Not everyone can (afford to) or wants to throw out everything and switch over to real foods. Some need baby steps. We started with baby steps. Then the corn allergy suddenly threw us for a loop and I have had to finish the baby steps all at once — including throwing away quite a bit. I have other things sitting boxed to giveaway at some point (mostly opened spices) and a few unopened things in a bag to donate. If you want to do it that way, that’s great. But it is expensive – part of why I have about four spices to work with right now.
And even if you throw out the processed foods you have to choose if you’re going to just start buying everything organic, pastured, etc or slowly make the switch (for budget issues) to those and just start by cutting out overly processed foods. It’s a big, expensive change. So I wanted to provide a guide of baby steps. It may not work for everyone, but given the option this is how I would attack the changes. If you have a corn allergy though like my kids, you’re going to have to pretty much attack all those baby steps at once. And maybe more.
If budget concerns are an issue educate yourself on what you find most important to buy organic, and what other brands have honest labeling and practices you are comfortable with and switch to those brands. This especially comes into play with more of the single ingredient items. For a long time I was comfortable with Cabot cheese and butter (NOT corn safe, which is why we no longer use it) due to good practices. I am not comfortable with GMO foods at all. I don’t buy all my produce organic though (thankfully the kids are often okay with non-organic although that is often an issue for the corn-allergic). Find what you are comfortable with and make that where you compromise for your budget. Check this post on 15 Tips for Affording Real Food on a Budget for more ideas.
You can also do this as fast or as slow as you and your budget need. One a week or one a month. All of them will begin to make you eat just a bit healthier!
- Read the labels. If you can’t pronounce it, don’t buy it. I think this is the best first step – it makes you aware of your food. Look at every single label before you put it in your cart. Yes, grocery shopping will take longer at first. During this time keep using what is already in your house (unless you have allergies!), but don’t buy anymore of it. If you really want an item, google how to make it yourself or find a natural/organic brand with recognizable ingredients.
- Look up MSG and food coloring and learn why to avoid them. You will want to do so then. Print off the names of MSG (natural flavors is one!). Keep reading those labels and don’t buy anything with any of those names or artificial coloring in it.
- Stop the soda, if you’re still drinking it. Find replacements you like. Water Kefir and tea are well liked in our house.
- Back to reading those labels. Stop buying anything with an ingredient listed that you wouldn’t normally cook with in your kitchen. Find homemade replacements. This will include things like citric acid, ascorbic acid, modified wheat starch, etc. You don’t have those as single ingredients in your kitchen, what are they even (I can say the first two are normally corn based for sure)? Avoid them. Go ahead and cut out all corn syrup, even though you can technically buy some as a single ingredient in a store. It’s bad, bad, bad for everyone.
- What are your hold outs? Mine was A.1. Sauce, I used to eat it on everything, it was a standing joke how much A.1 I ate and loved. Either just stop it (I did) or find a good homemade replacement you like. I am wanting to make a roasted red pepper sauce this summer. No, that’s nothing like A.1. Sauce but it sounds delicious!
- Switch to whole grains. Brown rice, whole wheat or white whole wheat flour, breads and tortillas. Read those labels though (don’t put anything in your cart without it!) The majority of pre-made breads and tortillas will not be made with whole wheat flours exclusively, nor will they not contain other junk we’ve already cut out. You can also be adventurous and try cooking with other grains like spelt, rye, and rice flour or add in some non-grain flours like almond flour and coconut flour. It adds a variety for your taste buds and your health.
- Evaluate your oils. Switch to healthier ones. I recommend coconut oil, palm oil, butter, and meat fats for cooking. Avocado oil, olive oil, and hemp oil are all good cold choices.
- At this point you have been doing this awhile. It’s time to purge. Clean out everything in your house that doesn’t meat the standards in number 4, 6, and 7. Big step! These items, those unknown ingredients, refined flours, and unhealthy oils (soybean, corn, etc) shouldn’t come back in your house again (it’s a slippery slope once they do!).
- Find a produce co-op or CSA. Preferably local and organic. However, any co-op will help you eat more vegetables with a better variety. Mine is only mostly local with a good bit of organic. We’ve been very happy with it. This is technically not necessary for eating real food, but I have found that it has gotten us to eat more vegetables and a greater variety of vegetables. We have tried so many new things I would have never bought.
- Sugars (did you groan? I did when we first went here). Eliminate or greatly reduce consumption of all sugar, especially refined white sugar. Source local honey and use it. Other good options (but remember all sweeteners, even natural ones, should still be in moderation): maple syrup, coconut sugar, and occasionally an unrefined cane sugar.
- Switch to pastured, preferably local, eggs.
- Switch to pastured, preferably local and raw, dairy.
- Switch to pastured, preferably local, meat. This one is very important and if you have the money it’s great to switch this and dairy earlier but they can both cost a lot more so I waited until later.
- Replace single ingredient items with organic ones. Things like flours, spices, teas, etc.
- Start adding a new fermented food every few weeks, homemade is preferable (Bubbies is a good brand for some items if you don’t want to make them yourself). Fermented foods have a myriad of benefits, especially for those with allergies.
Does this help simplify the switch for you at all if you’re in the process? If you’ve already switched over, how did you do it?
*Shared at Make Your Own! Monday, Natural Living Monday, the Homestead Barn Hop, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday, Fat Tuesday, What Works for You Wednesday, Healthy 2Day Wednesday, Wildcrafting Wednesday, Simple Living Wednesday, Little House in the Suburbs, and Fight Back Friday.