The Process of Eating Less Processed

Weaning My Family Off of Processed Foods – While Sneaking in Some Hidden Fruits and Veggies


Back When I Was a Kid… A Rant on Soccer Game Snacks

Anybody remember being a kid and getting orange sections as a snack at your soccer (or other sport) game? Pretty sure that used to be the norm. Oranges and – shudder – water. The norm now… prepackaged crackers or cookies or other way processed snack food, served along with a “juice” box loaded with high fructose corn syrup, artificial coloring and who knows what else. Not just bad in terms of the processing and questionable nutrition of the snacks themselves, but also bad in terms of all the packaging.

So what is a mom trying to feed her family fewer processed foods to do? Well, I don’t fuss when my kids are given these snacks at the end of the game because I’m not a Nazi about it. We do better where we can and don’t totally freak out about a processed snack every now and then. And when it was my turn this week to bring the snack… I caved and brought some little packages of Annie’s organic bunny crackers. While not perfect and still meaning a lot of extra packaging, they are marginally better than the usual stuff. And while I would really like to bring some orange segments, or hand out apples or bananas, I don’t want my son to be “that kid”. So we compromise.

But I wish we didn’t have to. It should be fine for a group of kids to eat fruit. Or – shudder – not need to have a snack after the game. Or if they need a snack after the game, their parents can provide it. Near as I can tell, the purpose of the snack isn’t nutrition after that hard hour of exercise. The purpose is that of a treat. Don’t get me wrong. Treats aren’t all bad. But after an early morning game, right before lunch (as was the case this weekend – a couple of weekends ago it was right before dinner) do we really need all the kids to get a treat? Can’t they just play their game and not have it be about the treat afterwards?

What do you think? Do kids really need a treat after their games? What type of treats should they get?


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Mommy Has a Melt Down

So yesterday was one of those days. You know… those days where you feel very put upon. Where nothing seems to go right and everything your kids do is just so darned annoying. There wasn’t any one particular thing that made it a bad day… it was just… an annoying day. A Mommy melt down sort of day.

To give you an idea of the day… while at the grocery store, already feeling pretty annoyed at the boys and trying to read the ingredients on boxes of fish sticks in hope of finding one that wasn’t completely unnatural sounding (no such luck), my two year old actually stopped fighting with the 4 year for a few minutes and started grabbing me, pulling my face down to his to give me kisses. It was very sweet, complete with a melt your heart little “mmmmmmwwwwwa”. I started to shake off the annoyed and crabby a little bit, thought maybe it would be worth not selling them to gypsies afterall. And then… the little #$&#$er head butted me hard enough that I bit my lip and drew blood. Since I couldn’t find a suitable band of gypsies, I took them home to make dinner.

Dinner meant fighting with the boys when they wouldn’t eat the homemade, yummy chicken and rice dinner that they were perfectly happy with the night before, but apparently weren’t down with the leftovers. This type of thing happens a lot as we get used to healthier foods. And it is particularly annoying when I know that were I to plop a plate of Kraft mac and cheese and fish sticks down they would happily eat it and ask for seconds or even thirds. So in my already frayed and annoyed state, I very nearly shrugged off the whole less processed thing. I mean, what was the point of all that extra work if the boys wouldn’t even try to cooperate and would prefer to starve anyways?

Luckily, it wasn’t long before bedtime. I was able to drink part of a glass of wine (before the dog (4th child) decided to lap directly out of my wine glass). I was also able to watch a movie and at least decompress a little bit. So this morning I am back to keeping on keeping on with the less processed lifestyle. This afternoon I’ll be making some butternut squash mac and cheese and maybe even a batch of fruit roll ups. And I’ll stop looking for gypsies (at least for now).

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Easy One Dish Chicken and Rice – Without Condensed Soup

Nothing says it’s getting cooler outside like the comfort food casseroles, creamy slow cooker meals and creamy chicken dishes made in the oven. But as I was looking for a recipe for chicken and rice, I noticed that nearly all of them require condensed soup – cream of chicken or cream of mushroom specifically. The ingredients on a regular can of cream of mushroom soup include MSG, soy protein concentrate, soy lecitin and my favorite the very vague – “flavors”. Not even natural flavors, which can be bad in their own right, but just “flavors” which gives you absolutely no idea what is really in it. For the “healthier” version of the soup, you can add POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, DISODIUM GUANYLATE, and DISODIUM INOSINATE.

Obviously, these wouldn’t work for the less processed lifestyle. So this is what I made instead. The sauce is still creamy and delicious, and I can actually tell you what all the ingredients are. I served this with some sauteed green beans and we had a very yummy, very comforting meal.

One Dish Chicken and Rice – Without Condensed Soup
1 TB butter
3 TB flour
1/2 cup milk
2 1/2 cup chicken stock
1 tsp poultry seasoning of choice (I use a very tasty poultry rub that has rosemary and thyme in it)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper (I use ground white pepper since my middle son has an aversion to the black specs in regular pepper)
1 cup long grain rice
2 lbs bone-in chicken pieces – I used split breasts
Pre-heat your oven to 350. In the meantime, melt butter in saucepan. Add in flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Slowly add in broth and milk while wisking to keep the sauce smooth. Bring to a boil and add rice.

Spread rice and sauce mixture on bottom of 9×13 baking dish. Place chicken pieces, skin side up, on top of rice and sauce. Tightly cover with foil. Bake for 1 hour. Raise temperature to 375. Remove foil and bake for 15 more minutes or until rice is tender and chicken reaches a temperature of 165.

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Our Fourth Child… Cuz It Was Obviously So Easy With Three…

winnieDisclaimer… we still have 3 kids. But we recently inherited a dog when my husband’s mom passed away. Not just a dog, but a 105 pound dog who is going through heartworm treatment and refuses to eat dog food. My mother in law meant well and loved this dog as though she were her child, and so the dog ate a lot of people food. In fact, the paperwork from her previous vet even lists her diet as “Iams and leftovers”. Ordinarily, the mean mommy in me would just put down the dog food and figure she’ll get hungry enough eventually and eat it. But because of the heartwork treatment, it’s important that she eats… so I give in and she continues her people food diet. And not only does she still prefer people food, she’s picky in that she won’t even eat the same food from day to day so finding something she likes today doesn’t mean she’ll eat it again tomorrow.

So here’s the bit of irony… as I was cooking the dog’s breakfast this morning (yes you read that correctly… the dog got a fresh cooked breakfast) I was really wishing I could just feed her some processed dog food. And as I struggle to figure out daily what to feed her I find myself getting behind on my make ahead non-processed foods for my other children. Which is how yesterday we ended up at McDonalds, and how the boys and the dog split a large box of Chicken McNuggets.

But it’s okay. Because the less processed thing is really a journey and we’ll try to do better today.

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Would you feed your family chicken nuggets made in China?

My news feed tonight gave me yet another reason to keep feeding my family fewer processed foods.

Apparently, the USDA is now allowing Chinese companies to ship processed chicken products to the US (it was banned from doing so before). While the chickens are supposed to still be slaughtered here or somewhere else that is approved for slaughter of chickens to be consumed here, the dead chickens will then be shipped to China, processed and returned as part of our food supply.

Now here’s where the biggest problem with this particular decision by the USDA comes in. YOU WON’T BE ABLE TO TELL IF YOUR PROCESSED CHICKEN CAME FROM CHINA. Because the chicken is cooked, it won’t be subject to USDA point of origin rules, meaning it doesn’t have to be labeled as from China.

While we have all kinds of issues here in the US with food safety and a lack of effective regulation, labeling requirements and oversight of our food industry, China is a whole other story. One only needs to barely pay attention to the news to catch wind of how horrible food safety is there. Soooo… I will continue with my less processed journey. And I will continue to make my own chicken nuggets.

What do you think? Does the thought of chicken processed in China worry you?