I wrote last year about our Food Revolution and have been asked over and over about our progress since then. To say that it has been life-changing for us is not, in any way, an overstatement. The food revolution led to an overall chemical revolution, and our eating and shopping preferences have not been the same since. I not only have learned to cook, but I have learned to enjoy cooking, to want to cook, to cook to escape and for the pleasure of creating stuff from all these ingredients. Dare I say, it has become Fun? Of course, I still have moments where I stand at the cupboard at 5pm and say, "What are we going to have for dinner?", but by and large, those stressful days are gone.

So where are we?

We cut out almost all processed food. it took several months, of course, and really almost two years now to get fully comfortable and confident in the kitchen. We make most everything from scratch, usually local and usually organic. There are some places, however, where we still cheat. We cheat:
1) I still buy processed condiments--ketchup, mustard, mayonnaise basically--and salad dressings, although I do buy all of these organic. Salad dressings are easy to make from scratch and I do it sometimes on the weekends, but I confess that I still use the "store bought" balsamic vinaigrette and ranch dressings for every day.
2) Spaghetti sauce--last summer, when I had fresh tomatoes regularly, we made plenty of spaghetti and pizza sauces. However, for the vast majority of the year, I buy (organic) spaghetti sauce as a "starter" and add veggies, ground beef, herbs, etc. to it. We also cheat on pastas, of course, as I have never made homemade pasta and don't foresee me doing that until one or more kids go away to college.
3) Breakfast cereals. While the kids eat hot oatmeal with fruit and honey once a week or so, they also eat plenty of quick cold cereal. I buy the Kashi Organic or Barbara's brands, but it is obviously still processed. (I do make the granola from scratch).
4) I buy chicken broth. Again I know it's not hard to do from scratch since I cook whole chickens pretty regularly. A girl only has so much time though.
5) Hershey kisses. My good friends know that I have a secret stash of hershey kisses when I need a sweet fix. Usually I just need one. We also have the 70% cocoa chocolate bars for occasional dessert (usually fruit is dessert) that I know you are "supposed" to eat instead, but a hershey kiss is a nice grab and go treat. No food dyes, obviously. Don't know about HFCS.
6) White sugar and white flour. I still use both of these 75% of the time when I bake (as opposed to WW flour and agave and other sugar substitutes). I know that white flour is so refined that it is almost as bad as sugar, but WW flour often makes things so dense and I just haven't had enough play-around time, to come up with ratios of WW to white. (Now that I'm parenting this Sourdough Starter, I'm assuming I will have more opportunities to experiment.)

Lisa from" (a blog I read religiously) has a 5-ingredient rule that we try to stick to where possible for when we actually buy processed foods. I'm sure there are other places we cheat which I am forgetting right now, but I guess the bigger point is that it means that the vast majority of the time, we are cooking and eating homemade, hopefully local, primarily seasonal, and usually organic whole food. That is a victory. And while I'm linking (or Almost-Linking), I also love these two magazines: Eating Well and Edible Piedmont.

We do all the obvious stuff that is trendy right now in terms of organic or local and grass-fed meats, eggs, and butter, farmer's market and CSA, etc. And we avoid HFCS and food dyes. As a rule, I allow the children to eat what they want when at church, preschool, friends' houses, etc., hoping that I am instilling values for the long-haul, even as my 4-year old begs for Oreos at our neighbor's house. We don't eat out a ton because we have four young kids, but suffice it to say that they get their fair share of hotdogs elsewhere. I just try to keep it right--and real--at our house.

Once I started reading endless magazines, books and blogs about food and pesticides and processing, it of course led to concerns about chemicals and other scary stuff. Little by little, we have made other non-food lifestyle changes in the Great Cleanse of 2009-2010:
--Given BPA (and BPA substitutes) concerns, I have tossed out our plastic storageware and have all glass storage containers.
--Given PFOA concerns, I tossed out our Teflon pots and pans for stainless steel and cast iron.
--Given BPA lining issues, we avoid canned foods whenever possible or choose Edens Organics which has BPA-free liners. The exception, of course, is tomato sauce and paste which we buy canned and which apparently have the worst BPA levels due to the tomato acidity. Hmm.
--Given water quality concerns, we installed an under sink filter for our tap water.
--Given endocrine-disrupting parabens and fragrances, we converted to--if not always organic--at least safer and more environmentally sound personal care products--shampoo, shaving cream, sunscreens, and the like. And truthfully, we tossed most of them and just simplified our product usage.
--Given the prevalence of triclosan in anti-bacterial soaps and hand sanitizers, we quit buying these completely and went back to old-fashioned bar soap, mostly homemade by my beautiful friend Rea.
--Given pthalate concerns, we tossed the vinyl shower curtains for cloth ones.
--Given pthalate concerns, we tossed the kids' soft plastic toys (mostly bath) and try to buy wooden toys when we can. (Not always possible, since most are hand-me-downs and I'm too cheap to buy new for the last kid.)
--Given PBDE's, we tossed any pajamas that were labeled as flame retardant. Luckily, most of our pj's are hand-me-down Hannas anyway.
--We were already taking other precautions--avoiding pesticides in our food and on our lawns, eating whole grains, omega-3's etc, buying an arsenic-free cedar playset several years ago, cleaning with vinegar most of the time, testing the kids annually for lead since we live in an old house, etc.

So there you have it--our healthy home clean sweep. Most of this stuff comes from the EWG's Healthy Home Checklist which can be found here. For some reason, I still can't master the hyperlink. Sorry about the cut and paste necessity. EWG also has a great safer sunscreens list, cosmetics database, and mobile phone database. Another of my favorite blogs is, while I'm Almost Linking again.

We made these changes over the course of a year probably, so it wasn't one dramatic, expensive day where we swiped out the old and brought in the new. And I'm sure that we missed some potential toxins (the mattresses, the particle-board play kitchen!!), but we have found a happy comfortable chemical-free (or at least a chemical-less) place. And that's a victory. I don't deny that I've become a bit consumed with this stuff--it is most of what I read and really what interests me right now, outside of the children. I spent the first half of my life obsessed with historic preservation (old buildings) and wonder if the second half will be consumed with this sustainable, healthy living stuff. I could do worse, right?

Ciao a tutti.


  1. Oh my goodness, how do you have the time? Autumn, you amaze me! :) xoxo

  2. @Rachel--wait! You are the one who amazes me! I don't do crafts ever--EVER and you are so crafty. Not to mention that amazing 1st birthday you pulled off, and I throw together a birthday party a few hours beforehand. I was astonished at how lovely Deuce's b'day was. And did I mention you're crafty and I'm not?! :-) xoxo

  3. Love your blog!! I'm so glad you updated!

  4. love. much much love.
    ps--you have GOT to learn to's actually easier than memorizing the dirty dozen list. I promise. call me...I'll talk you through it :-)