The post more or less asked us to post what healthy changes we were making (or things that we already did as part of our normal life style) during pregnancy. There were all types of responses from far left to far right, and everything in between. Some women said that they were switching to organic foods during pregnancy, some women revealed that they would not change anything during pregnancy (including cigarettes, alcohol and/or drugs). Some vegans said that they would re-introduce dairy and eggs - just for pregnancy - and then return to veganism after the baby was born.
As might be expected, there were all kinds of attacks on the women who intended to continue smoking, drinking and partaking in recreational drugs. But there were also several very nasty responses to the women who had included healthy eating and exercise in their plans. One response in particular was very nasty. It called those who tried to eat natural/organic 'self righteous', and claimed that lots of people couldn't stomach or process organic foods, and that some people 'just don't exercise.' These responses were kind of surprising.
If you have been reading any of my blogs for any length of time, you have probably picked up on the fact that I am a little 'crunchy'. DH is what I like to call 'crunchy by association'...but he's getting better! I have lots to say about our experiences on the crunchy side, but I'll do it one step at a time! :-P
Today I'm writing about organic and natural food, which has become part of our everyday life. As recently as a few years ago, we ate quite a bit of fast food and our cupboards were filled with various processed and packaged foods that are found in most kitchens across the country. Today, we eat faaarrrrr less fast food (when 'unsupervised', DH is not completely on board with this...I think it's just a man thing.), and our cupboards look a lot different. I make 90% of our bread, and we use homemade 'ha.mburger helper mix' and baking mix (Bisqu.ick). We use organic milk and yogurt (and cheese when we can get it at decent prices), and we buy mostly raw milk cheese or growth-hormone free cheese. Once a year we get a mixed quarter of locally raised organic beef (steaks, roasts, ground, etc...last year it came out to less than $2.30/pound), and we also get half of a locally raised almost-organic pig once a year. We eat venison (gasp - yes, my husband has been a deer hunter for the last 30 years), which costs us nothing more than my hubby's hunting license, ammo and time. We buy organic eggs from a friend that has organically raised chickens ($1.50/doz for brown, $2/doz for green) or from a local organic poultry farm for $2/doz; we get organic chicken and turkey from that same farm. The chicken and turkey are the most expensive 'meat' purchases, usually coming in at $3-$4/pound for chicken and about $2.50/pound for turkey (but there is nothing like eating never-frozen organic turkey on Thanksgiving or Christmas - nothing compares to it!!). Other than the occasional frozen pizza and local potato chips that we are addicted to, we don't buy much in the way of prepared/boxed foods that require preparation (mac & cheese, hot poc.kets, frozen dinners, Hamb.urger helper...generally to try to avoid the sodium. If we do purchased packaged/prepared foods, they are usually of the organic variety. We consume far less fluffy white death (white sugar and white flour) than we used to, and instead go for more natural sweeteners and whole wheat flour when possible. (For medical reasons, I was on a gluten free diet for about 2-3 years a little while back, so I got really used to baking and cooking without bleached wheat flour) We try to do as much cooking from scratch as we can, which can be really inconvenient when we don't want to cook!!
Making this 'switch' is not something we did overnight. We did not simply clean out our cupboards and throw stuff away. We just started making better decisions when replacing things as we used/consumed them. It is a decision that is not widely supported by many of our close friends and family; for various reasons. It is a decision that we spend a fair amount of time defending. My husband's family is not really health conscious at all. My MIL brings us food all the time - usually something with beef. We never turn her food down, but we are trying to figure out how to get her to use our beef if she is going to cook for us. We've mentioned it before, but she just laughs at us and says 'You'll be fine. Just eat it.' My sister is far crunchier than I am, and I had anticipated that my family would have been tired of poking fun and debating her lifestyle. I was wrong. Perhaps they just expect her to be more 'eccentric' and have accepted that she will always do things her own way, whereas they have seen me as perhaps more conventional and have a tough time accepting that I, too, have a crunchy streak...I don't know. I can tell you that it's gotten old, though. Here are some of the common comments that we get from family and close friends:
- We've eaten this stuff for years, and there's nothing wrong with us.
- You know, the government and FDA keep publishing all kinds of studies showing that organic stuff isn't all it's cracked up to be. In fact, it's not any better than the stuff you avoid.
- You're going a little overboard. You keep telling us that you're strapped for cash, but you're spending all kinds of money on expensive organic food.
- All that foo-foo stuff tastes like cardboard. Just take extra vitamins. You'll be fine.
- Vegetables and fruit are vegetables and fruit. Healthy is healthy. Organic vegetables and fruit are just over the top.
- Oh. You're one of those.
- It's not cool to judge so many people for not eating the way you do.
Here are the reasons that we have gone natural/organic...most (but not all) of this list has been used as rebuttal to the above list.
- One of what? One of those people that actually gives a crap about healthy living. Yep. I am. One of those people that likes to be educated about the things I can to to possibly protect myself and my family from preventable diseases, including some forms of cancer? Yep, you caught me. I am. One of those people that doesn't assume that the government and large corporations should be taken at face value? Sure am. One of those people that likes to know where some of her food comes from - just for poops and smirks? Absolutely. And NO - we don't judge anyone based on their food choices. We have made this decision because it is right for us; we don't expect that it is right for everyone around us. With a couple specific exceptions, we have not tried to influence the food selections of anyone around us by saying 'our choice is better than yours.' In fact, there are an awful lot of people around us that judge us and tell us we're nuts and that we're wasting our time with these decisions.
- Well, as a matter of fact, there are lots of things wrong with 'us' as a population. Let's start with the sharp increase in high cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension and obesity, just to name a few. I have an adult family member and a teenage family member that are morbidly obese. The adult has not always been this way. He was in the military for 4 years after high school, and when he was finished his service 25 years ago, he was an average-size guy. He was big when Jeff and I started dating 16 years ago, but the obesity has become a real issue over the last 10 years or so. The teenager was a big baby, from day one (he was over 10#), and it has never gotten any better. He is now almost 350#; he hasn't been able to run in years and he has serious signs of depression at this point. He quit football two years ago because he couldn't run, and it recently took several months for a foot fracture to heal. When he went for an athletic physical two years ago, the doctor wanted to send him the next week for a gastric bypass consultation (After a couple days of processing this, everyone involved - including the doc - realized that this was a terrible idea.). The entire family has tried various weight loss tactics over the years - Atkins, some cranberry and protein diet, an off the cuff version of Weight Wat.chers. None of them have been successful, primarily because nothing is ever taken seriously...yet this obese adult is one of the biggest bashers of the way we eat. Nutrition, in general, is a huge issue here. Obviously organic vs. non-organic is not going to make a difference in this case, but natural vs. chemically laden certainly might. Eliminating some of the crap and adding some physical activity wouldn't be a bad place to start.
- Since making this wide spread change, I cannot say enough about how good I feel. My gluten free diet was the result of a smattering of mysterious ailment and symptoms. It was a last-ditch effort to feel better. Much to my (initial) dismay, it worked. Random symptomology gone. I have gone back to consuming gluten, but I don't think gluten was the real issue. Lots of gluten free foods (at least when I was on the diet) are simply healthier because they don't have all of the chemical additives. I seriously suspect that one or more of the chemicals in my daily diet were the underlying issue the whole time.
- Yes. We've all eaten Ore.os and eaten McDo.nalds forever. But the problem is that it's really not the same as it used to be. Years bring progress. Progress brings technology. Technology brings synthetic additives. Synthetic additives are cheaper. Cheaper is better for business. The bottom line is that over the years, most food production companies have changed the composition of their products. They might taste the same as they did 20 years ago, but they are not chemically the same. (But really...if it's a gradual change over 20 years, how many people really notice? It's not like anyone is pulling out the Oreo cookie from 20 years ago and going bite for bite against one purchased today. I say that today's taste is probably quite different than the taste from 20 years ago...) So much of the food on the shelves today is laden with unnatural compounds - including high fructose corn syrup. Sure, the FDA has approved those compounds for use in our food, but how many times have we seen them repeal those decisions or mandate warning labels for certain items after they've been on the shelves for years. I have come to believe that if our bodies were made to process and digest most of those chemicals and compounds, they would be naturally occurring.
- I've seen the studies that say 'No one can say for sure that synthetic bovine growth hormone is worse than natural bovine growth hormone', but no one has shown me the rest of these FDA studies. I keep asking where to find them, and no one can tell me.
- Organic doesn't mean laden with vitamins and minerals. It means lacking chemical crap. And yes, as recently as a few years ago, lots of packaged organic food left quite a bit to be desired in the taste department. But it's improving on a daily basis. Over the last year or two I have put organic stuff in front of my hubby and had him tell me that it tastes the same or better than the 'regular' stuff. This includes cookies, pop tarts, granola bars, pretzels, etc.
- Nope, not all organic food is health food. There is such a thing as organic junk food. It just lacks many of the chemical additives found in 'regular' junk food.
- Sure, veggies are veggies and fruits are fruits. It's not necessarily the underlying flesh that I'm worried about. It's the chemicals adhered to the outside, with the possibility that they have perhaps permeated through to that underlying flesh. Again...the chemicals. And for those who like to remind me that farmers have been using pesticides for years, I have two points to raise. How long have we been chasing the cause of most cancers? Are today's pesticides reeeeally the same as the pesticides used 10, 20 or 30 years ago?
- Let's talk about Autism. I actually don't buy into the vaccination theory as much as others do. I think that many of the vaccinations we got as kids are pretty harmless; it's the new stuff, like the chicken pox vaccine, that I question. Let's talk about the plastic vials that the vaccines have been package in for the last 10-15 years (yes, I know...some of them are in glass, but not all of them). How long do some of those vaccinations lay around soaking up the chemicals out of the plastic before they're injected into some poor, unsuspecting babe? I also believe (be it right, wrong or indifferent) that the chemicals in the foods eaten during pregnancy, as well as the foods given during infancy and toddlerhood play a large role in the rise in Autism. Again, for me, it goes back to chemicals.
- I wonder quite a bit about all of the antibiotics and steroids in the meat we eat. Seriously, when I was 13, none of the girls in my class had racks like 13 year old girls have today. None of them. Commercial farming is at an all time high in this country. It's one of the most hideous industries ever, and I am a firm believer that it is ultimately playing a large role in many health issues emerging or increasing today. It's all about the bottom dollar, and to get more of those dollars, beef is being pumped full of natural and artificial steroids and antibiotics; poultry and pork are being pumped full of antibiotics. Living conditions for these animals are horrid. Go to You.Tube and search for Weg.man's egg farms, just as an example. If you start there, you'll find your way through the rest. There are lots of videos about all the things we want to pretend don't happen. Back to the products that make it to our supermarkets...I fully understand that even organic milk has 'hormones', simply because cows have to have some flow of natural hormones to produce mild. Okay...that's been going on forever; additives have not. I have consciously made the choice to know where my beef, poultry and pork come from, and I have made the conscious choice to buy 'cleaner' dairy products.
- Yes, organic foods can cost a little more at the register their non-organic counterparts. (I also maintain that you get what you pay for...if you spend a little more at the register, it might go a long way toward better health, which will cost you less money in medical expenses down the road.) But it doesn't have to be a bank-breaking choice. Prices are starting to come down on lots of organic selections in the grocery stores, and 'natural' is cheaper than organic and still lacks chemical crap. Organic produce purchased at farmers' markets is often very close in price to what is purchased in the grocery store.
But there is also another factor that makes it so incredibly affordable for me. Granted this option is not available to everyone, but it is becoming more and more widespread. My magic solution? Surplus/salvage grocery stores. We have one very close to where we live, and I shop there quite a bit. In fact, if we didn't have to go there for milk, I might not go into the 'regular' grocery store more than once a month! It is not nearly as glamorous as shopping at the big name markets, but I really don't care. As long as you carefully inspect what you buy, you can practically steal your groceries. The only bad thing is that lots of things are hit or miss, so you have to buy it when you find it. It might not be there tomorrow. Depending on the item, and how often I see it, I might buy 10-12 of something I would ordinarily buy 1 or 2 of at any given time.
Our surplus store is a natural/organic hot bed. Cereal, pop tarts, granola bars, pasta, shampoo, conditioner, pasta sauce, oatmeal, cough drops, bottled juice and juice boxes, Lu.na and Cli.f bars (some for 17 cents each, some for 33 cents each!), potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, popcorn, crackers, baking products, soup, broth, frozen/canned veggies, applesauce, cookies, nuts, baby food, the occasional organic frozen meat (usually pork loins), katsup, mustard, salsa, peanut butter, jams, oils. You get the point...you name it, you might find it. At dirt cheap pricing. There have been times that we have filled our cart with natural and organic goodness and paid far less than we would have paid at the grocery store for the 'regular' food, even with coupons and club card discount. The only thing they don't have is organic milk and cheese, and meat is a rarity.
So where do you find these stores? They are popping up all over the place. Do a go.ogle search for surplus or salvage grocery stores. Check this website...it has a list of some, but it's not comprehensive (the list is 3 years old and the two closest to me are not listed). Ask around at work or at your mommy groups - someone is bound to know of one or two. Even if it's an hour drive to get there, many times it would be worth making the trip once a month.
So there it is...my very long rant for the week, and boy, do I feel better!!! Take it at face value and don't read anything into it!! I would love to get up on a podium and read this to an audience of closed-minded folks or post it where people who criticize us the most could read it, and perhaps I will eventually make a FB post of out of it. More so, I would love to just tell some people to take a flying leap and mind their own business. For now, I will just rant here. :-)
If you are on the same wagon I'm on, it's nice to know that there are others here. If you are not on the same wagon, but have been thinking about it, do more reading. I suggest Orga.nic Ma.nifesto or Fo.od Inc for starters. If you are not on the same wagon, just for the record, I respect the fact that we disagree about food - in general, we can agree to disagree. :-) If you made it this far, thanks for reading. Wishing you all a fabulous week ahead...