Thursday, October 4, 2012

My Family Food Goal: Healthy, Economic, Enjoyable and "Good" for SPD

One of my personal goals is to provide healthy, economic and enjoyable meals for my family.  This sounds like a straightforward goal, but I admittedly manage to complicate it at times.  The fact that I have a “sensory kid” has not helped over the past six years either.  We’ve been though periods where he self-limited his diet to under ten “accepted” foods, as well as stretches of trying out different feeding and eating strategies.  Now, though, I think we have hit a workable groove.


PYO strawberries fit the "healthy" bill!
I am forever on a quest to define what “healthy” means in terms of actual foods to be consumed as well as how to combine those foods.  Thus, through the years, I have read numerous books and find myself still synthesizing all the ideas—trying to discover what the ideal “healthy” diet for me, personally, is, as well as what eating approach is best for each individual member of my family.
At its most basic, I have determined that healthy food means “as close as possible to how God created it”.  However, I also recognize that every person has a different chemistry and may need a different combination of these foods.  So, my research, experimentation and reflection continues.
Basically, in our home, we aim to consume greater proportions of:

·         whole, unprocessed (or only lightly processed) foods
·         organic fruits and vegetables
·         grass-fed/pastured meat and eggs (increasingly used as a condiment instead of a mainstay of meals)
·         good fats (coconut oil, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish)

We also aim to reduce refined sugar consumption and to avoid artificial colors, artificial flavors, preservatives, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup and, due to individual needs, gluten and casein, all together.


Can't get much more economical than free clams...  Now, if getting the kids to eat them was just as easy!

Economic equals inexpensive, right? 

It used to for me.  Just 2 ½ years ago I had our family eating mostly organic foods for a mere $75 or so a week.  However, between rising prices and all of the dietary guideline we have layered into our family’s diet, we have added another $10, $20— okay maybe even $200 at times— to our weekly grocery bill.  Eating additive-, preservative-, artificial dye-, artificial flavor-, white sugar-, gluten- and casein-free in today’s economy is not cheap when you have picky eaters at home who do not like the less expensive whole foods (oh, for potato lovers) and when you also have no green thumbs in the family. 

Indeed, many of my children’s favored whole foods are pricier ones.  The more processed foods that they like, which I will concede to buying, are not inexpensive either.  And growing our own food?  Well, that is more a dream than a reality for us, albeit a dream I am working on realizing. (We managed a few pepper plants this year.)

So, “economic” has had to take on a new meaning for me.  The definition is no longer as black-and-white as a simple figure at the bottom of a register receipt.  Rather it means aligning the realities of what it actual costs to account for my little’s finicky palettes with an ideal dollar amount figured from thrifty meal plan costs (which I use to gauge our food expenditures) all while abiding by a vision for our family food culture:
We are a family of healthy eaters who understand how our food choices affect ourselves and our world.  We do not worry about food, but we do pay attention to choosing nutritionally dense foods that will help us maintain both vitality and happiness.
Hopefully, this modified sense of economy will help me minimize stress from trying to maintain unreasonable low weekly food bills while maximizing our chances at not having to pay significant future medical and dental expenditures. 


Eating on the go can still be relatively healthy (when I think ahead).
While there are definite recipes, picnics and meal times that our family enjoys, there are also days that I cannot even begin to define what “enjoyable” means for my family as far as food goes lately. 

Sadly, our meal times are too often utilitarian events, where we try to ensure our children get adequate nutrition despite my two older children’s picky protests to what is placed in front of them –even when they have helped make the meal!  Equally as often as autumn unfolds, too many meals are rushed, or eaten in the car.  (Who knew scheduling work and activities could interfere with eating so much?)

When this happens it sucks the simple joy I used to experience relative to cooking, baking and entertaining right out of me, making meal preparation and sharing more of a chore than a pleasure.

Thus, “enjoyable” eats come and go here and are something I aim to experience more often than we are now doing.

To that end, a few months ago, I gave myself a pass on any low dollar figure for “economic” eating and created a month-long meal plan and shopping list, which I shared as a printable.  It highlighted the “healthy” aspect of our family food goal and aimed to make meal preparation a bit more enjoyable for me, while moving us beyond the boring repertoire of menu items we had fallen into eating over the prior six months. 

The month-long plan helped a little, but life and discipline worked against it.   So, I went back to trying weekly meal planning.  Again, with limited success.  Then, ad hoc, day-by-day, meal-by-meal planning, which allows spontaneity, but results in more stress than I like.  So, I am back to loose weekly meal planning and trying to add at least one new recipe or meal a week, while also trying to find many more ideas to add to my repertoire of  quick, pre-prepared, on-the-run or crock pot meals that my kiddoes will enjoy.  Ideas are most welcome.

Good for SPD

 A hard won battle: broccoli!
I know there is no Sensory Processing Disorder diet. (Well, at least not a food diet.  Of course, there is the ever important sensory diet.)  However, since in our family's case SPD co-exists with ADHD and, we were thinking, Aspbergers, I have spent a good deal of time over the past several years researching diet and its possible effects on children who are nuerologically atypical.    

I became convinced that dietary changes could mean big changes in symptoms and behavior, and, so, after some convincing of my husband, began implementing such changes in our home.  The specifics of how I did so could be a post (or series) in itself.  However, the result is that our entire family currently eats additive-, preservative-, artificial dye-, artificial flavor-, white sugar-, gluten- and casein-free at home and, the kids, for the most part, eat the same way when we are not.

While, as I already mentioned, eating this way has been a detriment to our budget, it has been a boon to our sensory kid.  In conjunction with other choices, therapies and strategies, the diet we currently maintain seems to have lengthened our eldest's list of accepted foods.  It has also decreased challenging symptoms and behaviors.  In fact, grandparents, local librarians, friends and others have noticed a huge difference in our son — as have we — and have asked what we have done.  Truly, the biggest thing we have done to affect such change has been changing his diet.  (I know doing the same might not work for everyone, but it truly works for us thus far.  We have even been formal therapy-free with our son since the beginning of summer and still do not feel the need to return to a rigorous schedule of OT, feeding therapy, behavior modification, etc.)

So, all in all, I feel I am well on our way of meeting my goal of providing healthy, economic, enjoyable and good for SPD eats for our family.  Now, if I could just get is to the vision of "not worrying about food"  Admittedly, I still do far too often..

What are your family food goals?  What steps have you taken to reaching them lately?  Do you have a vision for the food culture you’d like to create in your family?


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